Katsidis ready to go to war with Casamayor

Updated: March 21, 2008

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Katsidis, left, made his U.S. debut one to remember in a bloody fight with Amonsot in July 2007.

Katsidis ready for another brawl

When Australian brawler Michael Katsidis made his United States debut on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright undercard in July 2007, he had a budding reputation as an all-action fighter.

Five months earlier, Katsidis had stopped Graham Earl in the fifth round in London to win an interim lightweight belt in a mayhem-filled slugfest featuring multiple knockdowns. The fight of the year candidate gained notoriety among hard-core American fans after being posted on the Internet. The 2000 Olympian, who walks to the ring in Spartan garb, was cultivating a cult following.

Then he made his American debut in Las Vegas in the HBO PPV undercard fight against Czar Amonsot. It was a rock 'em, sock 'em, bloody battle that turned out to be even more exciting than the Earl scorcher.

Katsidis scored knockdowns in the second and 10th round and won a unanimous decision in another FOY candidate, but he took massive punishment. He suffered three nasty cuts and emerged looking like he'd been attacked with a meat cleaver.

"It's like I'm at war when I fight," Katsidis said.

Michael Katsidis

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Michael Katsidis dresses the part of a fighter ready for war.

He had a gaping cut under his left eye. There were two worse cuts around his right eye. His face was a bloody mess and he needed 26 stitches to close the wounds.

One week earlier, Arturo Gatti, this generation's action star, had announced his retirement.

Katsidis (23-0, 20 KOs) seemed to walk right into his shoes.

During the fight, HBO broadcaster Max Kellerman, who was ringside, could barely contain his enthusiasm for Katsidis' mesmerizing style.

Now, eight months later, he is healed and ready to fight, and Kellerman can't wait.

"I certainly agree with the sentiment," Kellerman said of comparisons between Gatti and Katsidis.

"Katsidis is must-see TV. He is going to replace Arturo as must-see TV. You must watch him because of the way he fights. It's thrilling."

Katsidis returns Saturday night (HBO, 10:05 ET/PT) against lightweight champion Joel Casamayor (35-3-1, 21 KO's) at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif. It will be the 36-year-old Casamayor's first bout since winning a questionable split decision against Jose Armando Santa Cruz in November.

The telecast will also feature live coverage of a super middleweight title eliminator between Librado Andrade (26-1, 20 KOs) of La Habra, Calif., and Germany's Robert Stieglitz (31-1, 19 KOs) and a replay of last week's epic rematch between junior lightweights Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

But all eyes will be on Katsidis, who seems almost embarrassed by the comparison to Gatti.

"It's a great honor to be talked about like that," Katsidis, 27, said. "I think the fans are going to be excited again when they see me fight. I've seen Gatti's fight with [Micky] Ward. He's an all-out fighter, gives it his all. I like to do that plus give a little bit more. When there's nothing left, I always find more and go that one step extra. You have to be physically strong to do it like I do it, and mentally strong."

Katsidis, who has been living and training in Los Angeles for almost a year, said he healed quickly after the Amonsot fight but has been off for so long because a fight with then-titleholder Juan Diaz fell through.

He's looking forward to getting back in the ring.

"I'm in there to get the business done. I'm a fighter," he said. "There's no secret to my style. I get out there and get the job done. That's what I'm all about. People seem to enjoy it."

Katsidis' style doesn't lend itself to a long career, although Gatti did fight for 16 years. Katsidis said he doesn't worry about how one hard fight after another might impact his career, and his life.

"I don't think about my shelf life while I am in the fight," he said. "You can't think about it. I just fight the fight at the time and take it piece by piece. I'm built like a fighter. The damage happens. I heal quickly.

"Fans know when they watch me fight I bring real excitement. I go to war, put my life on the line. I'm real in that way. I just want to win the fight."

Lacy-Green?

Golden Boy's May 31 HBO PPV card headlined by Shane Mosley-Zab Judah is called "High Stakes" because of the urgency with which both need a victory. It's a theme that will be repeated on the undercard as evidenced by the junior lightweight match between ex-titlist Jorge Barrios and Rocky Juarez.

Another bout being discussed also fits the theme: super middleweight Jeff Lacy (23-1, 17 KOs) against Allan Green (26-1, 18 KOs).

Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez said it's a fight Lacy specifically asked for and one the company has been talking about internally.

Coincidentally, Bobby Dobbs, matchmaker for Green promoter Tony Holden, called Golden Boy this week inquiring about the fight, so the sides are talking. Holden wants to make it.

"We have tried to make that fight for years," Holden said. "If [Lacy's] people are serious, then they need to call me."

Green is on suspension for withdrawing from an ESPN2 bout last month without explanation, but that can be cleared. Lacy, a former titleholder, looked shaky in his past fight, a decision against Peter Manfredo after returning from a year layoff because of an arm injury.

Whomever Lacy fights, he'll do so without longtime trainer Dan Birmingham. Lacy has returned to Roger Bloodworth, who trained him earlier in his career. Birmingham said the split was mutual.

"Jeff and I both needed a change and we parted on good terms," Birmingham said in an e-mail. "I wish him the best."

Bantamweight prospect Abner Mares (16-0, 10 KOs), so impressive in blowing out Diosdado Gabi in two rounds on last week's Pacquiao-Marquez II undercard, also could be featured on the Mosley-Judah PPV, Gomez said.

Khan thinks big

Amir Khan

Getty Images for Reebok

Amir Khan is keeping a close eye on the lightweight title scene.

England's Amir Khan, the 2007 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year, has been on the fast track since winning a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. The lightweight's goal is to be a world champion by the end of 2008. That's why Khan, 21, was paying close attention to Nate Campbell's upset of Juan Diaz two weeks ago to win a trio of alphabet belts.

"No one gave Campbell much of a chance, so it's a great achievement to have beaten Diaz and won those belts," Khan said. "But I don't think I'm too far off fighting the likes of Campbell, and hopefully, by the end of the year I'll be challenging for the titles. He's a great fighter, but at the end of the day, I want to test myself against the best. I just need a little bit more experience and then I'll be ready for anyone in the world."

Khan (16-0, 12 KOs) scored a shutout against ex-junior lightweight titleholder Gairy St. Clair on Feb. 2. Khan is scheduled to face Martin Kristjansen on April 5 in a title eliminator. The winner will become one of Campbell's mandatory challengers, which is what Khan wants.

Khan also has been engaged in a verbal battle with junior welterweight titlist Gavin Rees of Wales, who makes his first defense Saturday in Cardiff against Ukrainian mandatory Andreas Kotelnik (28-2-1, 12 KOs).

Rees (27-0, 13 KOs) said he would give Khan a "good pasting" after beating Kotelnik. Naturally, Khan is also interested in Rees: "I've never wanted someone to win a fight so much before. I badly want Rees to win so I can shut him up. He's been calling me out, and I'd love to take him on. I'll even come to Cardiff and beat him in front of his own fans. He's a good champion and is only one weight class higher than me, but I'll happily step up. I'll be too quick and punch too hard for him. I want to be a world champion before the end of the year, and Rees is a realistic target."

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QUICK HITS

Berto

• Rising welterweight contender Andre Berto, the 2006 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year, returns to HBO's "Boxing After Dark" June 21, although the other bout on the card is still in the works. Promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com that Berto (21-0, 18 KOs) probably will face Mexico's Miki Rodriguez (29-2, 23 KOs) in a title eliminator. DiBella said he's negotiating with Don King, Rodriguez's promoter. Rodriguez has won three consecutive fights since losing a May 2005 eliminator to Carlos Baldomir, who went on to win the undisputed title. The Berto-Rodriguez winner would become mandatory for Floyd Mayweather, although that bout is unlikely to ever happen. More likely, Berto-Rodriguez could be for an interim title or the winner could fight for a possible vacant title.

Hopkins

• Light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins, preparing for his April 19 (HBO) defense against super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe, has welcomed a familiar face to his Los Angeles training camp. Returning to his team is Mackie Shilstone, the famed fitness guru who played a key role in building Hopkins from a career-long middleweight into a rock-solid light heavyweight for his upset title victory against Antonio Tarver in 2006. Shilstone also had a similar role in building Roy Jones from a light heavyweight into a heavyweight for his title win over John Ruiz and did the same for Michael Spinks for his victory against Larry Holmes. "Bernard might be older but his body responds like a young champion," said Shilstone, who joined the camp this week. "We work out together and I watch the opponents' tapes with him too. Trust me, we will be ready."

Juan Diaz

• Although Juan Diaz suffered his first defeat, losing three lightweight belts to Campbell on March 8 in Cancun, Mexico, in the final bout of a contentious relationship with promoter Don King, he is being recruited by Golden Boy Promotions. Manager Willie Savannah was a Golden Boy guest at Pacquiao-Marquez II last week in Las Vegas and is talking to CEO Richard Schaefer about a deal. Savannah had said Diaz (33-1, 17 KOs) would sign with Golden Boy in late 2006 before reneging on his public announcement and signing him with King.

Arreola

• Heavyweight prospect Cristobal Arreola (23-0, 21 KOs) could open the May 24 Showtime card headlined by the Mikkel Kessler-Edison Miranda super middleweight fight. One potential opponent is Israel "King Kong" Garcia (19-1, 11 KOs). DiBella, who brokered the Kessler-Miranda deal between Seminole Warriors Boxing (Miranda) and Mogens Palle (Kessler) and promotes Garcia, would include Arreola on his card if Arreola promoter Dan Goossen delivers a site fee for the show.

Arce

• After Top Rank announced a May 17 "Latin Fury" PPV card headlined by a junior bantamweight eliminator between charismatic brawler Jorge Arce and Thailand's Devid Lookmahanak, Arce spent more time talking about his dream fight rather than his next opponent. "I'd love to challenge [junior featherweight world champion] Israel Vazquez at 122 pounds at the end of the year," Arce said. "I'm willing to move up and fight him in November. It would be a big fight, well promoted and we could draw a big crowd to the Staples Center [in Los Angeles]."

Santa Cruz

• Golden Boy hoped to put Jose Armando Santa Cruz, the uncrowned lightweight champion in the eyes of many after his controversial loss to Casamayor in November, on the Hopkins-Calzaghe undercard against Antonio Pitalua in an eliminator. However, the sides could not reach agreement and a purse bid has been scheduled for March 28. The winner will become mandatory for beltholder David Diaz.

Casamayor

• Although Casamayor, the Ring magazine lightweight champion, defends the recognized world title against Katsidis on Saturday night, he has been stripped of his interim title by the WBC. The reason? He elected to face Katsidis, who holds another organization's interim belt, rather than face Santa Cruz in a rematch, a bout that no television network had any interest in.

Guzman

• Junior lightweight titleholder Joan Guzman (28-0, 17 KOs) will remain with Sycuan Ringside Promotions. The San Diego-based company announced this week that it has reached a new deal with Guzman, 31. He had been co-promoted by Sycuan and Golden Boy, but Golden Boy is not part of the new deal. The former junior featherweight titlist from the Dominican Republic is headed to Edinburgh, Scotland, to make his third defense against interim beltholder Alex Arthur (26-1, 19 KOs) in his hometown. It was originally scheduled for April 26, but has been moved to May 3.

Froch

• The super middleweight title eliminator between England's Carl Froch and Germany's Denis Inkin, which was supposed to take place March 29 (and be televised on Showtime) but was postponed because Inkin came down with an undisclosed infection, has been rescheduled. It will take place May 10, still in Froch's hometown of Nottingham. However, the change of date means that Showtime will no longer cover the fight that will produce a mandatory challenger for one of Calzaghe's belts.

Lee

• When Top Rank and middleweight prospect Andy Lee -- who headlines ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" against Season 3 "Contender" participant Brian Vera -- agreed to a promotional deal recently, the idea was for Lee to make his debut for the company on the June 7 HBO card that already includes Kelly Pavlik-Gary Lockett and Daniel Ponce De Leon-Juan Manuel Lopez. The most-discussed opponent for Lee was Mexico's Marco Antonio Rubio. However, not only is Top Rank looking for a new opponent, but the fight won't be part of the telecast (although HBO might show highlights). HBO couldn't accommodate three live bouts on the date. Rubio (41-4-1, 36 KOs), meanwhile, took another fight. He'll face David Lopez (33-12, 21 KOs) in the co-featured bout on the Hopkins-Calzaghe card April 19 in Las Vegas, although it won't be part of HBO's telecast. Also on the card are two notable prospects: Philadelphia junior welterweight Danny Garcia (4-0, 4 KOs) and touted amateur lightweight Hylon Williams of Houston, who is co-managed by Shelly Finkel and Willie Savannah and will make his pro debut.

Penalosa

• Among the various news conferences Saturday in Las Vegas before the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch was Golden Boy's announcement of its first promotion in the Philippines in conjunction with ABS-CBN, one of the major networks in the Philippines. The April 6 card in Quezon City, just outside of Manila, will pit hometown bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa (52-6-2, 35 KOs) in a mandatory defense against Thailand's Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (72-9, 48 KOs). Penalosa accepted the bout when talks for him to move up to face junior featherweight titlist De Leon in a rematch fell through. Penalosa owns a sixth-round TKO of Sor Vorapin in 2000. Also on the card are junior featherweight contender Rey Bautista and junior bantamweight prospect A.J. Banal.

Quotable

Judah

"I am willing to gamble everything on this fight against Mosley and I know I have to win it to set my career back on the winning path. I respect Shane as a great fighter but I know he can't go 12 fast rounds with me. I plan to take him into deep waters and be the first one to stop him." -- former welterweight champ Zab Judah, on his plan for fellow champ Shane Mosley when they meet May 31 (HBO PPV) at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay.