July 21 -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
Winner: Michael Katsidis UD-12
This show-stopping, heart-pounding, 135-pound mad brawl took Fight of the Night honors on the undercard of Hopkins-Wright, and after discussing the scoring (so many of us thought it was a closer main event than the cards said), the only fight that was still talked about the next week was this one.
Australian Michael Katsidis is brash, but not in an obnoxious way. He just wants to fight. Katsidis is one of those guys that truly loves his job, and in some ways reminds me of MMA superstar Wanderlei Silva back in 2003-04. Silva didn't get the nickname "Axe Murderer" by accident, and the 27-year old Katsidis hasn't become one of the most exciting and feared boxers in the sport because of a miscounting of ballots. He's the real deal as an action hero.
This was his breakout year, though he fought just twice. His first fight and win of the campaign came earlier in the countdown. Now, we'll discuss his wicked throwdown with Filipino Amonsot, a fearless 22-year old who came in totally unknown in the States, with an 18-2-1 record. He had lost twice to Simson Butar Butar, knocked out in five rounds in 2005 and in the first round in 2006.
Some might find it a little difficult to heap praise on this brutal affair, because Amonsot was hurt in the fight, suffering a minor subdural hematoma, which seems to have turned out better than many of us feared, as at least checkup, Amonsot was likely to return to the ring at some point, which is fantastic (if somewhat scary) news. And his heroic loss earned him great popularity in his home country, as Tagbilaran City Mayor Dan Neri Lim gave Amonsot a job as part of civil security (basically, a bodyguard -- not a bad bodyguard) so that the injured fighter could earn money while out of the sport.
To me, though, not talking about how great this war was would be an insult to what the two men gave us that night. Katsidis hits hard, everyone agrees with that. Ask anybody he's fought, I'm sure they'll tell you. But not only did Amonsot hang in there for 12 grueling, punishing rounds, he turned Katsidis' face into hamburger meat in the process. Katsidis, like Arturo Gatti and Ricky Hatton, is a bleeder, but this was gruesome.
In his American TV debut, Katsidis came out badly wanting to prove his star quality. He did so. And Amonsot had to know, quite honestly, that he was set up as a sacrificial lamb, a Filipino who would let Katsidis do his thing, subbing for the obviously unavailable Manny Pacquiao, whom Katsidis had repeatedly called out.
What we got instead of a one-sided beatdown was a stunningly competitive fight. This is no hyperbole -- if Czar Amonsot has one ounce of fear in his body, we didn't see it that night. Twice he was floored by the heavy-handed Aussie, and he kept coming back. He beat Katsidis as badly as Katsidis beat him. Nobody expected that. It was, truly, the single most valiant loss of the year.
Fights like these do shorten careers, but as long as these men are of able mind and body to get into the ring, I can do nothing but salute them. It was one of those fights where my favorite Jim Lampley call comes to mind (during Toney-Jirov): "It's amazing that humans can do this." It really is. To watch Katsidis-Amonsot is to see a superhuman effort from two men. Honestly, I could probably rank this higher, but its appeal is mostly as a blood-and-guts spectacle, and while it's true that Amonsot's performance was damn near legendary on this night, I felt part of it exposed Katsidis' weaknesses, weaknesses that better fighters and bigger punchers may be able to take advantage of.
But we won't end on a down note. Not with this fight. It was a special sort of war, the type that made Arturo Gatti both famous and beloved, a throwback to the old days of fights not being stopped just because someone is bleeding or getting creamed -- as long as they were able to defend themselves, they kept going. That's what we got from the bruising Katsidis and the brave Amonsot in July.
Note: Though Amonsot was hoping to return to boxing after the clot in his brain healed, a freak accident occured recently at his home that has forced him into retirement. While doing chores, an "iron bar" hit him in the head. The clot returned, and his management team has advised him to forego ever boxing again. Here's hoping Amonsot will live a full and happy life, even though he can no longer fight.
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