Farewell To A Modern-Day Gladiator


By Steve Kim: Michael Katsidis was scheduled to make his next outing later this month. The fan-friendly fighter was to have faced Weng Haya at the Melbourne Pavilion in his home of Australia on February 21st but on early Tuesday morning, a press release was sent out to various members of the boxing media.


The following is an exerpt:


Two time WBO interim lightweight champion Michael Katsidis is out of boxing indefinitely and expects to make a decision about his future shortly.


“I have a story to tell and I will be telling it but right now, I need to talk with my family, management, as well as medical staff,” Katsidis said, referring to what caused him to withdraw from the bout.


Even though he will not be fighting on February 21, 2013, the proud Katsidis will still attend the promotion he was to headline in Melbourne, armed with more detail to explain his situation. “People recognize me for my toughness in the ring but it’s been just as tough outside the ring the last couple of days,” Katsidis said regarding the conversations he’s had with family, friends and trainer Johnny Lewis.


“With a career that has taken Katsidis to the highest levels the sport has to offer around the world, whichever way this goes, Michael does not want to be lost to Australian boxing,” Katsidis’ manager, Glen Murray, said.


Word is the results of an MRI and CAT scan have led him to call it a career. And with Katsidis’ hard-charging style, you can draw your own conclusions. But there you have it; at the age of 32, a modern-day gladiator, who left a piece of himself inside the squared circle every time he performed, is walking away from the sport he loves and the only livelihood he has ever known. Many boxers do this for a living but with his particular thirst for combat, it was his identity.


Regular civilian life will probably take some getting used to for “The Great,” who didn’t just look at himself as a prizefighter but a warrior from Toowoomba, Queensland, who fought for as much for the honor of his heritage as he did money. Katsidis’ Wikipedia page says thusly, “When entering the ring, Katsidis often wears a Corinthian helmet and in bouts, his trunks often resemble a warrior’s skirt, both as an homage to his Greek heritage. He further showcases this heritage with a tattoo on his back depicting the Vergina Sun, which is the symbol of the Greek state of Macedonia, from where his family hails.”


He had just 34 fights to his credit but had a career filled with enough memorable moments for 10 fighters. There was his stretch from 2007 to 2008 (when he battled the likes of Graham Earl, Czar Amonsot and Joel Casamayor) when he engaged in three consecutive “Fight of the Year”-type of battles. And then his three-round destruction of then-unbeaten Kevin Mitchell in 2010 at Upton Park in London turned out to be his last defining conquest as a professional.


Katsidis was labeled “the next Arturo Gatti” just a few years ago as he migrated to the States and with his proclivity for swapping leather and the bloody nature of his contests, he was worthy of such a designation. And like “Thunder,” when it was all said and done, it never really mattered that he wasn’t Willie Pep or listed on any pound-for-pound lists. He wasn’t a boxer particularly concerned about remaining undefeated or taking the path of least resistance. “Safety first” was always the last phrase on his mind. Katsidis may never get his fist encased in Canastota but he left a generation of fans with vivid memories.


Fighters like Katsidis don’t come along often, so you better appreciate them while you can.


That’s because guys like him – with whom each outing is a bit of demolition derby inside the ring - aren’t built to last over the long haul. Give-and-take participants like Katsidis (and the likes of Joe Frazier before him) have relatively short shelf lives, whose declines are rapid. The warranties expire pretty quickly with these guys and as he turned 30, Katsidis started to lose much more than he won. His loss last April to Albert Mensah marked his fourth defeat in five outings.



None of this should take away from how we remember Katsidis, who was as friendly outside the ring as he was as fierce inside of it. You look back at what he and his longtime trainer/manager, Brendan Smith, were able to achieve and it’s pretty remarkable. They didn’t necessarily conquer the world but through this exciting and colorful career, they saw much of it and left an imprint on the business that won’t be forgotten by those who witnessed Katsidis’ pugilistic passion.


That was never more evident than when he decided to go through with his bout against the great Juan Manuel Marquez on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 after his beloved brother, Stathi (a noted jockey in Australia), was found dead of a drug overdose just a month before this fight. In an era when fighters find reasons not to fight and have no problems in postponing their bouts, he soldiered on. That’s what gladiators do. And in a valiant effort against the future Hall-of-Famer, he decked Marquez in the third frame with a left hook and battled him tooth-and-nail for eight rounds before succumbing to the Mexican’s razor-sharp skills in the ninth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5uxEG2GiM0).


(In the immediate aftermath of this fight, in one of the most poignant moments in recent years on HBO, he was asked by Larry Merchant what it was like to fight under such circumstances. It was only then that his tough facade began to crack.)


Katsidis, who was married a few years ago and has a child, now walks away from boxing and to the next stage of his life. The renowned General Douglas MacArthur once famously said, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Perhaps that’s true of prizefighters, most of who simply refuse to go away.


But here’s hoping that Michael Alan Katsidis is never forgotten.


February 13, 2013

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