by David P. Greisman

It is enough to have two steel-chinned, stone-fisted men slugging bombs at each other for 12 rounds or less.

It is not enough, but it is not everything.

An abundance of action can be amplified by a dose of drama.

A sprinkling of storyline can take a boxing match and transcend it beyond a cookie-cutter popcorn flick and turn it into a can’t-miss prizefight.

Character development can establish reason to root for heroes and against villains, and it can ensure that the principal players are not nameless, interchangeable rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots.

And plot twists can bring a bout from competitive to compelling.

The fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis had all of this, providing precisely what its potential had promised.

Marquez is a technician, 37 years old, a pro for 17 years, a man who has prolonged his career by incorporating his technique into a relatively new mindset of allowing himself to go to war.

Katsidis is a warrior, 30 years old, a pro for nine years, a man who has prolonged his career by incorporating his warrior ways into a relatively new mindset of allowing himself to use more technique.

Marquez has accuracy and an advanced arsenal, an ability to land seemingly anything from anywhere at any time. Katsidis has one-punch power and one method of delivering it, coming forward and walking through fire in order to bring his own heat.

Marquez, with his Hall of Fame talent, is a formidable opponent. Katsidis was facing an even greater challenge, however.

Katsidis’ brother, Stathi, had died some 40 days beforehand. Stathi was 31, as close to Michael in age as they had been in life. The death had come while Michael Katsidis was training to face Marquez, and he chose to continue on with the fight despite the loss of his brother, or perhaps in dedication to him.

“Stathi is inside me!” Katsidis had said in a statement shortly after his brother’s death. “We will fight this fight together. I know this is what he wants.”

The traditional sports story about an athlete or a team overcoming the odds is a story relating to succeeding despite injuries, to coming out victorious in the face of competitive disadvantages.

But the most memorable stories of athletes overcoming the odds are those stories in which the adversity is personal and powerfully raw.

There were the stories about Brett Favre quarterbacking the Green Bay Packers the day after his father’s death, taking on the Oakland Raiders under the national spotlight of Monday Night Football, throwing for 399 yards, four touchdowns and a blowout victory.

There were the stories about Oscar De La Hoya when he was a teenage amateur boxer competing in the 1992 Olympics, winning a gold medal less than two years after his mother had died.

And there were the stories about Buster Douglas scoring the greatest upset in boxing, knocking out Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship just weeks after Douglas’ mother had died.

Where emotion could have interfered, instead it was channeled into intensified determination. Tragic losses provided the motivation for triumphant wins.

This is what Michael Katsidis brought with him.

Katsidis came out aggressively but not recklessly, moving forward and pressuring Marquez, forcing the technician to use all of his technique either to punch in an attempt to keep Katsidis off him, or to move in an attempt to keep Katsidis away. Marquez threw 68 punches in the first round, landing 27, while Katsidis threw 34, half what Marquez did, landing eight.

Katsidis was able to close the distance in the second round, perhaps because him doing so was also preferable to Marquez. With Katsidis leaning forward in front of him, Marquez could dig hooks around Katsidis’ elbows and into the body, which he did, and deliver uppercuts through Katsidis’ gloves and onto his chin, which he did.

What was good for Marquez was subsequently good for Katsidis.

Marquez was defending himself with offense, but he wasn’t defending himself with defense.

Marquez landed an astonishing 48 punches out of 90 thrown in the second round, including 27 power punches. He also got hit with 26 of Katsidis’ shots in those three minutes, including 19 power shots.

In the third round, Marquez missed with a right hand and began to follow with a left hook. As he did so, Katsidis caught Marquez flush with a counter left hook of his own, sending Marquez backward and downward.

There were two minutes left in the round.

Now Katsidis would need to overwhelm Marquez. Now Marquez would need to pick his spots on Katsidis. Katsidis threw 88 punches in that round, landing 24, including 20 power punches. Marquez, clearheaded and sturdy-legged, made Katsidis miss and threw between Katsidis’ shots, landing 32 of 49 punches. Of those, Marquez dug in and landed 22 of 29 power punches, a 76 percent connect rate.

If Katsidis wanted to make Marquez check out, Marquez was going to make Katsidis pay the price.

Katsidis could be perceived as having the advantage. Marquez couldn’t stop him despite all those landed punches. And Katsidis could floor Marquez with a single shot.

Among the more memorable of sports stories are those in which the odds are insurmountable, the deck stacked decisively against a team or an athlete.

There are the stories of the Buffalo Bills and a backup quarterback named Frank Reich going down 35-3 to the Houston Oilers in the second half of a 1993 playoff game, only to come back and win, 41-38.

There are the stories of the Boston Red Sox losing the first three playoff games to the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League championship and being three outs away from being eliminated, only to come back, win that game, win the next three games, move on to the World Series and win that, too.

There are the stories of Diego Corrales rising from two knockdowns to stop Jose Luis Castillo, of Kelly Pavlik rising from a knockdown to knock out Jermain Taylor, of Juan Manuel Marquez rising from three knockdowns to battle to a draw with Manny Pacquiao, and of Marquez adjusting after an early onslaught from Juan Diaz and scoring a stoppage.

Facing a fighter who had just knocked him down, Marquez made the decision that the best place to be, of all places, was closer to Katsidis.

Marquez remained within an arm’s length of Katsidis, circling around to establish distance but not bringing himself as far away as he’d been when he’d been knocked down. From in close, he could lance Katsidis with jabs and crosses, drill him with uppercuts and cut into him with hooks. From in close, he could keep a tight guard and watch for Katsidis to attack, catching some punches with his gloves, ducking underneath others.

Katsidis opened up his offense, throwing 71 punches in the fifth, 83 punches in the sixth, 119 punches in the seventh and 91 punches in the eighth. Out of those 364 thrown, however, just 115 landed, less than one in every three. And though Katsidis’ aggression was not the reckless sort that had gotten him knocked out two-and-a-half years ago against Joel Casamayor, it was still leaving him vulnerable for a dissection by the master ring scientist.

Marquez threw 73 punches in the fifth, 77 punches in the sixth, 80 punches in the seventh and 76 punches in the eighth, landing 152 total out of those 306 thrown, about one landed out of every two launched. His accuracy with power punches was even better in those four rounds, landing 103 out of 172, or a 60 percent connect rate.

If Katsidis could still floor Marquez with a single shot, he wasn’t able to do so. And though Marquez hadn’t yet stopped Katsidis with all of those landed punches, he was breaking him down.

Not every fighter has stone hands. But not every fighter has a steel chin. Marquez’s repetitious chisel was chipping away at Katsidis. Marquez can land anything from anywhere at any time. He was landing nearly everything from everywhere nearly every time.

In the two minutes and 14 seconds that was the ninth round, Marquez was 36 of 54 with his punches, landing two out of every three thrown, a 67 percent connect rate. Katsidis, who already never had much in the way of defense, had even less defense after all of the punishing body blows and precise head shots. Marquez went 25 for 32 with power punches in the ninth, a 78 percent connect rate, landing more than three out of every four thrown.

Referee Kenny Bayless stepped in, recognizing that while Katsidis wasn’t reeling, he wasn’t fighting back either. Katsidis had thrown just 30 punches in that ninth round, landing nine.

Marquez had landed better than half of his punches on the night (327 of 628), and better than 60 percent of his power shots (214 of 338). He’d come back to stop Katsidis in the same round that he’d stopped Juan Diaz in February 2009.

It is enough to have two steel-chinned, stone-fisted men slugging bombs at each other for 12 rounds or less, but it is not everything. Marquez-Katsidis brought drama to their action, brought storyline and character development and plot twists.

Neither man was a villain, and while only one was the official victor, both could walk out of the ring with pride.

For Michael Katsidis, he had battled through emotion and against the best fighter he had ever faced, knocking him down and forcing a great boxer to do great things in order to get the win.

For Juan Manuel Marquez, he had once again stepped in against someone young and aggressive and dangerous, staying composed despite early adversity and responding with brilliant brutality.

It is not whether you fall, but how you get back up.

The 10 Count

1.  HBO paid more than $100,000 for every punch landed in Andre Berto’s win over Freddy Hernandez. The license fee was $1.25 million, Berto got paid $910,000 of that and Hernandez got paid $75,000, according to Dan Rafael of

With 12 landed punches, and going by the fighters’ purses alone, that’s about $82,083 per landed punch.

Compare that to the fighters’ purses for Marquez-Katsidis – Marquez got $1.4 million, Katsidis got $530,000 (I’m not sure what the overall license fee was).

With 521 landed punches, that’s about $3,704 per landed punch.

2.  As expected, the attendance numbers were inflated for Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Antonio Margarito.

The announced attendance was 41,734, but the actual attendance was 40,154 – and, of that, 30,437 were paid, with 9,717 seats being given away for free, according to Dan Rafael of

Rafael did a good job of reporting, getting numbers from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and providing a breakdown in ticket sales. For those of you thinking I’m just providing numbers here for no reason, just wait… there’s a good reason.

$700 tickets – 2,475 sold.

$500 tickets – 1,687 sold.

$400 tickets – 14 sold.

$300 tickets – 2,087 sold.

$250 tickets – 61 sold.

$200 tickets – 2,496 sold.

$150 tickets – 445 sold.

$125 tickets – 866 sold.

$100 tickets – 9,536 sold.

$75 tickets – 300 sold.

$60 tickets – 1,272 sold.

$50 tickets – 8,727 sold.

$40 tickets – 471 sold.

3.  I mention all these numbers because I keep beating that dead horse, keep having to repeat that Pacquiao’s fight with Joshua Clottey didn’t sell 51,000 tickets. Even the stellar Rafael continues to perpetuate this myth:

“On the night of [Pacquiao-Margarito], attendance was announced at 41,734 – far short of 50,000 and far less than what Pacquiao’s fight there in March drew against Joshua Clottey,” Rafael wrote in his breakdown of the Pacquiao-Margarito ticket sales.

I’ve said it time and again – Pacquiao-Clottey had 41,843 – selling 36,371 tickets with an additional 5,472 seats given away for free, according to the Sports Business Journal.

And since those words, repeated again and again, haven’t changed some minds, here are the numbers:

$700 tickets – 2,852 sold.

$500 tickets – 1,277 sold.

$300 tickets – 3,062 sold.

$200 tickets – 3,955 sold.

$175 tickets – 895 sold.

$150 tickets – 222 sold.

$100 tickets – 12,344 sold.

$75 tickets – 872 sold.

$50 tickets – 9,636 sold.

$35 tickets – 1,256 sold.

4.  A corrective note: In returning to the Sports Business Journal article that enlightened me several months ago, I realized I’d made a minor typo back in June and had carried that forth since, saying Pacquiao-Clottey had 41,841 people in attendance, when in fact, it had two more people than that – 41,843.

5.  Arthur Abraham’s training for his fight with Carl Froch saw him step into a cold chamber with no shirt on and wearing shorts – and the temperature was negative 112.5 degrees Celsius, or negative 170.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

How fitting, considering Abraham froze up in the ring Saturday against Froch.

6.  What did Juan Manuel Marquez put in the urine he drank before facing Michael Katsidis – Hydroxycut or Splenda?

7. Larry Merchant was completely in the right when it came to Michael Katsidis, after his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, about the tragic death in October of Katsidis’s older brother, Stathi.

The death of Stathi Katsidis – and how it could either motivate Katsidis or place his focus on things in life far more important than a prizefight – was an important facet of the Marquez-Katsidis story. Sometimes the personal and professional collide, and it is the media’s job to tell that story.

Can you imagine writing about Buster Douglas’s fight against Mike Tyson and never asking about the death of Douglas’s mother?

The most difficult thing any reporter has to do is to contact grieving family members on the day of or in the days immediately after a person’s death. Some might see this as  an insensitive intrusion upon what should be a private time for mourning, but…

But family members, fighting through the tears, often welcome the opportunity, so long as the reporter conducts himself or herself in a sympathetic, sensitive manner. When someone dies suddenly and tragically, family members feel as if the world is spinning out of control.

Stories will be written – the news cannot just be ignored – and so these stories often take the angle of memorials. How will the family members remember this person? What do the family members feel the world should know about the victim?

Michael Katsidis, through Golden Boy Promotions publicist Monica Sears, declined to speak to reporters about Stathi’s death. If they asked such a question, the interview would be over.

At first, this scribe bristled when reading of the idea of boxing writers agreeing to an interview with set conditions.

But Michael Katsidis did release a statement two days after his brother’s death. This was akin to a family member answering a few questions about a tragedy and then saying, simply, “I need to stop. I don’t want to say any more about this.”

Sometimes PR liaisons are overly protective of their clients. But it is quite possible that Katsidis asked for no questions on his brother’s death until after the fight, until a time when it would be okay for his emotions to overtake him. Considering the sheer number of boxing media members out there, it’d understandably be easier for Katsidis to release a statement rather than put himself through the emotional rollercoaster of an interview over and over.

And considering the limitations, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports put together a wonderful feature on Katsidis prior to Saturday’s fight, and the aforementioned Dan Rafael did a good job as well.

8.  Boxers Behaving Badly: Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been accused of trying to drive another man off the road, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Mayweather allegedly tried to use a Bentley he was driving to force Quincey Williams – whom the newspaper describes as a former acquaintance and employee of Mayweather’s – off the road.

The vehicles did not collide. Mayweather was not arrested and has not been charged yet, though investigators could still recommend that prosecutors file charges.

Williams is the same man whose car was shot at last year, allegedly by an associate of Mayweather’s.

Meanwhile, no new news on the security guard who reportedly accused Mayweather of poking him in the face. The initial report on that came from a poorly sourced TMZ article.

And Mayweather is still due in court in January for the case that stemmed out of the alleged incident earlier this year between the boxer, a former girlfriend and their children.

9.  How is it that we have news of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s legal trouble before he’s officially charged with anything, and yet…

…and yet boxing writers knew of Kelly Pavlik’s problems with alcohol but never got anyone on the record about it until Pavlik entered rehab this month.

…and yet boxing writers knew of Alfredo Angulo no longer legally being in the United States but still held off on writing a story about it.

It is not just our job to cover the news after it happens, but to write about the issues that could have consequences down the line.

If Pavlik’s camp members have long had concerns over their fighter’s struggles with drinking, then doesn’t that have a bearing on stories on his pre-fight preparation and conditioning issues?

And if Angulo has to drive across the country to fight instead of flying because he’s worried about getting caught at the airport, then isn’t that part of the story?

Sometimes the stories journalists write end up influencing what happens next, and that’s okay. They can’t ignore a story just because of the possible repercussions.

10.  “And Carl Froch will once again proudly wear the green strap of the WBC super middleweight champion of the world. It’s around his waist, and he is jubilant,” a British boxing broadcaster said following Froch’s victory over Abraham.

Who cares about the WBC belt? Carl Froch gets to wear his girlfriend around his waist…

David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on

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