According to ESPN.com’s UK outlet, reports have surfaced that former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton has selected all-action brawler Michael Katsidis as his opponent for his comeback fight on November 24th in Manchester.
At 32 and having lost four out of his last five fights, Katsidis (28-6, 23 KO) could very well serve as the perfect foil to Hatton’s renewed championship aspirations. However, it is somewhat surprising that Hatton (45-2, 32 KO)—who has been inactive since May of 2009 after suffering a brutal knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao—did not opt for a softer touch.
While Katsidis is clearly on the downside of a career filled with numerous brutal slugfests, he does possess two significant traits that an inactive fighter should avoid: stubborn durability and punching power.
Katsidis might not be a murderous one-punch knockout artist, but he does have heavy hands, and his relentless pressure compounds his power. Of course, Katsidis’ aggression often leaves him exposed to flush punches—of which he absorbs a frightening amount—but Katsidis’ unquestioned heart inevitably forces opponents to tap into their own reserves before they can dispatch him.
It is this test of will and stamina that should be of greatest concern to Hatton heading into this fight. Much of Hatton’s power also comes from his consistent pressure and ability to break down his opponents, so it seems unlikely that he will be able to dispose of Katsidis with one punch. Thus, regardless of how long the fight lasts, Hatton should expect to have to grind and slug on the inside.
Hatton, of course, is more than capable of fighting in close, and much of his past success has come in the form of crowding his opponents and working their body.
What will be interesting to observe in a fight against Katsidis is whether Hatton will opt to box his opponent as he eases into the fight. It seems plausible that Hatton could outbox Katsidis, but one wonders whether Hatton’s natural instincts to brawl on the inside will get the better of him.
In terms of a stern litmus test that will give fans an indication of how serious Hatton is about his comeback, Katsidis is a perfect opponent, and the stakes of the fight, as a result, could not be higher. With Katsidis selected as an opponent, Hatton’s comeback will either last one fight or almost assuredly take him to a shot at an alphabet title (at least).
Should Hatton lose to Katsidis, he will have succumbed to a shot fighter. But should he win, Hatton will have shown that he can deal with a pressure fighter who still carries the latent danger of punching power and a quality chin. The polarity of both outcomes is typical of the drama fans have come to expect of Hatton.
The conventional assessment of Katsidis, at this point in his career, is that he is essentially a shot fighter. That said, Katsidis crushed Kevin Mitchell only six fights ago (in 2010), and other than his loss to Albert Mensah, his recent string of defeats have come against Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero and Ricky Burns, all of whom are elite fighters.
If Hatton is electing to fight Katsidis at the opportune moment, the reverse could also be said. Perhaps Katsidis’ punch resistance has somewhat diminished, as have his reflexes.
But Hatton will be entering the ring a cold fighter coming off of a brutal knockout loss. For however long the fight lasts, Katsidis will carry a puncher’s chance, and Hatton will certainly have to bludgeon him into complete submission.
Hatton has a size advantage and is a better boxer than Katsidis, and it would be unwise to pick against him given Katsidis’ recent struggles. Still, those who were expecting Hatton to waltz through his comeback fight should hold their breath and look for explosive action in this intriguing matchup.