Dave Oakes previews Saturday's lightweight clash between Ricky Burns and Michael Katsidis.
Ricky Burns produced one of the best performances of 2010 to claim a world title at super-featherweight, surviving an early knockdown to beat Roman Martinez on points. This Saturday sees him stepping up a weight to face Aussie brawler Michael Katsidis for the WBO Interim crown. Despite Katsidis’ wear and tear, one senses Burns will have to pull out another career defining performance if he’s to beat the former title holder (well, interim title holder – the governing bodies don’t make this easy!).
A few months before Burns won his world title, Katsidis was producing an impressive performance of his own; stopping Kevin Mitchell on a big Frank Warren show at Upton Park. Mitchell was the pre-fight favourite but Katsidis wasn’t perturbed and hammered the Londoner inside three rounds. The Aussie, 28-4 (23), is no stranger to fighting in Britain, he’s looking to complete a hat-trick of wins on British soil - his first victory, against Graham Earl, was the British fight of the year in 2007 - again, Katsidis was the underdog.
The bookmakers, perhaps remembering those two performances by Katsidis, have installed him as the odds-on favourite against Burns. Thinking about it, this is a battle of two underdogs, both men have produced their best performances when they weren’t expected to prevail and both seem to enjoy the underdog tag. For Katsidis, this fight provides him with the opportunity to show he’s not finished at world level. For Burns, it’s the chance to show he belongs at world level. This is the biggest test of the Scot’s career; Katsidis is very experienced at word level, hits hard and always comes to fight.
After winning the world title, Burns’ three defences weren’t the best. He beat a game Andreas Evensen on points before disappointing stoppage wins against Joseph Laryea, who didn’t deserve a world title shot and produced nothing during seven one-sided rounds, and Nicky Cook, who suffered a back injury shortly after the opening bell and had to retire during the first round. No blame can be attributed to Burns, who is the type of fighter who’s willing to fight anyone; poor matchmaking and bad luck were the main contributing factors.
It will be interesting to see how both men look at the weight; Burns was tall for super-featherweight and the move up should suit him well in theory. It remains to be seen how easily Katsidis can make weight. He announced he was moving up to light-welterweight after suffering back to back defeats against Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero, he’s moving back down after just one fight - a third round knockout of chinny banger Michael Lozada. Whether he thinks he can still make weight healthily or whether he feels the fight is too good an opportunity to turn down and is worth the risk, we’ll wait and see.
Burns, 32-2 (9), is the fresher fighter, he’s been in hard bouts against Alex Arthur, Carl Johanneson and the aforementioned Martinez, but he’s in the prime of his career and looks like he’s matured physically since the defeats he suffered against Arthur and Johanneson.
Katsidis has been involved in a stupendous amount of battles, even when he’s come through to win, like the Earl fight, his face-first style has meant he’s taken a high level of punishment to do so. The shellackings he took against Marquez, Guerrero and Joel Casamayor were the kind that age a fighter. Despite being only 31, Katsidis can’t have many more big performances left in him, there’s only so many times you can go to the well before it runs dry, and with Katsidis’ defence, or lack of, it won’t be pretty to watch when he does find the well has dried.
Burns and Katsidis’ styles should mesh nicely; Katsidis will be coming forward whilst Burns will be trying to pick him off as he does. Burns hasn’t got the punch power to knock Katsidis clean out but he does hit crisply enough to wear down the older fighter. It’s also worth noting that Katsidis marks and cuts up badly as well, Burns’ stiff jab could cause problems there.
I can see Katsidis targeting the long body of Burns, trying to sap the younger man’s energy, Burns is very fit and Katsidis can’t afford him to go into the second half of the fight without having taking something out of him in the first six rounds.
Katsidis in his prime would be a sure-fire pick but the wear and tear he’s suffered in his career makes this fight a lot closer. I think it’ll be a tremendous battle, one which both boxers will come out of with credit. I feel Katsidis’ experience, heart and bravery will be just enough to give him the edge on the scorecards, it’s going to be close though.