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Gladiator Michael Katsidis ready to tame Kevin Mitchell

Michael Katsidis (right) in action against Vicente Escobedo
Katsidis (right) is famed for putting everything he has into his fights

WBO interim lightweight title: Kevin Mitchell v Michael Katsidis
Venue: Upton Park, London Date: Saturday 15 May (Fight expected to begin about 2130 BST) Coverage: Sky Sports and full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

By Drew Christie

Michael Katsidis believes he can ruin Kevin Mitchell's big night when the pair meet at Upton Park on Saturday for what promises to be a blood and guts battle for the WBO interim lightweight title.

A raft of East End 'royalty', including actor Ray Winstone, will be among the 30,000 crowd, while Essex's answer to Celine Dion, X Factor finalist Stacey Solomon, will sing God Save the Queen. In short, it is a fight Mitchell isn't expected to lose.

But Katsidis has no plans to be the fall-guy at Mitchell's knees-up - and far from being concerned about stepping into Mitchell's den, the man dubbed 'The Gladiator' sounds positively energised by it.

"I think it's fantastic. I've heard about how big the football is over in England," enthused Katsidis, who represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics.

"I'm really excited to go there and see so many people so passionate about their sport. They predict there's going to be 30,000 people. I think it's fantastic. What a great country, what a great thing."

Michael Katsidis
Katsidis enters the ring in ancient Greek warrior dress

We spoke on the phone after Katsidis had completed a session at his pre-fight camp in Thailand, prior to his arrival in England. An interesting, open and engaging personality, the unusual location of his base provides an insight into this rugged road warrior.

Katsidis, 29, was born in Toowoomba, Queensland, about 80 miles west of Brisbane, a town of just 125,000 people, but a town with a prolific sporting production line.

He attended Downlands College, whose alumni include Wallaby greats Tim Horan and Garrick Morgan, along with brother Stathi, one of Australia's top jockeys.

Following his overseas debut, when he stopped Luton's Graham Earl in a brutal bout at Wembley Arena in 2007, the small-town boy became a globe-trotting man, moving to Las Vegas and marrying a Japanese woman.

He now uses Japan and Thailand as bases when preparing for fights, and such a global outlook is perhaps unsurprising when you consider his Greek roots.

"It is who I am - and I am so proud of who I am," said the man who, as a reminder of those roots, has a Vergina Sun tattoo on his back and enters the ring wearing a Spartan warrior helmet.

I heard Mitchell ran like a cat against Breidis Prescott

Michael Katsidis

Katsidis recently visited his father's village, a tiny hamlet which is said to be the birthplace of Greek hero Achilles. Despite being home to just 128 souls, 3,000 people turned up in his honour and toasted his achievements over three days of festivities.

"It was a fantastic experience, one of the highlights of my life," beams Katsidis. "They love what I do in their name - that I walk out there with my heart on my sleeve, with the Greek warrior helmet - and they love their boxing."

Katsidis' latest engagement is unlikely to be as much fun. 'The Gladiator' left his wife and four-month old baby daughter at home while he prepared for the Mitchell fight in Bangkok, the Thai capital.

"The hardest thing has been having to be away from my daughter. But it's also a really big motivator. I can't wait to get up there, win the fight and then go home and see her.

"Then I'll be able to reap the rewards of the sacrifices I've made. I believe that Kevin's going to pay for that on the night. I'm going to let it all out in the ring."

Michael Katsidis knocks down Graham Earl
Katsidis won a thrilling battle with Graham Earl at Wembley in 2007

A heavy puncher equipped with relentless energy, Katsidis has been compared to the late Arturo Gatti, with his war against Earl the norm rather than the exception in a career spanning 28 fights, with 26 wins and 21 knockouts.

Mitchell is a powerful puncher himself having stopped 23 of his 31 foes, but he showed a more measured style to outbox the dangerous Breidis Prescott over 12 rounds last December, the same man who destroyed Amir Khan in less than a minute in 2008.

But Katsidis heard different: "I haven't really looked into the bloke [Mitchell] too much, I haven't really watched the Prescott fight. All I heard is how Mitchell ran like a cat.

"I'm more of an instinct fighter. I'll get in there on the night and see which way it's going to go then. It could go a long time, it could finish early. Boxing is like life - it has its ups and its downs."

Mitchell has said he thinks Katsidis has a few too many miles on the clock and has threatened to "leave him blowing" and "bust him up", but Katsidis has refused to rise to the bait.

"He's 31-0. That's quite a record he's built up. He's beat the bloke that knocked out Amir Khan in 54 seconds. Despite what he's said, he can't be disrespected. He can't be underestimated either," stressed Katsidis.

"But I believe when it comes to the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds and he's going back to his stool and he's lucky to be able to stand up, he's cut everywhere and he's got nothing left in his body, nothing I say beforehand will have made a difference to the fight."

While Upton Park will be a lonely and intimidating place for Katsidis on Saturday night, he remains hopeful there will be some friendly faces in the stands.

"Australia's always in my corner, and I do believe there will be a lot of Australians and a lot of Greeks there," he said.

"Either way, I know that everybody's going to be proud of the effort that I put in and that everyone who loves boxing is going to be very happy with what I do on the night.

"I've not considered anything beyond this fight. There are no plans for the future. Every fight I've had has been a war and I can't see this being any different."



see also
Khan and Mitchell fancy match-up
30 Apr 10 |  Boxing
Mitchell to fight at Upton Park
17 Mar 10 |  Boxing
Mitchell claims knockout victory
13 Feb 10 |  Boxing
Classy Mitchell sees off Prescott
05 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Katsidis still wants Hatton fight
07 May 09 |  Boxing
Earl left to rue Katsidis battle
19 Feb 07 |  Boxing
Earl to face Katsidis challenge
17 Jan 07 |  Boxing


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