Few things excite fight fans more than a blood-and-guts warrior like Australia's Michael Katsidis, a pure brawler who is maybe the closest thing his generation of boxers has had to a successor to Arturo Gatti. Like Gatti, Katsidis became a fan favorite entirely because of the way he fights, and his failures against higher-level opposition never seemed to hurt that popularity.
Katsidis, now 34 and trying to stage a comeback in the lightweight (or junior welterweight) division, fights this Saturday in Hull, England, against Tommy Coyle. The United Kingdom has hosted two of Katsidis' best wins and one of his notable losses. Is there much left in the tank for him even with a win on Saturday? Frankly, probably not. So that answers that question now, but let's delve more into the career of Michael Katsidis, past, present, and (limited?) future.
- Kevin Mitchell (2010-05-15)
- Czar Amonsot (2007-07-21)
- Graham Earl (2007-02-17)
- Vicente Escobedo (2009-09-19)
- Jesus Chavez (2009-04-04)
This list tells you one thing right off: Katsidis never scored that career-defining sort of victory, and he never had a breathtaking classic like Gatti did with Micky Ward. That's not to say that Katsidis (30-6, 24 KO) hasn't been in some great fights. He has. A couple of them are here. A few more of them will be in the next section. But while Katsidis is reminiscent of Gatti, he never did match the guy to whom he was so often compared.
Katsidis' best win, oddly, came right at the end of his prime, or so it would seem right now. He totally destroyed Kevin Mitchell in front of a big crowd at Upton Park in West Ham, London, mowing down the then-unbeaten fighter inside of three rounds. Mitchell looked positively tiny and truly physically overmatched next to Katsidis, and the rugged brawler simply crushed him. It was a crowd-deflating win, yet at the same time, Katsidis' style is so likable, his attitude so gracious, that he wasn't pelted with batteries or anything of the sort. He received a warm response, more or less, for smashing the hometown favorite.
That fight also gave us a real treat, in the form of the single worst fight poster of all time.
2007 was Katsidis' breakout year, with back to back wins over Earl and Amonsot. I rank the Amonsot win a little higher because it was a true war, an ultra savage affair that somehow went the full 12 rounds in Las Vegas. Earl was stopped in five rounds in an action-packed fight that saw referee Mickey Vann refuse a towel thrown in by Earl's corner.
2009 featured a couple of solid wins for Katsidis, as he beat what was left of Jesus Chavez (who would fight and lose three more times before hanging up the gloves), followed by a convincing win over Vicente Escobedo, even one judge saw that fight for Escobedo.
This is, for better or worse, the real meat of Katsidis' career.
For my money, the best fight of Katsidis' career came against Joel Casamayor in March 2008, and that might have been Katsidis' overall best performance, too. It was as close as he ever got to winning a world title. After being dropped twice in round one, Katsidis rallied to push the Cuban veteran to the brink, knocking him down in round six. In a back-and-forth struggle, Casamayor wound up catching Katsidis in the 10th round and stopping him. At the time of the stoppage, Katsidis led 84-83 on two cards, and was down 85-82 on the third.
His next fight in September 2008 was arguably the most disappointing of his career. The Aussie looked flat in Houston against former lightweight titleholder Juan Diaz, who was coming off of his loss to Nate Campbell. What figured to be an all-out brawl between a volume puncher and a relentless pressure fighter turned into a weirdly restrained boxing match, one that didn't highlight the best of what either man could do. Like the Escobedo fight, this was a clear win where one judge somehow saw it for the other guy. In this case, the other guy was Katsidis, who got a 115-113 card out of Glen Hamada. The other two cards were also closer than it seemed the fight really was, scored 115-113 and 116-112 for Diaz.
After those back-to-back defeats, Katsidis rattled off four wins before a showdown with lineal lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in November 2010. Again, Katsidis had his big moment, specifically a hard third-round knockdown of the Mexican legend. Marquez, however, used his exceptional recuperative powers to recover, then took over in the middle rounds with his superior skill, stopping Katsidis in round nine. It was a very good fight -- and like the Casamayor fight, it showed what Katsidis could do, and what he couldn't do.
Following the loss to Marquez, things went south for Katsidis, though in all reality, he wasn't fighting any worse than before. It's just that the blueprint, as it were, had long since been laid out. Robert Guerrero dominated Katsidis in his next fight, an April 2011 loss in Vegas, and in November of that year, Katsidis was handily beaten in London by Ricky Burns.
The most damning loss of Katsidis' career, however, was still to come. With a move up to 140 pounds officially after the loss to Burns, Katsidis was matched with Albert Mensah, an unknown Ghanaian fighter now based in the Chicago area. Mensah had some height on Katsidis, listed at 5'10", and the two threw down hard on ESPN Friday Night Fights. It was tornado action from both corners, but Mensah got the better of the action, winning a majority decision.
Past losses to Casamayor, Diaz, Marquez, Guerrero, and Burns had been one thing. All of those guys were world champions, or had been, or would go on to be. All of those guys are notable fighters. Mensah, on the other hand, was a more run of the mill foe. For the first time, Katsidis lost to someone who wasn't thought to be a contender. Mensah lost his next fight, blown out by Denis Shafikov in Mexico, and recently lost to Cesar Cuenca in Argentina.
Up Next and Beyond
For a time, Katsidis appeared to be retired. He didn't fight for 23 months, but made his comeback on March 14 of this year in Australia, his first fight at home since 2011, when he beat Michael Lozada between the Guerrero and Burns losses. Prior to that, he hadn't fought at home since 2006.
The March fight saw Katsidis get back down to lightweight to fight Eddy Comaro, a veteran club fighter from Indonesia. Katsidis marched through him, winning a third round TKO. Rather sadly, a July rematch with the long-retired Earl was not only discussed, but actually signed, sanctioned, and allowed to happen in Toowoomba. The 36-year-old Earl, who hadn't fought since 2009, and had won just one fight since 2006, didn't make the junior welterweight limit for the fight, and was shut out over 12 rounds. (Earl fought again in August in Malta, and his corner had to throw in the towel in round 10 as he was being beaten handily by a local novice.)
Coyle (19-2, 8 KO) is the first even semi-serious opponent Katsidis will have faced since his loss to Mensah a couple of years ago. The 25-year-old Hull native, nicknamed "Boom Boom," is on a four-fight win streak. He beat John Simpson last November, and in February of this year, fought Daniel Eduardo Brizuela in a wild, chaotic fight which saw both men dropped four times each, two points deducted from Coyle, and one taken from Brizuela. It's a rather quiet but legitimate Fight of the Year contender for 2014.
Stylistically, this is a fight that gives Katsidis a chance. Coyle's not afraid to war, but he's not a huge puncher. Time and damage have certainly taken their toll on Katsidis, but he's still pretty tough to deter, at least if we go by the Mensah fight from 2012, since that's the most recent example of an actual fight we have.
It's easy to say that Katsidis "shouldn't be fighting." It's almost certainly true that he'll never return to the true world stage in anything more than some sham mismatch where someone looks to add his name to their résumé. But this is a winnable fight for Katsidis. Maybe he won't win. Maybe he will. But while Coyle is trying to take advantage of the name value of Katsidis, he simply might not be good enough.
If he wins, Katsidis could find himself on order for something more notable, and that probably won't end well for him. If he loses, his career will be over, kind of, but it's been kind of over for a while now. He's not even really supposed to be where he is on Saturday, but here he is, still fighting, still Michael Katsidis.