Katsidis is the kind of action hero they make comic book movies about. He fights with reckless abandon, never quits and always gives fans their money's worth. The difference between him and Spider-Man, Batman and Iron Man is that those guys always overcome all odds to win. The same can't be said about Katsidis.
Everything that makes Katsidis (27-2, 22 KOs) exciting to watch also makes him vulnerable to losing. He is a limited fighter with stylistic flaws that a master counterpuncher like Marquez should be able to exploit. But Katsidis also has certain intangibles that make him an intriguing matchup for the 37-year-old Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KOs).
"You take an older fighter and he can get upset by guys with young legs who have a taste for the fight," Kellerman, the HBO analyst says. "Marquez is older and smaller and may not have the kind of passion for it as he once had, and he doesn't have the spring in his legs to execute certain things. What Katsidis brings above all is his willpower. He gets in the ring and he believes he is going to win. I expect Marquez to win, but Katsidis has the potential to beat him."
Not many are as generous in giving the 30-year-old Katsidis a chance against one of the world's elite fighters and a future Hall of Famer. There are good reasons why. Foremost is Katsidis's spotty résumé, which contains just two world class opponents, both of whom he lost to--an aging Joel Casamayor and a less-than-prime Juan Diaz. The only boxers he beat with strong records were a couple of Brits in Graham Earl and Kevin Mitchell, but those fighters had fought even weaker opposition than Katsidis.
Mitchell had a gaudy 31-0 record in May when he squared off with Katsidis in London. The Australian, who trains in a Muay Thai fight camp in Thailand, battered Mitchell into submission in the third round. But as usual in a Katsidis fight, it was a less than perfect performance. Even with Katsidis's gloves held high, Mitchell was able to punch through them numerous times, peppering the Aussie's head. Offensively, Katsidis fought out of a more compact stance than in the past and tried to throw short, precision punches. But old habits die hard. Every time Katsidis felt he had stung Mitchell, he suddenly erupted with a flurry of wide, looping punches, leaving him exposed down the middle. Marquez will certainly try to exploit that.
But there have been countless fighters who get hit a lot and still win by taking the best shots and refusing to fold. Arturo Gatti comes to mind. "Gatti was definitely a better fighter," Kellerman says. "His style was consistently dramatic. Katsidis has something about him that, like Gatti, just plays dramatically -- the way he fights, gets hit, staggers and comes back at you. The most interesting question for me about Katsidis is, can he be a limited fighter who overcomes all his flaws by being physical? Can he be special in spite of his limitations? The classic example of that was Rocky Marciano."
What might level the playing field a bit is that Katsidis will not be facing the same fighter who lost a split decision to Manny Pacquiao in 2008, a fight which many people thought the Mexican won, including Kellerman. Although Marquez beat Juan Diaz twice in recent fights, Kellerman saw things that led him to believe that "Marquez is showing signs of aging. The Diaz he fought was not in his prime and was never really an elite fighter. But he gave Marquez two good fights. Marquez did not appear to be the fighter he was four or five years ago. Even though in the second fight Marquez won by a large margin, I started to think there was a slippage."
Whether Katsidis can exploit that is a question that can only be answered in the ring. Before he even climbs through the ropes, however, Katsidis will have to overcome a burden bigger than Marquez. On Oct. 19, Katsidis' older brother Stathi, a top jockey in Australia, was found dead in Brisbane, the result of a drug overdose. Michael was so close to his brother that some, including his promoter Golden Boy, wondered if he would go through with this fight. Two days later the world got its answer.
In an emotional statement, Katsidis said, "I have lost my closest friend, my inspiration in life…but the fight will go on. I will do this for Stathi... he is inside me. We will fight this fight together. I know this is what he wants." In a way it was the type of decision you'd expect of a fighter like Katsidis, a warrior who thrives on overcoming adversity. Kellerman isn't sure just what effect the devastating loss will have on Katsidis. "You would think he is so strong willed he would use his brother's death as motivation," he says. "The big question is, is he totally committed to the fight, or is he just doing the right thing to continue on? We should be able to tell pretty early."
Another question mark is just what kind of approach Katsidis will take to the fight, knowing that Marquez is a precision counterpuncher sure to take advantage of flaws in his brawling, all-offense style. "The one thing Katsidis has to be careful about is making the mistake of being less aggressive and trying to box with Marquez early," Kellerman says. "I think his best shot is to gamble and be super aggressive, to accept a beating in the process and count on his youth and willpower to win."