By Terence Dooley
Michael Katsidis could easily have sloped down retirement road earlier this year after suffering two reverses in a five month period, to Juan Manuel Marquez and Roberto Geurrero respectively, following the untimely death of Stathi, his older brother by a year and a respected jockey who won multiple Group One titles during his own sporting career.
Stathi passed away on October 19th 2010, right in the middle of Michael’s training camp for last November’s fight with Marquez. Katsidis, though, decided to fight through his grief in a bid to register a win over the Mexican legend and become the division’s linear champion. ‘The Great’ fell short, losing via ninth round TKO. Michael was back in action shortly after, his point’s defeat to Geurrero in April saw both men give and take some strong blows only for Roberto to take a lopsided decision.
Katsidis floored Marquez in round three of their war; he also hurt Geurrero with solid shots, coming back at ‘The Ghost’ at crucial points to keep himself in the contest, his other two defeats came against Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz in 2008. The pugilist was philosophical when looking back over his most recent reverses, telling me that he should have taken a timeout to come to terms with the death of his brother.
“Hindsight is such a wonderful thing but if I am to look back and see how my training is going now, I really feel the main thing I needed to deal with was the sudden loss of my brother. My last win has shown me this and now I am ready to go back the way I was,” stated Katsidis when asked about the impact that his brother’s death had on his mindset going into the Marquez fight.
The pride of Toowoomba has twice held the WBO interim lightweight crown, narrowly failing when going for the full title against Casamayor and Marquez. Michael believes that the Marquez fight strengthened his belief in his ability to net a full world title. “I feel I am capable of winning a world title and then some,” he said as talk turned to world belts and his tendency to take part in thrilling contests.
“When I look at my fight with Marquez, I know what I could have done to have him out of there in five rounds. All these experiences are great contributions to what I believe I can achieve in fighting. I am a fighter. You can't tell me any differently. Some people have the head for the sport and some people don't. This is what I do and in each of my losses there was not one contest where at any point during those fights I could have easily knocked them out.”
Many contenders take knock over job after knock over job en route to a world crown. Katsidis is the opposite; he took on the division’s best fighters before having a well deserved marking time fight against Michael Lozada, a KO win on August 13th. Katsidis believes that the road to the very top should be paved with tough fights, stating that losses are not the end of the world when asked if he has shown a worrying amount of wear and tear in recent outings.
“Real fighters don't take the easy road,” insisted the 31-year-old. “All of my fights before my fight with Marquez were hard fights if not harder, so to answer your question you would only need to look at my performance against Marquez. When I look at that fight and my last fight I don’t see a bloke that has had too many hard fights. My losses? Well we twig a couple things in response to give me the perfect preparation and I feel confident no one in the world can stay with me now.”
Katsidis has twice journeyed to the UK, handing out stoppages to Graham Earl and Kevin Mitchell. Kevin was 31-0 when he ran into the former Olympian. Earl was riding high going into their February 2007 match. Graham was not the same fighter after suffering a gruelling fifth round corner retirement loss in a fight that Katsidis rates amongst his finest.
“Each victory had its own personal rewards. The best is yet to come. My first international fight with Graham Earl is a fight that myself and boxing enthusiasts in attendance will never forget. That night was a showstopper,” recalled the 28-4 (23) warrior.
As mentioned, Stathi’s sudden death threw Michael’s preparations for Marquez into turmoil; it was a huge blow ahead of a massive match. Katsidis won a lot of fans by deciding to fight his way through his grief to provide yet another FOTY candidate. Almost a year has passed since the sad event; Michael still feels that he is dealing with the aftermath.
Saying, “Most people know how close Stathi and I were. That was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life. Losing my brother three weeks before a world title unification bout against one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world was something I was never going to deal with in three weeks. Stathi is gone now I know this and if I fight (a rematch) Mitchell as suggested (for later this year) it will be almost one year to the date.”
Speaking of Mitchell, ‘The Hammer’ was struggling with his own demons ahead of his May 2010 showdown with Katsidis at West Ham’s Upton Park football stadium. Kevin’s chaotic personal life was written across the challenger’s face and in his eyes according to his conqueror.
“Of course,” confirmed Michael as talk turned to whether or not Mitchell’s personal problems played a part on the night. “We all have personal things we deal with in life. I knew he was dealing with issues when we had our first face off. His eyes were dilating. I knew then he wasn’t the same Mitchell that thrashed the man (Breidis Prescott) that knocked Amir Khan out cold. Like I said before, I don't take the easy road and Mitchell on his game is one of the best in the world.”
Katsidis is not the type of guy to trot out lazy excuses; he has taken each of his four defeats in his stride but feels that the Guerrero fight in particular could have had a different outcome had referee Russell Mora not broken his momentum by calling two lows blows in round eight, the second of which looked a legal punch to everyone bar the third man. Ironically, the official was blasted for failing to acknowledge a series of low blows in the recent meeting between Joseph Agebko and Abner Mares yet was on top of Katsidis a number of times during his meeting with Roberto.
“Watch the eighth round of the fight and you will see I hit him with a flurry to the body, he stopped and stooped over. I then chopped two to his chin and the referee stepped in and called the earlier shots low blows and gave Guerrero time to recover,” his opinion of the fight’s big talking point.
He added: “Guerrero was gone, that there and then was where that fight was to end. It was clear I wasn’t going to get a good run as each time I got on a roll my momentum was stopped. Because the fight was so close to the Marquez fight and given the circumstances I knew my best plan was to throw him off his game and take him out. A cut I suffered in the beginning of the camp meant I had no sparring for the fight also. Not sparing for a fight is like a triathlete preparing without a pushbike. The fact that I took the fight says I was confident of a knockout win. Guerrero can enjoy his run for the time being but it will come round.”
Despite the odd setback, Katsidis has not severed ties with his trainer, manager and friend Brendon Smith, insisting that their relationship’s longevity tells its own story. “Brendon knows me like no one else. I think working with someone for over twenty years says it all,” concluded Katsidis.
Smith is currently working on Michael’s next fight; a rematch with Mitchell seems the most logical option, with Brendon confirming that an offer has been made and his charge is willing to travel to the UK in search of a hat trick of British wins. “Lovemore N’dou in Australia, Kevin Mitchell in England or one other name that I won’t mention as yet!” teased Smith when asked if he had firmed up Michael’s next assignment.
“As far as I am concerned the world is now Michael’s backyard, he has many fans all over the world and he absolutely loves fighting in England. Michael loves the passion of the English crowds, for him or against him, the hospitality of the English has been great, we thank them for it and would come back again. I believe the English have accepted Michael as their own and one day I would love to see Michael fight someone from another country in England – at the end of the day we are English aren’t we?” he joked.
Smith confirmed that positive contact has been made regarding a rematch with the rejuvenated Londoner and that Team Katsidis have packed their travel bags in anticipation of another UK jaunt. “Kevin is a big possibility,” he revealed.
“I have given [Mitchell’s promoter] Frank Warren a very realistic purse (figure) to try and make this fight. We are working on it and this fight will only not happen if Frank or Kevin has a change of heart. Our bags are packed – Kevin deserves this for his great win over John Murray – but they are only packed for so long or we are moving on – we hope to see you soon,” Smith’s message to the UK boxing community.
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