Boxing has long produced warriors who go above and beyond the call of duty, humbling fight fans. Very few professional boxers dared walk in Arturo Gatti’s shoes, but Michael Katsidis, a hardnosed, free throwing, balls to the wall tough guy from Australia, was one of them.
Katsidis hasn’t fought since a majority decision loss to Albert Mensah in April 2012, but the 33-year-old veteran isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet. The 2000 Australian Olympian returns Friday against Eddy Comaro in his hometown of Toowomba, Aus.
“I believe there is much more for me to achieve,” Katsidis told RingTV.com. “They say it's not how hard you can hit but how hard you can get hit and keep on coming.
“If I couldn't get better than I have ever done before then I would not be boxing anymore. I have had good hard lessons in life and I'm confident in myself and the people I have around me that support me and believe in me also.”
Katsidis (28-6, 23 knockouts) accomplished much while learning those hard lessons.
He won the Australian national title in just his second pro outing and by his 10th bout he was winning fringe regional titles. He continued to season his skills over the next couple of years before his big opportunity came in early 2007 when for the first time as a pro he fought overseas, taking on Britain’s Graham Earl for the vacant interim WBO lightweight title.
Katsidis entered the ring dressed in full Gladiator garb, a Corinthian helmet as well as similar fashioned shorts, in part due to his Greek heritage but also his warrior mentality. The two waged war, though Katsidis had the better of the argument, dropping Earl twice in the opener and again in the second. As Katsidis moved in for the finish Earl's team threw the towel into the ring only for it to be thrown back out by referee Mickey Vann. Earl landed a vicious right hand that caused Katsidis legs to buckle. As we were to see time and time again, Katsidis was every bit the warrior. He regrouped and continued his assault before Vann waved the frenetic contest over at the conclusion of the fifth round.
Following a well earned rest, Katsidis made his American debut on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright HBO Pay-per-View undercard, taking on Czar Amonsot. Again Katsidis, who suffered nasty cuts around both eyes, had to do things the hard way in a war of attrition. Though he dropped Amonsot in the second and 10th round he was unable to stop his Filipino foe, instead settling for a deserved 12-round decision. Afterwards both combatants had to visit the hospital.
The injuries saw the grizzled Australian on the sidelines for eight months before he resurfaced in Cabazon, Calif., where he met Joel Casamayor, then THE RING’s lightweight champ. In the opening round Katsidis had to twice get off the canvas, but unperturbed he dragged himself in to the fight and by the midway point his pressure seemed to be telling. Katsidis dropped the Cuban (nearly out of the ring) in the sixth round and after nine rounds he had built a slight lead on two of the three judges’ cards. However, that handy work was undone in the 10th round when the battle tested Casamayor put “The Great” on the canvas for the fourth time. Though Katsidis rose to his feet, he was visibly close to the end, a flurry from Casamayor and the fight was over.
Katsidis looked to get back to winning ways when he made his way to Texas to take on Juan Diaz on his own patch in a highly anticipated contest that many believed would again be an all out war. To his credit Diaz boxed more and won a decision.
Many believed that Katsidis was somewhat of a shooting star, something he was to soon disprove. Rededicating himself to his craft, setting up training in Thailand
“Basically I entered rugged tough training camps in Thailand after I had my first loss,” Katsidis said. “I knew these were fights I could win. I didn’t believe I showed nearly my full potential.
“My career needed a rebirth and the only way I could do this was by isolating myself away from the luxuries that most face in everyday life living in America. What we worked on there was very simple… repetition.”
The rebuilding took place by outpointing Angel Ramirez, followed by an eighth-round stoppage of former two-weight world titleholder Jesus Chavez before Katsidis regained the WBO interim title with a split decision (that in truth should have been unanimous verdict) over 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, on the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard.
In May 2010, Katsidis took his title to London, where he was to face Kevin Mitchell at Upton Park, home of Mitchell's beloved West Ham United Football Club. The fight took place on the pitch in front of a partisan 15,000 crowd. It wasn't to matter. Katsidis got to Mitchell in the third round and didn't let him off the hook until the referee intervened, stopping proceedings with nearly a minute to go.
That gave Katsidis the biggest opportunity of his life when in the fall of that year he challenged Juan Manuel Marquez for THE RING, WBA and WBO lightweight titles. During the build up to the biggest night of his career disaster struck when his brother Stathi, a renowned horse jockey in Australia, was found dead. Katsidis used this as further fuel to his already smoking fire.
By fight night Katsidis was primed and intent on honouring his brother’s memory, starting fast and surprising the Mexican star, dropping the master technician to the seat of his pants in the third frame. As we've seen many times before and since, Marquez knows how to survive and come back and win. Marquez slowly but surely found a foot hold in the contest before hurting Katsidis in the ninth round, forcing the stoppage.
Despite the loss, Katsidis is most proud of that performance.
“My fight against Juan Manuel Marquez was my best performance,” he said. “I only say this because of the circumstances involved. My brother had died suddenly at the age of 31, only two weeks before that fight. Being able to train was difficult and almost unbearable at the times. I heard people speak of my brother at the fight. I remember it very fresh in my mind what the commentators were shouting when I dropped Marquez during that fight. 'And he's thinking of his brother!' I was very pleased I did as well as I did during that fight.”
In the spring of 2011, Katsidis returned to Las Vegas fighting at the MGM once again against Robert Guerrero. He lost a wide 12-round decision. A comeback win in Australia set him up for another title opportunity, this time against Ricky Burns, however Katsidis was outboxed by the Scottish standout.
While Katsidis has taken part in many compelling battles throughout his career, like many he wished he’d been able to meet Manny Pacquiao.
“I even flew to the Philippines to challenge him personally immediately after having secured the WBO title,” he said. “I think styles make fights and my style would have caught him on the way in as he continuously bounces in and out.”
That fight did not happen but a lot of good ones did. RingTV.com recently caught up with Katsidis and spoke with him about the best fighters he fought throughout his career.
Best Overall – Juan Manuel Marquez – To get up after the hook I hit Marquez with and the way he was able to regain his composure was a true credit to the warrior he is. His knockout against Manny Pacquiao and the epic battles he has been in speaks thousands about this man.
Best Boxer – Juan Manual Marquez – I loved the way Juan observes his opponent throughout the fight. A good boxer does his homework and Marquez did that with everyone he fights. It was only unfortunate how when he fought Mayweather it wasn't on a level playing field. The tactics Mayweather used on the scale gave Mayweather the advantage. Mayweather knew he needed to be a lot heavier to beat him. But this is boxing today; cash is king and Mayweather was able to become victorious using that for his advantage on the field of battle.
Best Jab – Robert Guerrero – Not only has he got a long reach, is jab is powerful and comes from the southpaw angle.
Best Defense – Ricky Burns – His arms are so long his elbows reach below his waist. One of his best defensive moves is to lean back to the ropes behind his guard and following the onslaught, simply walk his opponent back.
Best Chin – Czar Amonsot – Youtube this fight: “Michael Katsidis vs. Czar Amonsot.” Amonsot took an incredible amount of punishment that night and could dish it out as well as he could take it. This fight was a 12-round war and was nominated for HBO’s fight of the year in a very exciting year of fights throughout the United States in 2007.
Best Puncher – At the elite level they all hit hard and they hit often. In comparison to a national level the average fighter’s power would be very ineffective. Though of the elite fighters I have fought I can say I was very surprised by the lack of power of Ricky Burns. Sorry Ricky, unfinished business there.
Fastest Hands – Joel Casamayor – I think the fighter I have fought with the fastest hands goes to Joel Casamayor. He used a lot of variance with his speed but when he let them go you would want to make sure you didn't blink or he would catch you. Which he did, three times in fact (laughs).
Fastest Feet – Vincente Escobedo – He’s a U.S. Olympian and former main sparring partner for Juan Manuel Marquez. His movement on his feet was beautiful and could have him in a position to punch from any direction at anytime.
Smartest – Juan Manuel Marquez – When I fought him I had him gone and I began to (swing my) punches wide. Marquez was a good enough boxer to lower his centre of gravity when he got hurt and began rolling out and under sideways from my onslaught.
Strongest – Juan Diaz – There was a reason they called him “the Baby Bull.” Once inside, this guy could work and his strength inside was incredible. He had many an opponent give in as a result of not being able to match this.