By Laine Clark
MICHAEL KATSIDIS provided only eight minutes or so of action in his long-awaited return to Australia. But no one was complaining after witnessing a rare sight following his brutal knockout win over Mexican junior welterweight Michael Lozada on the Gold Coast on Saturday - Katsidis smiling.
Indeed few would have begrudged Katsidis an easy night after a difficult 10 months since the tragic death of his brother, champion jockey Stathi.
Katsidis, 30, left Lozada wheezing on all fours after the 10-round fight was stopped 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the third - and quickly had Cuban Joel Casamayor in his sights.
It marked a triumphant return for Toowoomba-bred Katsidis (28-4 record, 23 KOs) in his first fight in Australia in five years. And the barrage of body shots that dropped Lozada (38-9-1, 30 KOs) erased any doubts the two-time WBO interim lightweight champion had lost any power stepping up a division.
But there was another, more personal, reason a victorious Katsidis was beaming as the Gold Coast crowd chanted his name. Katsidis said he could finally move on after Stathi's death.
He refused to postpone last November's fight with WBA and WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, held just weeks after his brother's death.
Katsidis not only lost to Marquez despite flooring the superstar early but also his next world title fight to American Robert Guerrero in April.
''I had Marquez flat on his back only three weeks after Stathi was gone,'' he said. ''Now I am back and I have dealt with that better.''
Katsidis's manager Brendon Smith provided a rare insight into the demons his star charge has been battling.
''We don't make excuses but everyone knows exactly what happened … and it has been really difficult,'' he said.
Katsidis said he had made a ''statement'' with the knockout win and would again scour the world for his next fight, with the likes of Mexican superstar Erik Morales and British gun Amir Khan on his list.
But Smith said Casamayor, who inflicted Katsidis's first loss in 2008, was a high priority. He stopped Katsidis in ten rounds in California. Katsidis went down twice in the first round but dropped Casamayor in the sixth.
“There’s no hidden secret – there’s Amir Khan and another one that burns in there is Joel Casamayor. That’s one I’d like to see happen. And I’d like to bring Joel right here into our backyard. Without a doubt. Michael would like to fight all the guys that he’s lost to. We’d love to make it happen,” Katsidis’ manager Brendon Smith said.