If struggling contender loses tonight, it could be curtains for The Great
By: Mike Sloan: There was a point in time when Michael Katsidis was a highly-touted contender without a blemish on his ledger. He wasn’t fighting the best possible opposition, but he was winning every time out and, damn, he sure was exciting to watch. Not many figured that the Aussie, a young lightweight at the time, would wind up becoming an all-time great, but plenty within the sport of boxing assumed he’d become a legitimate world champion. Heck, large portion of those same insiders postulated that “The Great” would be equal against some of the elite of his generation and perhaps even snag a huge win or two along the way.
And why wouldn’t those folks think that way? He was tearing through little-known fighters the way most prized prospects-turned-contenders do and he had just torn apart Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot. The time was then to step it up and showcase his talents on the world stage against the best of the best.
Then came Joel Casamayor. Then came what the former Cuban Olympian does best. Then came the first defeat of his professional career.
There were more questions about Katsidis following his tenth round stoppage loss than there were before he climbed through the ropes inside the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Pechanga, California. Many wondered if Katsidis was the goods considering how badly he was systematically taken apart by “El Cepillo.” The revisionist history regarding Katsidis was comical because, mysteriously, he was suddenly never that good to begin with and Casamayor proved it.
He was given another shot to prove his worth against Juan Diaz, but Katsidis (28-5, 23 KOs) wound up losing that one, too. This time around, though, he lasted the allotted rounds but lost a unanimous twelve round decision. Again, Katsidis was “just another pug” to the self-proclaimed experts who cover the sport on a daily basis.
Katsidis bounced back with four consecutive wins against decent opposition and it seemed like he was again on the verge of finally fulfilling his potential.
Then came Juan Manuel Marquez. Then came… You get the point.
Katsidis did floor the Mexican great and almost took him out in the third round, but Marquez, like he’s done so many times in his illustrious career, rebounded and put the proverbial boots to Katsidis and stopped him a round sooner than Casamayor.
What followed for Katsidis, all during a torturous low point in his personal life mostly due to his beloved brother passing away, was deflating; he lost two of his next three bouts and was on the verge of hanging up his gloves for good. The loss to Robert Guerrero was one thing – he’s a terrific young fighter. But the loss to the good but limited Ricky Burns was another. Katsidis figured to be the victor that night in London but Burns, who has never taken on the sort of talent that Katsidis had, cruised to an easy unanimous decision.
Katsidis contemplated retirement but eventually had a change of heart and a change of virtually everything around him professionally. He moved up a weight class to junior welterweight where he claims is more comfortable; he switched from long-time trainer Brendon Smith to Justine Fortune (a Freddie Roach disciple); he changed his camp from Thailand to Los Angeles; he cut his training regiment from roughly three months to seven weeks. All this adds up to, what he expects, rejuvenation in his career.
Standing in Katsidis’ way tonight inside the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is Albert Mensah, a tough but largely unproven contender from Accra, Ghana. Though he hasn’t lost in nearly seven years, Mensah has yet to fight anybody at the level of Katsidis and certainly the sort of competition the Aussie himself has locked horns. This fight marks the first time in his career that Mensah will have fought in Las Vegas and only the second time ever he’s fought outside his native country.
Mensah, 24-3 with 10 KOs, appears to be the perfect opponent for Katsidis in what he deems as the beginning of his second career. Katsidis is the betting favorite going into the bout and he should come away victorious. However, if all of the changes he’s made in his professional life don’t gel the way they ought to, he’ll be in for another long night and possibly another setback. Katsidis can’t afford another one of those and if he’s to regain any sort of semblance of a world championship-caliber fighter, he absolutely has to win. It’s now or never for Michael Katsidis.
Tonight’s card inside the Hard Rock starts at 6:30 and tickets are still available. The fight will be televised nationally in the United States on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights program. Check local listings.
You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19 or follow him on Twitter @mikesloan19