Coyle and Katsidis are ready for war.
Saturday night will mark the fourth time out of 37 fights that Michael Katsidis has fought in a British ring. The three visits which have gone before have each represented an important juncture in the Aussie’s fighting career. On his first trip to the UK back in 2007, Katsidis captured his first major title – the interim WBO belt – besting Graham Earl in an all action classic that announced him as a top flight lightweight. His return three years later went even better than that. On that night, it took him just three rounds to put away Kevin Mitchell, ending the popular Londoner’s 31-fight unbeaten streak at a stadium show in Upton Park. It remains arguably Katsidis’s career best performance and win.
His most recent trip however had a much less positive outcome. After tough defeats to Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero in Vegas, Katsidis again looked to the British scene for his route back to title fights. He found it in Ricky Burns, a former WBO champion a division down, who was stepping up and looking for an opponent to face in an interim title bout at the new weight. Katsidis, who had twice held the belt previously, seemed a logical choice. This time around though, it was evident that the veteran was starting to slip. The battles were beginning to take their toll, and although competitive, Katsidis was comprehensively outscored by Burns over the distance in a fight which figured to close the book on the aging warhorse’s time as a title threat. The disappointing loss which followed to fringe contender Albert Mensah only served to confirm it.
A health scare in 2013 briefly retired him, but after being given the all clear, Katsidis returned with a pair of low level wins earlier this year. The first was a quick knockout of journeyman Eddy Comaro in March, which was then followed up by a decision over old rival Graham Earl in their July rematch – Earl, who had last fought five years previously, was never likely to test. For Katsidis, this is his step back into meaningful competition. For him, beating Coyle opens doors. It gives him somewhere to go in the sport, while a loss would almost certainly call time on his comeback.
In the opposite corner, Tommy Coyle is at an equally pivotal point in his career. He’s popular and a good ticket seller with a penchant for producing exciting TV fights. After 21 bouts, it’s come time to roll the dice and start taking some chances with him. These next few bouts are going to shape the direction of his career, whether that’s as a domestic level boxer or somebody who is capable of moving above that, and that starts with Katsidis. If Coyle is to make that step up, he needs to get passed the 34-year old, it’s as simple as that. Is he good enough to do it though?
We’ve seen glimpses that suggest he could be, but we’ve not yet seen the concrete proof. Coyle never fought for the British title in what is a strong division domestically. His one challenge for the Commonwealth belt ended badly when he was coaxed into a firefight with Derry Mathews and got burned (Tommy had been well ahead on the cards when he was sparked in the tenth). He was also taken to hell and back by Daniel Brizuela back in February, having to get off the floor four times before rallying back to force a last round stoppage, in what ended up being a much tougher night’s work than anyone anticipated. Outside of that, the best win on his resume is an impressive one-sided beating of the usually tricky John Simpson, but Simpson, who never belonged at lightweight, was giving up significant size in that one. Up until now, Coyle has shown an equal amount of good qualities and weaknesses, but it’s a matter of which of those will define him as he moves up in quality.
This is your archetypal crossroads fight. It’s a question of how far faded is Michael Katsidis and whether Tommy Coyle is good enough for that to matter. My feeling is that this fight is the younger man’s to lose. If Coyle boxes smartly, his speed and ability should be enough for him to pile up the points and pull away on the cards. Katsidis, even past his prime, is dangerous though. If Tommy allows himself to be drawn into a slugfest like he was against Mathews and Brizuela, I don’t think the judges will be needed.
Prediction: Coyle by decision