Quintessential professional Juan Manuel Marquez faces gore-thirsty Michael Katsidis on Saturday night in what promises to be a minor masterpiece of violence at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. If Marquez, now 37, can be considered an Old Master–Caravaggio or El Greco, say–then Katsidis, 30, is an action painter–all nervous, slashing energy, something akin to William de Kooning or Jackson Pollock, perhaps. The drip patterns, of course, are made with blood.
Both fighters are coming off notable victories. Marquez, who is still looking to complete a triptych against Manny Pacquiao, scored a comprehensive decision over Juan Diaz last July, while Katsidis played crash, bang, wallop with hyped UK prospect Kevin Mitchell, posting a violent third-round TKO in May as an angry underdog. Katsidis enters this bout as a shortender as well, but try telling him that.
Compared to Katsidis, with his Spartan helmet, warrior tattoos, and let it bleed attitude, most fighters might as well be doing paint-by-numbers. His titanic struggle with Graham Earl in 2007 has to be seen to be believed, and his gritty near-comeback against Joel Casamayor—where an early KO loss seemed imminent—was nearly ennobling. He will have a difficult task in front of him, however, when he squares off with Marquez.
It goes without saying that Marquez, 51-5-1 (37), has the more varied palette. With solid technique to go along with pinpoint counterpunching skills, Marquez also has the kind of ring smarts that cannot be gleaned from a correspondence school. Fights with Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Juan Diaz, Derrick Gainer, Chris John, Marco Antonio Barrera, Freddie Norwood, Joel Casamayor, and Rocky Juarez have exposed Marquez to every conceivable style and circumstance. Despite the clumsy forgeries HBO usually tries to sell you, nothing beats hands-on experience in boxing. Battle-scarred after more than 17 years as a pro, Marquez, Mexico City, Mexico, is probably confident that Katsidis will not be able to show him anything new between the ropes.
To be sure, apart from a thumping left hook, Katsidis, 27-2 (22), does not match up in any department against Marquez. He might be physically stronger than the former featherweight, but Marquez can negate that edge with smarts. Katsidis, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, might also have a slight edge in power, but he is not a devastating puncher, despite leaving Kevin Mitchell in tottering ruins. Marquez does have a habit in getting caught up in swapfests at times during fights, however, and that might come into play at some point. He has looked easier to hit than ever in his last few fights, and, after nearly 60 professional bouts, now seems on the downside.
If Katsidis, a bruising crowder, tries the more measured approach he used against Juan Diaz in 2008, he will likely be picked apart by Marquez. Not many lightweights can box on even terms with “Dinamata.” Instead, Katsidis, fighting only weeks after the unexpected death of his brother, will probably look to set an accelerated pace, throw punches in combination, and hope that the veteran fades late under pressure. Unfortunately, getting to the late rounds might be troublesome for Katsidis, whose poor defense is compounded by a tendency to cut, bruise, and swell. Nearly every one of his fights sees Katsidis emerge resembling something out of a Francis Bacon painting. Against Marquez, a precise, economical puncher, this pattern should continue.
In the end, even a diminished Marquez is probably too much for Katsidis. Eventually, Marquez should be able to apply brushstroke after brushstroke to an onrushing Katsidis, stippling him with jabs, daubing him with bodyshots, and smearing him with hard right uppercuts on his way to a decision or late TKO in a fight whose primary color will be red, naturally.
In memory of John Diebboll, too early in the sun.