After claiming a super-featherweight belt last June in a thrilling points win over Puerto Rico’s Roman Martinez (25-1-1, 16 KOs), Scotland’s Ricky Burns was accused in some quarters of milking his WBO strap against less than stellar opposition.
In his first defence before his adoring home crowd, Norweigan contender Andreas Evensen was seen off comfortably enough, before the tough Ghanaian Joseph Laryea (14-6, 11 KOs) thankfully failed to deliver on his pledge to “gut him like a pig” and retired in the seventh round of their disappointing fight in March this year.
But it was after his last bout in July, when Burns’ (32-2, 9 KOs) injury-plagued opponent Nicky Cook (30-3, 16 KOs) was forced to retire in the first round after suffering a freak back injury, that the calls for the 28-year-old Scot to step up his level of competition and rediscover the heights of his electrifying performance against the previously unbeaten Martinez grew louder.
A showdown with his manadatory challenger, the unbeaten American Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner (21-0, 17 KOs) looked to be on the cards before Burns’ pulled out of negotiations and gave up his belt after encountering a problem of his own – the ability to make the super-featherweight limit.
Some US boxing writers cried foul, claiming Burns was avoiding the Mayweather-esque Broner in order to hang on to his belt and defend it against sub-par opposition. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
After confirming his desire to move up to the lightweight division, Burns almost immediately signed on the dotted line to face the most difficult opponent of his career so far – Aussie brawler and notorious ‘Brit basher’ Michael Katsidis (28-4, 23 KOs).
Fittingly enough, this interim WBO lightweight title fight will take place at the Wembley Arena on 5 November, and with the crowd-pleasing Katsidis involved, there are sure to be fireworks.
Katsidis is no stranger to British fight fans and England has proved a happy stomping ground for the former lightweight world champion. Katsidis slugged his way to victory over Graham Earl to claim the WBO interim lightweight title back in 2007 in what was widely seen as one of the fights of the year. And he further endeared himself to the British public when he blew away an under-prepared Kevin Mitchell in three rounds at Upton Park in May 2010.
However, despite mixing in stellar company his impressive 32-fight career, Katsidis has invariably come up short against world class opposition.
His four defeats to date have come against Juan Diaz (a split decision loss in September 2008), a TKO loss to Cuban veteran Joel Casamayor in March of the same year, a ninth-round TKO to WBA and WBO champion Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1, 39 KOs) last November and a one-sided unamimous decision loss to Robert Guerrero in April.
To put it another way, at 31, Katsidis has put some miles on the clock. ‘The Great’ has been in some brutal battles, and the slugfests with the likes of Marquez, Earl and Escobedo must have taken their toll. Burns’ may be facing the Aussie warrior at just the right time.
Big fight experience
On the flip side of the coin, Katsidis has been in with some of the best fighters of his era and in some cases, more than held his own (Marquez was dropped in the third round of their barnstorming fight by a fierce left hook). Burns will need to use his jab and superior boxing skills to keep Katsidis at bay, as it seems unlikely the Coatbridge man will score a knockout with just nine stoppage wins in a 34-fight career against lesser foes.
That said, Burns’ could carry more power up to the 135lb lightweight limit, while Katsidis has been known to cut badly around the eyes in some of his previous fights. An accurate jab in the early rounds of the fight to mark up Katsidis’ face could be key to turning the fight in the Scotsman’s favour and negating his opponent’s usual pressure tactics. Katisidis has been known to overwhelm his opponent’s by rushing in and putting them on the backfoot from the first bell. Burns must start quickly and stay elusive to frustrate his 31-year-old foe.
There has been a healthy respect between the fighters leading up to the bout, and whatever the outcome, it promises to be an action-packed fight for as long as it lasts.
Knockoutpunch prediction: Katsidis by KO