Australia’s blood-and-guts warrior Michael Katsidis is hoping to make it 3-0 on British soil as he returns to our shores to face Scotland’s Ricky Burns at Wembley Arena in London on Saturday 5th November.
Katsidis has already destroyed the world title aspirations of Graham Earl and Kevin Mitchell in epic matches (in 2007 and 2010 respectively) and is looking to complete a successful hat trick against Burns in a bout for the “interim” WBO lightweight world title.
Burns has had a terrific 12 months since upsetting the previously unbeaten and highly touted Puerto Rican Roman Martinez in September 2010. The fight was for the WBO super featherweight title and was a Fight of the Year candidate. Burns was down in the first round but fought back brilliantly to take the fight to Martinez and pull off the victory. Three title defences followed before Burns vacated the title to move up to lightweight. But it has to be said – with no disrespect to those fighters – that not one of those opponents will have prepared Burns for the hurricane that is Michael Katsidis.
There are not many fighters in the world who can match Katsidis for work-rate, heart and determination in the ring, and not many fighters are as dangerous early. Kevin Mitchell, so masterful against Manchester’s John Murray recently, was walked-through by Katsidis, and Pound-for-Pound modern legend Juan Manuel Marquez was dropped heavily and punished early before stopping Katsidis in nine rounds in November 2010.
Only the very best fighters have beaten Katsidis, and none of them have done it without receiving pain and punishment. Joel Casamayor was never the same fighter after his war with the Australian in March 2008. Casamayor won by tenth round TKO, but was behind on points and down in round six before Katsidis grew over-confident and walked on to a big left hook.
Every time Katsidis is beaten, the question marks appear. Is he shot? Are his powers on the wane? Frank Warren has made this error of judgement before with Mitchell. One wonders if he has made the same mistake again.
Following the victory over Mitchell, Katsidis suffered two bruising defeats on the bounce to Marquez and Robert Guerrero, but seemed fine in a routine three-round win over Michael Lozada in August, the fight taking place in his native Australia.
The trouble for Ricky Burns is that he is not a big puncher even for a featherweight, let alone a lightweight, as only 9 stoppage wins from his 32 victories will attest. It is hard to imagine Katsidis being pushed back or kept at bay by such a light-punching fighter, albeit one with fast hands, good skills and the heart of a lion.
Katsidis should complete his British hat-trick between the rounds 8-10, but not before Ricky Burns has shown why he belongs at world level.
Then we will see if Kevin Mitchell can entice the Australian back for a fourth visit. It will be one that everybody would want to see.
London’s Kevin Mitchell saved his career and kept his world title dreams alive when he stopped Manchester’s John Murray in the 8th round at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on the 16th July. The future is bright again for the 26-year old from Dagenham. In this article, we discuss the possibilities the victory has enabled.
14 months ago, Mitchell had his unbeaten record taken away when Australian warrior Michael Katsidis destroyed him in three rounds in front of a partisan crowd at Upton Park, the home of Mitchell’s beloved West Ham United Football Club.
News of an unstable home life and poor training camp became public, and promoter Frank Warren was damning of Mitchell’s fight preparation. It looked increasingly likely that the former star was not going to fulfill his vast potential.
When Mitchell-Murray was confirmed, it was deemed a potential classic. Murray was walking through opponents at British and European level, and was on the verge of a title fight. The only fight left at domestic level was Mitchell. To his credit, Murray decided to clean up at home first and took the bout.
The fight exceeded expectations: It became a give-and-take war that saw all the fighters’ skills and heart on show. Talk of a rematch began just after referee Richie Davies saved Murray from any more punishment at 1:46 of the eighth round.
“Of course I would offer John a rematch,” said Mitchell. “I’ll go and get the world title now and then I promise I’ll defend the belt against him.
“John is a great champion. He could have gone after a world title, but he wanted to fight me first to see who was the best lightweight in Britain. I have a lot of respect for John for doing that.”
The world titles at lightweight are held by the exciting unbeaten American Brandon Rios and Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez is fighting Manny Pacquiao in the third fight of their great rivalry, leaving Rios as the most likely candidate for Mitchell’s world title challenge.
Before the Katsidis debacle, Mitchell was seen as a dead cert for world title glory. After the defeat, it looked a world away. After defeating John Murray in style, confidence in Kevin Mitchell is back at an all-time high.
Second chances in boxing are few and far between, and dreams often become nightmares. Kevin Mitchell’s dream is alive and well.
They started off as amateur gym mates, then they became rivals. And now, James Degale and George Groves will finally meet in the ring this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, with the British and Commonwealth super-middleweight titles at stake.
After all the talk in the press, the TV and the YouTube videos, the pair will put their ten-year rivalry aside and battle it out in one of the most eagerly awaited domestic showdowns in years.
Degale is the British champion and 10-0 as a professional. His progress has been swift in the pro ranks since returning from Beijing in 2008 with the Olympic gold medal at middleweight. He has defeated good domestic opposition without any real problems, including winning the British title in his ninth pro start against the vastly experienced and world ranked Paul Smith.
The British champion was calm and composed that night, and showed maturity far beyond his experience as he patiently and efficiently broke down the Liverpudlian champion in nine rounds.
Groves (12-0) on the other hand, is a natural-born crowd-pleaser, showing a tendency to engage in a brawl unnecessarily. His up-and-down war with Kenny Anderson was a titanic brawl, with Groves shook several times and knocked down in round 3, before fighting through the rocky patches and prevailing in six rounds.
On paper, it’s a classic boxer versus puncher fight, but the animosity between the two fighters makes it less cut and dry than it first appears. There appears to be a genuine hatred between the two, which may make it harder for the slick boxing Degale to stick to a game plan and pick Groves apart, as the bookies are predicting.
“This is personal,” said Degale. “If I’m brutally honest, George and me do not like each other. He’s lived in my shadow for half his life.
“He’s always been the ugly kid behind James Degale. He’s going to be bitter and jealous and we have to sort it out in the ring.”
“Everyone wants to smash Degale’s face in,” Groves has said. “He’s the most arrogant, egotistical fighter out there,” he said.
Since hooking up with Hayemaker Promotions and trainer Adam Booth, Groves’ style has changed to a looser, hands-down style in the vein of David Haye. Since the change, Groves has been significantly easier to hit, and this may prove to be his undoing in this fight.
Early on, I expect a cagey start. Don’t expect too many early fireworks as Degale prowls the ring, looking for openings and working his man out. After three or four rounds, I expect Groves to engage Degale, and that’s when the fight will get interesting. Can Degale fight through fire to win? Can Groves keep Degale at bay for as long as he needs to pull out the victory?
One thing is for sure: whoever wins, it will be interesting to see the post-fight reaction to each other. Will the animosity fade away and the great rivals become friends? I doubt it, and in a few years time – maybe for world honours – these two may find themselves facing each other again.
This time however, I can see Degale overcoming some anxious moments before breaking Groves down for a late stoppage somewhere around the ninth round.
Two of Britain’s greatest talents in world boxing – Olympic Gold Medalist and British super-middleweight champion James Degale and Commonwealth champion George Groves will meet in London on May 21st in a battle for domestic superiority and the right to move on to world-class.
The fight has the potential to be a classic, and brought to mind a classic between two unbeaten up-and-comers named Spencer Oliver and Patrick Mullings from 1997. That fight went down in British boxing history as one of the best domestic clashes between two unbeaten prospects.
Read my article for Secondsout.com, comparing the two fights, here.