Michael Katsidis and Robert Guerrero could have taken easier paths to a lightweight title than facing each other, but neither wants to take the road of least resistance.
Both Katsidis and Guerrero, who will fight in a scheduled 12-round lightweight bout on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana undercard in Las Vegas on April 9, have dealt with their share of adversity outside of the sport and they seem to relish it inside the ring.
Katsidis’ older brother was found dead five weeks before the biggest fight of his life, his challenge to RING lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez last November. Despite the loss, the rugged Australian never even considered canceling or postponing the fight for bereavement. Katsidis (27-3, 22 knockouts) carried on through camp and presented a valiant challenge to Marquez, who he dropped before being stopped in the ninth round of a fight of the year candidate.
Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) has put his career on hold many times during past three years to help take care of his wife, Casey, who was diagnosed with leukemia in late 2007. Instead of going to camp before his fights like most world-class professionals, the Gilroy, Calif., resident has trained at home, where he took care of the couple’s two young children and drove his wife to her chemotherapy treatments. Guerrero, who will receive the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Bill Crawford Award for “Overcoming Adversity” this year, vacated a 130-pound title last February in order to spend more time with his wife, who was recovering from a bone marrow transplant.
With his wife’s leukemia in remission in recent months, Guerrero, who has won three major titles at featherweight and junior lightweight, has been able to hold a full camp in preparation for the Katsidis fight, which could be for two interim lightweight titles.
Guerrero spoke to the media on a recent conference call about fighting Katsidis.
“This is the first time I’ve been in an actual training camp for some years, so you’re going to see a different Robert Guerrero,” said Guerrero, who has been training at the Pound-for-Pound Gym in Las Vegas. “I was training at home for a long time, juggling my responsibilities to my wife and kids with my running and gym time, and I was getting by doing that, but it was tough. Now, with a training camp everything is just boxing.
“I don’t have to worry about everything else. I can train hard and give it my all. It was long overdue but unfortunately the situation with my wife didn’t allow it.”
THE RING’s No. 10-rated lightweight said he will need to be at his best to beat Katsidis, the magazine’s No. 3-rated contender.
“It’s going to take a lot to beat him,” said Guerrero, who is coming off a one-sided decision victory over Vicente Escobedo last November. “It’s going to be a war. He’s tough, he’s strong, he comes forward and he throws a lot of punches. I’m excited about this fight because it’s going to show the world the kind of fighter I really am.”
Fans already know what kind of fighter Katsidis is. The 30-year-old veteran, who stopped former titleholder Jesus Chavez, out-pointed Escobedo and brutally knocked out undefeated (31-0) British contender Kevin Mitchell before losing to Marquez, is a warrior.
Katsidis was asked what it was like to continue training for Marquez after learning of his brother’s death.
“I had to dig deep to get through that camp, but I’m more the better for it,” he said. “I have a belief that if something doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.”
That also sums up his ring philosophy. Katsidis did not want a tune-up fight after he was stopped by Marquez. He told the media that it took no time for him to get over the loss to Marquez.
“(I was over it) that night, “ Katsidis said. “You get the result (of a fight) and then you come back again. That’s what I’m doing. I’m fighting a No. 1 contender.”
Guerrero is the mandatory challenger for the WBO lightweight title held by Marquez. The WBA, which recognizes Marquez as their lightweight “super” champion, ranks Guerrero No. 2. (The WBA’s No. 1 slot is vacant.)
Because Marquez, who is reportedly mulling over his future — including a possible third bout with rival Manny Pacquiao in November — may not fight at lightweight this year (or ever), both the WBO and the WBA are considering sanctioning Katsidis-Guerrero as interim title bouts, according to Richard Schaefer.
“Marquez did his mandatory against Katsidis not too long ago, so he has some time before he has to make another (mandatory defense) against Guerrero, but the WBO and the WBA did contact us about what he plans to do,” said Schafer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which is promoting the April 9 pay-per-view event. “They are looking at sanctioning the April 9 fight as an interim title bouts. If Marquez decides to move up or do something else (other than fight the winner of Katsidis-Guerrero), the winner will become the WBO lightweight champ.”
That suits Katsidis and Guerrero just fine.
“I’ve won three titles in two divisions but I want that fourth world title,” Guererro said. “I feel great at lightweight. I feel strong, I feel fast, I think I’m coming into my own at this weight. It is very important to me to win a title at lightweight. It’s nice knowing every weight class you’ve been in you’ve won a world title.”
Katsidis has twice held the WBO’s interim lightweight belt, but he wants full recognition as a “champion.”
“This what I’m in the game for,” said Katsidis. “If the opportunity is there to fight for a title, you have to take it. I’m not here for a holiday. This is my job. I’m a fighter, and I fight.”
Some wondered whether Katsidis might pull out of the Guerrero fight after suffering a cut in sparring two weeks ago that reportedly required five stitches to close. The thought never crossed his mind.
“It’s just a cut. It’s nothing to me,” said Katsidis, who briefly halted his camp in Thailand to have it examined by a specialist who medically cleared him to fight. “It’s not something that would keep me from fighting. If I didn’t fight because of a cut like this, I’d be up at night thinking about it. I’d go crazy.”
Katsidis wouldn’t divulge during the call which eye was injured or whether the cut required stitches. Schaefer admitted that the cut required stitches but only “two or three.”
“I didn’t even count,” said Katsidis, who was happy to resume his hard training in preparation for Guerrero.
“I can expect a very tough night come April,” said Katsidis, who has trained in Thailand for his last five bouts. “It’s not comfortable in the ring. Thailand has tough and rugged conditions. There are no luxuries here. If you can be comfortable here, you can be in the ring.”