Tonight, Michael Katsidis, 26-2, 21 KO’s, faces undefeated Kevin Mitchell, 31-0, 23 KO’s, for the interim WBO world lightweight championship in London’s East End in what threatens to be one of the fights of the year. Katsidis will be looking to remind everyone that he is still a world-class operator, while Mitchell is looking to impress fight fans from the other side of the Atlantic. So, who will prevail between the relentless, crowd-pleasing Australian and the wily, counterpunching Briton?
Kevin Mitchell had been held in high regard domestically for several years, but it wasn’t until last year’s wide points victory over Colombian Breidis Prescott that casual boxing fans started taking notice.
Prescott, of course, is well known to U.K. fight fans for his demolition of current WBA world light welterweight champion Amir Khan. Within one minute, he reduced the future of British boxing to a gasping, jelly-legged wreck with his uncouth, looping shots.
After a diet consisting mainly of decent domestic fighters and foreign journeymen, it came as a surprise when promoter Frank Warren put Mitchell in against the big-hitting Colombian. However, for twelve rounds, Mitchell boxed superbly on the outside, despite giving up the advantage in both reach and height. He has since beaten Ignazio Mendoza in a two-round knockout, but it was this defensive master class that elevated Mitchell onto the world-class rung.
The Prescott bout exhibited much of what is good about Mitchell. He has developed excellent head movement, a solid chin (he is yet to be down as a professional or amateur), calm ring generalship, and he has shown the ability to execute a disciplined game plan for the duration of a fight. While we didn’t see his customary lethal finishing and improved power in that particular bout, he has knocked out eight of his previous ten opponents.
That said, doubts about Mitchell persist. It remains to be seen whether he has carried his power up from super featherweight to lightweight. While he has no problem knocking out average opposition at lightweight, he has yet to prove that he can hurt a world-class opponent.
Perhaps it is doing Frank Warren a disservice, but he has a history of being cautious when it comes to his fighters. He did put Mitchell in against Prescott, but his resume is fairly sparse apart from that. Admittedly, he is still only 25, but has he had enough tough fights against hardened, world-level campaigners to prepare him from the relentless, onslaught that Katsidis will bring?
Mitchell is a good technical boxer from the outside, but Katsidis will spend the entire fight cutting down the distance in order to get his sharp shots off on the inside. Against an opponent of Katsidis’ caliber, it is unlikely that Mitchell will be able to spend the night jabbing and moving. At some point, he will be forced to trade with the Australian on the inside. If he cannot contain the scything hooks and uppercuts and gets drawn into a brawl, then you can only see one winner.
Michael Katsidis is rated as the #2 Ring Magazine lightweight for a reason. He always enters the ring in superb condition, and almost always maintains prodigious energy levels for the duration of his bouts. The Australian of Greek descent will press and press and press all night until he gets within distance to throw his vicious overhand shots and also his cutting hooks and uppercuts on the inside. Once inside, he is one of the best exponents of short powerful shots in the business. He also harnesses impressive power with a knockout percentage of 75% against high-level opposition.
Katsidis is often accused of being a one-dimensional banger, yet this reputation does him a disservice. His won 75 of his 81 fights as an amateur, and he has rarely been out-boxed as a professional. Even in the two fights he lost as a pro – against Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor – he acquitted himself well for long periods in both fights. Lest we forget, his loss against Diaz came via split decision (though Diaz deserved the victory), and at the time of his knockout against Casamayor, he was up on two of the three scorers’ cards.
The nature of the Casamayor knockout defeat emphasized Katsidis’ shortcomings. No sooner had the bell clanged for the start of the 10th round, than Katsidis was racing towards his opponent. He literally plunged into the shot that crumpled him half a minute later. His refusal to take a backward step and his warrior spirit make him exciting to watch, but they serve to make him more vulnerable.
While Katsidis may have a high compact guard, his opponents know exactly where he will be, and as such, he is easy to hit. He does have a good chin, but he has been given considerable trouble even against relatively light punchers such as Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot, due to his tendency to open up and go toe-to-toe with opponents.
Mitchell will also be aware that Katsidis is extremely prone to cuts. Despite being well ahead in the aforementioned fight against Amonsot, Katsidis spent the last couple of rounds with a completely closed eye and a badly scuffed up face. If Katsidis is kept on the outside for much of the fight, and Mitchell uses his jab to good effect, then it is possible that the fight could be stopped on cuts.
Needless to say, this is easier said than done. Almost no fighters have succeeded in impressing their style upon Katsidis; but, if you can stay out of a brawl against him, then there is a good chance that he will be beaten.
The Mitchell-Katsidis fight isn’t too far away from being a 50/50 call. If Katsidis narrows the distance consistently and lands good, clean shots on his usually elusive opponent, then Mitchell will tire. Mitchell is prone to leaden-footed lapses in bouts; and, if he stops moving, his bigger, more powerful adversary will probably knock him out.
However, Mitchell is a very efficient practitioner. He has become more difficult to hit as his career has progressed. If he boxes and moves form the outside – and keeps out of his opponent’s favored range into the latter rounds – then Katsidis will become frustrated. Mitchell is a clean puncher, who lands a percentage of shots; and, if Katsidis opens up against Mitchell as he has done against other opponents, then he will be in big trouble.
Expect Mitchell to have enough power and ring savvy to slow Katsidis down in the earlier rounds, before winning by late technical knockout.