This Saturday's most intriguing fight, in my view, is not the 140-pound belt clash between Amir Khan and Paul Malignaggi on HBO, but rather the fight between Michael Katsidis and Kevin Mitchell in the UK, which should simply be more exciting. We'll start with the favorite, road warrior Katsidis.
Fight 1: Joel Casamayor (L-TKO-10 / March 22, 2008)
The Aussie with the Greek blood who fancies himself something a Spartan warrior met something entirely new. I remember thinking a day or two before this fight that we could be in for something special. I knew we were when Casamayor entered the ring and immediately got in Katsidis' face. Katsidis, wearing his silly helmet, looked like he didn't really know how to respond to Casamayor. It looked right then as if the mean old veteran had gotten into the upstart brawler's head.
And what a fight it was. Casamayor dropped Katsidis twice in the opening round, but after that, the younger, stronger Katsidis was able to take over with effective aggression and pure pressure tactics. It was a fascinating fight to watch. Boxers don't come much different than Casamayor, the well-schooled amateur who knows every trick (dirty and clean) in the book, and the straight-ahead, likable Katsidis, who always gives his best effort. By the time the 10th round started off, Katsidis had taken the lead on my scorecard, as well as two of the three official cards. He was leading 84-83 on two cards despite a 7-10 first round. (The third card had Casamayor up 85-82.)
Then it happened. Casamayor caught Katsidis wide open with a great shot, sending him crashing to the canvas again. The brave Katsidis made it to his feet, but Casamayor finished him off in moments, closing in for the kill. Katsidis had built a reputation for blood and guts with vicious wins over Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot, and though he suffered his first loss against a better class of fighter, he left people wanting to see him again.
Fight 2: Juan Diaz (L-SD-12 / September 6, 2008)
Katsidis and trainer-manager Brendon Smith came up with a peculiar game plan for this fight, in Diaz's hometown of Houston, Texas. They were going to box Diaz, who had shown an aversion to being cut and handling pressure in his last bout against Nate Campbell. When you really think about that, it makes absolutely no sense. Not only is Diaz a better boxer than Katsidis, but what Katsidis is good at -- wearing guys down and sapping their will -- had been how Diaz lost to Campbell.
Were they looking to throw a curveball? I have no clue. After, they felt they'd won, which made three people on earth, along with ringside judge Glen Hamada. Even the two winning scores for Diaz (115-113 and 116-112) seemed tight to me. Katsidis was out there doing a Joshua Clottey impersonation or something, and Diaz just racked up the points. It was a really disappointing fight, as most everyone expected a war, and it was anything but.
Fight 3: Angel Hugo Ramirez (W-UD-10 / January 31, 2009)
A rebound fight in the Philippines, where Katsidis is a bit of a star thanks to his fight with Amonsot. Katsidis also currently lives in Thailand, for whatever that's worth. Likely little. Ramirez went down in the second, third and fourth. Katsidis was penalized a point for hitting Ramirez while he was down in the second. Official scores were 98-87 and 96-89 (twice). Nothing more than a rebound win.
Fight 4: Jesus Chavez (W-TKO-8 / April 4, 2009)
The faded Chavez, who once put up a bit of a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., was on a comeback bid. The Lightweight Lightning PPV on this night amounted to nothing (tournament my ass), but we did get to see that all Chavez really has left is spirit. Katsidis put a pretty good pounding on Chavez, who didn't look any less tough than before, but looked decidedly less skilled and just past it. After seven rounds, Chavez quit on his stool. Chavez probably should have retired then, but came back to lose to David Diaz and then Humberto Soto later in '09.
Note: Before someone goes bananas, I don't mean to say that Mayweather-Chavez was close. It wasn't. But Chavez showed a lot more spirit than most guys ever have against Floyd, and Mayweather worked to stop Chavez.
Fight 5: Vicente Escobedo (W-SD-12 / September 19, 2009)
On the Mayweather-Marquez undercard, Katsidis and Escobedo put on a solid bout full of action, with Katsidis winning wide on my card, but again getting a split decision, this time in his favor. Escobedo and Katsidis both fought their hardest, and Katsidis even appeared to leave with a possible broken jaw, which turned out to not be the case. It was more reminiscent of the pre-Casamayor Katsidis than he'd been in the fights against Diaz and Chavez, but maybe that was just the blood talking. I'd also note that it was the first time Katsidis proved he could out-fight a better boxer, and was the best win of Katsidis' career to date.
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Fight 1: Walter Estrada (W-TKO-5 / June 7, 2008)
Colombian Estrada was, as usual, hyped as a potentially dangerous mystery man from a foreign land, one of my favorite things about UK boxing coverage. He'd already lost five fights and been stopped three times against iffy competition, but hey. Estrada was no match for Mitchell, who at the time was one of the leading young stars in UK boxing. Mitchell laid into Estrada nicely and got him out with a body shot in the fifth round. After the bout, though, Mitchell had to undergo surgery on his hand, which put him out of commission. Estrada has since gone 1-7, beating only a fighter who entered their bout with an 0-1 record.
Fight 2: Lanquaye Wilson (W-TKO-3 / May 22, 2009)
Comeback fight. Wilson was 1-2 coming in. Fight means nothing.
Fight 3: Rudy Encarnacion (W-TKO-8 / July 18, 2009)
This time, a Dominican can (by way of Spain). Encarnacion was a bit over .500 for his career and was on a 2-9 run coming into the fight. Win means nothing.
Fight 4: Breidis Prescott (W-UD-12 / December 5, 2009)
Getting fully back into the swing of things, Mitchell made the official jump to 135 pounds against Prescott, on the Khan-Salita PPV undercard. For those not delirious or working for Sky Sports or a UK paper, Mitchell was the obvious favorite. Outside of the win over Khan, Prescott had really never done anything, and had been upset by Miguel Vazquez on Friday Night Fights just five months prior. Mitchell boxed cautiously, aware of Prescott's only strength (his big right hand), and easily routed the Colombian bomber.
Fight 5: Ignacio Mendoza (W-KO-2 / February 13, 2010)
Mendoza once gave John Murray some trouble, so he was offered as a next opponent for Mitchell. Mendoza had nothing left in the fight and all but gave up. When he hit the mat in round two, he made no effort to come back from it.
We'll get deeper into Katsidis-Mitchell on Thursday or Friday, but I'll say this: Katsidis is a big step up in class for Mitchell. He may well be ready for that (given how much better he's been than the guys he's been fighting), but it's a legitimate new step.