See? There was some gas left in the tank of Joel Casamayor, who landed a beaut of a left hook in the 10th round against a foolishly reckless Michael Katsidis and finished him off shortly thereafter.
And really, I don’t care if Katsidis wins or loses any fight he’s ever in. Every one of them is a like a miniature soap opera crossed with a blockbuster Hollywood shoot-’em-up flick, with plot twists and explosions all over the place. He truly is must-see TV. Plus, he has my undying gratitude for whacking Casamayor through the ropes in the sixth round, creating the fantastic scene of Casamayor’s feet dangling through the twine then him getting back up, dazed, and climbing back into the ring in a very dainty, gentlemanly fashion.
So let’s talk about what happened in what was a pretty exciting fight for Ring magazine’s lightweight (135 lbs.) belt, and touch briefly on the undercard.
Even after Katsidis got dropped twice in the first round by Casamayor — who looked quick and aggressive with his hard counter left hands in the opener — I said to myself, “OK, here’s Katsidis’ chance to prove he really is the heir to Arturo Gatti’s throne as the guy who absorbs inhuman amounts of punishment then comes back to turn the tide. I bet he recovers.”
Which he did, beginning in the second. He started blocking or ducking Casamayor’s counters as he kept the pressure turned up to the maximum, and while I don’t think he won the third, I gave him the fourth through the seventh. In those rounds, he worked Casamayor’s body, hurt him a couple times, and shrugged off the slowly cooling return fire from the crafty 36-year-old. In the sixth, he hurt Casamayor badly, and the wily Cuban went tumbling between the ropes then got back in on the exact count of ten. But after a round of keep-away, Casamayor found his legs and moved in circles speedily enough and with enough variation in his pattern to confound the less-schooled brawling style of Katsidis, winning the eighth. In the ninth, Katsidis did more, plus Casamayor got docked a point for low blows. (When, by the way, is any ref gonna wise up to Casamayor’s headbutts? Compubox probably could keep a whole new category for counting them, he does it so often.)
I don’t know why Katsidis came in so hell-bent in the 10th; maybe his corner told him, as Casamayor’s apparently did, that he needed a knockout. After all, it was pretty close, and everyone remembers how Casamayor secured the judges’ favor in his last fight despite winning no more than two rounds according to anyone scoring the fight on their own. But it was a very bad idea. Casamayor is a good counterpuncher, as he showed with the left that decked Katsidis. Katsidis beat the count, but looked very close to being unconscious. The ref maybe stopped it a little early, but truth be told, Katsidis wasn’t going to last much longer. This wasn’t one of those “Gatti looks hurt, but he could come back” situations. This was one of those “Oh man, he looks really, really bad” situations.
And with that, I’m officially going to put aside the Gatti comparisons. Katsidis deserves to be considered his own man. He fought better than I thought he had any right to. He’s not that skilled, really, and Casamayor is nothing if not the epitome of skill. In my mind, this was going to be an easy decision for Casamayor. It was not. And it was not because Katsidis has guts, guts and more guts to match his big punching power and pressure style.
Casamayor? Well, I agree with his team’s pronouncements from before the fight — a few years ago, Katsidis doesn’t give him much trouble. Katsidis gave him plenty. But Casamayor looked infinitely better against Katsidis than he did in his last fight, against Jose Armando Santa Cruz. He still is one crafty, mean bastard, and at least in comparison to Katsidis, he looked pretty fast for a senior citizen. I don’t think he’s the best lightweight out there, but at least he dignified his Ring magazine championship belt, unlike in his last outing. He did not, as some believed, “age overnight” against Santa Cruz. He’s getting old, but ring rust from a 13-month layoff is what nearly did him in that night. No, like I said, Casamayor still has enough left to stir up a ruckus.
Next for the winner: Casamayor needs to get real if he thinks Manny Pacquiao is going to have any interest in fighting him (Casamayor said that’s who he wanted next, along with, for some reason, the retired/unretiring Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.) I know Casamayor’s looking for dough, and I can’t blame him, but the only lure Casamayor offers is the Ring belt, plus the off-chance that he will be exciting, as he certainly was against Katsidis. Wanna make a Pacquiao bout happen, Casamayor? The only way anyone will call for that is if you beat Nate Campbell, the guy you beat a few years back but now looks like the best lightweight out there. Then, if Pacquiao is still fighting at 135 instead of moving up to make big money against 140-pound Ring magazine champ Ricky Hatton, I wouldn’t be surprised if a consensus builds that Pacquiao and Casamayor should get it on. Either way, Casamayor and Campbell need to rumble.
Next for the loser: Happy Easter to you, too, Katsidis! (Katsidis wished everyone a Happy Easter after his loss. Those charming Australians.) Katsidis is going to be hard to root against, like, ever. He gets knocked down, he gets back up, he knocks his opponent down, he bleeds… he’s just a really compelling fighter to behold. I think Max Kellerman’s line of commentary hits the spot — can Katsidis be good, or can he ascend to great? I doubt he can get to great, but maybe he can be, I dunno, better than good. He does have a little more boxing skill than I previously gave him credit for, so maybe he can take the brawling style that will make me watch any fight he’s in and fine-tune it a little for a formula that equals steak and sizzle. Since Campbell beat Juan Diaz, and Campbell and Casamayor ought to duke it out for first place among the lightweights, why not have a bronze medal game between Diaz and Katsidis? No way that one isn’t fun, and it’ll give both men a chance to earn a rematch with their respective conquerors. And somebody needs to give Santa Cruz another shot. Why not Katsidis?
(Oh, and the undercard — the script was reversed in another competitive, exciting fight, with the brawler, super middleweight [168 lbs.] Librado Andrade, beating out the boxer, Robert Stieglitz, via eighth round technical knockout. I didn’t know, until Kellerman said so, that Andrade refused to block punches with his gloves because it makes his arms go numb. That’s mighty inconvenient. And here I thought Andrade just didn’t believe in defense. There are some people who are just made of sterner stuff on this planet of ours, and Andrade’s one such guy. Only in another super middleweight bout, Joe Calzaghe’s 2005 win over Jeff Lacy, have I seen a fighter take more flush punches and remain standing than did Librado Andrade in his loss last year to Mikkel Kessler. Stieglitz landed his share of clean shots, Andrade rolling with them or no. But Andrade didn’t care. He just kept coming and coming, and Stieglitz was a masochist with the way he wouldn’t dodge any of Andrade’s uppercuts. This was a title eliminator, so that means Andrade’s moved one step closer to a shot against Lucian Bute. That there, kids, is a fight.)