Photo © Al Bello / Getty Images
Stack it up however you like, dis Joel Casamayor if you must based on his last fight, and admire the bruising Michael Katsidis because of his blood-and-guts style, but this Saturday's fight between the lightweight champ and the Aussie challenger is not only important for its division, but it's huge for both fighters.
In a month where we've been treated to Vazquez-Marquez III, Marquez-Pacquiao II, Diaz-Campbell and Maskaev-Peter, the headlining bout on Saturday's edition of HBO Boxing After Dark has slipped in without much in the way of hype or anticipation.
Much of that can be laid on the doorstep of the Casamayor, the 36-year old Ring Magazine champion at 135 pounds who everyone feels is undeserving of the title. Nobody on earth besides judges Frank Lombardi and Ron McNair thought Casamayor beat Jose Armando Santa Cruz last November -- nobody. It's been called one of the greatest robberies in the history of the sport, and rightly so.
But enough breath has been wasted on that travesty of a decision. Instead, let's focus on what's really at stake, and that is Casamayor's lightweight title. Whether he still deserves it or not is irrelevant; he has it, and the 27-year old Katsidis is coming to Cabazon, California, to take it away from him.
And while Katsidis is the betting favorite (-230), don't count the chickens before they hatch.
Yeah, Casamayor (35-3-1, 21 KO) looked terrible against Santa Cruz. It was also the first time he'd fought in 13 months, following his rubber match victory over an overweight Diego Corrales in 2006, after lengthy political wrangling with the WBC. Now under Golden Boy's banner, Casamayor should find that the B.S. of the sport is not what he's dealt with in the past.
Maybe Casamayor is just old and worn out, not the fighter he once was. Maybe Katsidis really will storm him and maul him into submission. Or maybe the wily Casamayor will give the Aussie challenger a boxing lesson of a lifetime.
Photo © Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Let's not forget that Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20 KO, ranked No. 6 by Ring Magazine) is still quite untested. 2007 served as his coming-out party, with grueling wins over Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot, two fighters more than willing to stand and trade with him, at their own peril.
Whether you think it's boring or not, Casamayor is not that guy. Katsidis is going to be forced into the role of pursuer. And he's never shown any kind of defense, meaning that Casamayor, if he's willing, could be able to pepper in shot after shot and win plenty of rounds.
I really do like Michael Katsidis, and like most, I'd love for him to win on Saturday. Let's not make any bones about it: Casamayor is an arrogant, trash-talking jerk carrying around a distinction as champion that he doesn't deserve. To be fair to everyone, Jose Armando Santa Cruz is the real lightweight champion, which in fact is just as silly as Casamyor being champion. Neither of them are close to being the division's best. That distinction would now fall to Nate Campbell, and had been held by Juan Diaz prior to Nate's brilliant victory over "The Baby Bull."
While Casamayor deserves plenty of respect for his career accomplishments and more props for being one of his generation's best boxers, he's not exactly likable.
But, in many ways, this reminds me somewhat of Mayweather-Gatti, with the reservation that this is not a prime years Casamyor. While everyone was rooting for Gatti, I think anyone with a clue knew Mayweather was going to demolish him. The gulf in ability isn't quite as wide for Casamayor-Katsidis as it was for that fight, but on paper, if you assume part of Casamayor's problem in November was just ring rust, it's pretty big. Katsidis is wonderfully entertaining, but he's fairly limited overall. Casamayor has fought a lot of tough sons of bitches who were better fighters than Katsidis is currently.
So while it feels like the Katsidis bandwagon is almost ready to tip over thanks to it being beyond maximum capacity, don't rush to put your money in on the slugger from down under taking Casamayor's paper crown and making it at least somewhat more respectable. Dogs don't come much more live than the veteran champ this Saturday night. There are too many easy-to-see ways that he can win this fight and spoil the party.
The HBO undercard was supposed to feature Junior Witter defending his portion of the 140-pound title against boring as dirt Demetrius Hopkins, but that fight was never actually signed. Whoops! Instead, Golden Boy is offering up super middleweight rock 'em sock 'em robot Librado Andrade (26-1, 20 KO, ranked No. 5 by Ring Magazine) against 26-year old Russian-born Robert Stieglitz (31-1, 19 KO), who lives and does all his fighting in Germany. It's not quite as compelling as Junior Witter on American TV, but it'll do. Andrade is consistently entertaining, and it's a fairly big break for Stieglitz, who is making his second appearance in the States.
Stieglitz's biggest fight thus far was against Alejandro Berrio for the vacant IBF super middleweight title. The powerful Berrio knocked him out in the third round, though Stieglitz won the first two. Andrade isn't quite the puncher Berrio is, but his busy style is tough to defend unless you have a serious advantage in ability, like Mikkel Kessler did.
Simply put for the main event, though: It's do or die time for Joel Casamayor. If he fights the way he did in November, Katsidis will blow him out, and perhaps end his career. If he fights competitively and loses, he gets some respect back. If he wins, you've got to consider looking for a rematch with Nate Campbell, as Joel will be in a great position to truly get his status as the world's number one lightweight back.
I've hinted at it, but official prediction: Casamayor outboxes Katsidis and frustrates him over the full 12 rounds, sending his foe back to the drawing board. I'm rooting to be wrong, but I really think I'm going to be right.