Junior welterweight fringe contender Albert Mensah upset former lightweight title challenger Michael Katsidis in an entertaining 10-round Friday Night Fights main event from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The unheralded Ghanaian scored a majority decision over Katsidis despite being thoroughly outworked by the ultra-aggressive former top-10 contender. That’s because Mensah (25-3-1, 10 knockouts), who won by scores of 98-92, 96-94 and 95-95, landed the cleaner and harder punches in every round.
The 29-year-old boxer, who appeared much bigger than Katsidis, staggered the 31-year-old veteran with two flush hooks at the end of the ninth round.
Prior to being rocked back on his heels, Katsidis (28-6, 23 KOs) was having a good round by smothering Mensah against the ropes. It’s what the rugged Australian tried to do all night. He was successful with this basic strategy in the first round, but he had to throw 140 punches according to CompuBox in order to get the better of Mensah, who landed uppercuts and hooks off the ropes.
Katsidis, who had lost three of his last four bouts (albeit to elite and world-class fighters), fought at a frenetic pace even by his standards, throwing more than 100 punches in each of the early rounds. He fought as though his career depended on the outcome of this bout, which it did.
However, Katsidis’ inhuman punch output did not make up for his poor defense. His lack of upper-body movement made his head an easy target for Mensah’s hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Katsidis was fortunate that Mensah only let his hands go in spots and did not employ a consistent jab.
Still, the punches Mensah landed took their toll. Katsidis, whose eyes were bruised and swollen mid-way through the fight, “only” threw 88 punches in the fifth round after walking into what seemed like a dozen hooks and left uppercuts.
However, Katsidis didn’t work his way up to the top of the lightweight division by being a slick and savvy boxer. He earned his two title shots (against Joel Casamayor in 2008 and Juan Manuel Marquez and 2010) through brute force and a never-say-die attitude.
That warrior’s heart was on display in rounds six and seven when he stayed in front of Mensah, despite eating big power shots, and let his hands go with abandon. In the final minute of the seventh, it looked as though his body work had weakened Mensah, who was muscled into the ropes where he was worked over.
But Mensah, who did a good job of blocking and leaning away from head shots throughout the fight, scored well in the final three rounds even as Katsidis heaped short arm punches all over his body.
Mensah, who made his U.S. debut last July, scored the most significant victory of his 10-year career, his 16th in a row. The Accra, Ghana native might be another win or two away from becoming a player in the deep 140-pound division.
Katsidis, who has now lost four of his last five, has to decide whether he wants to continue fighting. He’ll always be welcomed to the prize ring because of his all-action style but it’s clear that his days as a world-class fighter are over. Is he willing to become a “gate-keeper” for up-and-coming lightweights and junior welterweights?
If he is, there are a lot of fans who are willing to watch him.
In the co-featured bout of the ESPN2 broadcast, Artemio Reyes was shocked by Alan Sanchez, who stopped the streaking welterweight prospect with a series of right hands in the first round of their scheduled 10 rounder.
Reyes (15-2, 12 KOs), who scored a six-round split decision over Sanchez in June of 2010, had won 14 consecutive bouts going into their rematch, including an eight-round decision over then-undefeated 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier Molina last October.
Sanchez (10-2-1, 4 KOs), a 21-year-old of Guadalajara, Mexico, had gone 4-0-1 since losing to Reyes but he wasn’t given much of a shot in their rematch. However, Sanchez landed a right uppercut midway through the opening round and followed it with four head-snapping straight rights that sent Reyes reeling into a neutral corner where he collapsed.
Referee Joe Cortez waved the bout off at 2:08 of the round without issuing a count.
Reyes, of Colton, Calif., was dealing with the death of his father, who passed away on Tuesday after spending more than three years in a coma due to an automobile accident.
One has to wonder if the emotional pain Reyes was dealing with affected his focus in final days leading into the rematch, and of course, once the bell rang.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Email Doug Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer