Michael Katsidis and the Aging Boxers Who Need to Retire
The aging fighter who simply doesn't know when to quit is one of boxing's most enduring cliches, but sadly it is one of those tropes that is a cliche because it's true.
Saturday night in Hull saw the harrowing scene that ensues when a tired old story is allowed to become reality once more.
The remains of Michael Katsidis, still dubbed "The Great" but now 34, were fed to Tommy Coyle, who is mediocre but 25, and the young man devoured the offering, felling the Australian with one hard punch in Round 2.
Only referee Marcus McDonnell showed mercy, ending the fight despite the sight of Katsidis reaching his feet inside the count with the same courage and indefatigability that had forced this predicament.
To worsen the scene was the partisan crowd who were less than respectful towards the veteran, despite his reputation in boxing circles as one of the most entertaining fighters of his era. He gave fans anything less than his all.
Standing with his back to the Sky Sports cameras, Katsidis had delayed his ring entrance as a final act of defiance against the passage of time—as if in his creaking bones, and despite the encouraging talk of six weeks spent preparing in Manchester, he knew the role he was due to play.
The sad reality that Katsidis was all but finished paid off for Coyle's team and promoters Matchroom. The Hull lightweight now finds his name listed in the world-class company of Juan Manuel Marquez and Joel Casamayor as the only men to stop the Australian.
In the little action that there was, Katsidis chased the younger man around the ring, but his balance was off. He was ultimately caught with a shot that suggested both his reflexes and punch resistance were seriously diminished.
Hopefully, like Juan Manuel Lopez, 31—who was iced in similarly short and devastating fashion by Jesus Cuellar last month—Katsidis will take this as his cue to exit stage right, but in the world of aging boxers, there is little guarantee that what should happen will happen.
Here are the aging boxers who really need to retire.
7. Jermain Taylor
36 years old
33 wins, four defeats, one draw
This is the most controversial selection here given that Jermain Taylor is the current IBF middleweight champion and ranked fifth on BoxRec's computerised rankings.
However, both of those distinctions are based on the same freak win from earlier this month. The 40-year-old Sam Soliman, then the IBF titleholder, was expected to score a fairly comfortable win over Taylor as a first title defence.
After six rounds of poor action, Soliman was marginally ahead before re-injuring his knee, a problem that may have already been limiting his movement.
From then on the Australian was in a farcical state, limping around the ring, struggling to keep his feet and being unable to put his full weight into punches.
Thereafter, Taylor scored four knockdowns, but they were more due to Soliman's balance issues than any telling blows landing. Despite Soliman being there for the taking, the Arkansas man could not force a stoppage or even get close to that.
Prior to the fight, Kevin McRae detailed the reasons it should not have taken place—Taylor's history of suffering heavy knockouts, including bleeding on the brain in 2009, his lack of impressive wins since then and even an ongoing criminal charge for shooting his cousin.
Pacifists hoped for Soliman, a busy but light-hitting fighter, to outwork Taylor for a decision win and thus bring an end to the American's ill-advised comeback. It was not to be.
Now, Taylor is the fighter every middleweight wants to face, as he represents easy pickings with a world-title belt in tow. The hope is that the IBF will enforce a mandatory defence with Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, another relatively light hitter and a reasonably passive fighter.
The thought of Taylor in a ring with KO king Gennady Golovkin, or even fellow Al Haymon middleweight Peter Quillin, is not a happy one.
There is no chance he calls it a day after reclaiming a portion of the middleweight title, which means that instead of going out on a high (however fortuitous), he is likely to go out in dangerous and distressing circumstances.
6. Jose Luis Castillo
40 years old
66 wins, 12 defeats, one draw
British boxing fans best know Jose Luis Castillo as a guy who was already fading when Ricky Hatton stopped him inside four rounds in 2007.
You could be forgiven for assuming the Mexican had called it a day given he has not been seen in an American ring since February of last year.
He is, however, still plying his trade in his native land and a rumour earlier this month reported by Lem Satterfield of The Ring was that he had been offered as much as $500,000 to be a sacrificial lamb against Ruslan Provodnikov in Russia.
Although Castillo is a wily veteran who has gone the distance in his last two defeats against young up-and-comers Jorge Paez Jr. and Antwone Smith, it is hard to envisage him forestalling the onslaught Provodnikov brings.
As a trial horse for second-rate Mexican prospects, perhaps the thought of Castillo continuing is conscionable.
However, given that he weighed in at 151 for his last outing and the Russian competes at 140, a weight the Mexican last made in 2007, the idea of the 40-year-old draining down and travelling halfway across the world to face one of the most dangerous punchers in the sport is difficult to advocate.
Castillo would be trading on the back of a name he made back in 2000 when he upset Stevie Johnston to win the WBC lightweight title. Two years later he gave Floyd Mayweather his toughest night, dropping a disputed decision and becoming the first to earn a rematch with the Pretty Boy.
Hopefully, the Russian deal falls through because it's hard to see Castillo walking away from a half-a-million-dollar payday.
5. Michael Katsidis
34 years old
30 wins, seven defeats
Michael Katsidis has not had that many fights, but he has had a hard, hard career because of his all-action style and propensity for taking a punch to land one of his own.
In the wake of his points loss to Ricky Burns three years ago in London, Katsidis told the Herald Sun: "After the first round tonight, I just didn't have it...If a guy sat in the ropes like that in the past, I would have biffed him out of there, and I just did not have it there. It was not there."
Those words suggested that, then-aged 31, he knew his days were numbered. When he lost his next fight to the unheralded Albert Mensah in 2012, that seemed to confirm it.
Then in early 2013, Katsidis pulled out of a scheduled fight in Australia when, as reported by Chris Garry in The Courier Mail, "a doctor discovered minor brain scarring during pre-fight scans and warned his health was at risk if he continued in the sport."
Since then he cleared further tests, but given the number of punches the Australian had taken, there was cause for concern.
That he fought Graham Earl this July in Queensland, a fighter unlicensed in his native Britain, and with the British Board of Boxing Control trying to stop it going ahead, suggested a cavalier attitude towards the risks of the sport.
Reports last month in The (Toowoomba) Chronicle that Katsidis had been charged with burglary hardly inspired confidence that he was in a good place.
A dull 12-round points win over Earl, who had not fought for more than five years and Katsidis had dispatched inside five rounds in his prime, was good enough for promoter Eddie Hearn to give the Australian the call to fight Tommy Coyle.
The normally strict British Board sanctioned the fight, and it was all over within two rounds. Hopefully, Katsidis, who was at least spared a prolonged beating, reads the writing on the wall once more, and for the last time.
4. Roy Jones Jr.
45 years old
59 wins, eight defeats
Perhaps the saddest name on this list is Roy Jones Jr. In his prime, he was arguably the best fighter on the planet and unarguably one of the most dominant and exciting champions of all time.
Despite earning a fortune in his heyday and still working regularly as a commentator on HBO, where the topic of his non-retirement has become something of a taboo, he still has the desire to fight on, disregarding the irrefutable evidence of his decline.
Jones' last resume-boosting win came in 2003, when he made the leap to heavyweight for one fight only and outpointed the cumbersome John Ruiz for the WBA belt.
Since then he has lost seven times (his earlier defeat being an unfortunate disqualification), and four of those have come by knockout.
Jones, a fighter who dazzled opponents and spectators alike with blistering speed and explosiveness, is particularly unsuited to such an extended career.
At his best he was almost impossible to catch cleanly, but ever since Antonio Tarver (another fighter who should consider retirement) knocked him flat in 2004, that has not been the case. His punch resistance, or lack of it, has come under scrutiny.
A first-round KO loss to Danny Green in Australia nearly five years ago should have been the end of it, but Jones still had one last Vegas fight, being outpointed easily by Bernard Hopkins in a dismal rematch in 2010.
Even a heavy knockout the next year against Russia's Denis Lebedev (pictured) wasn't enough for Jones to throw in the towel.
He continues to find work in boxing backwaters such as Russia, Latvia and Poland long after the demand for his services has dried up in more discerning markets.
Jones has five straight wins since fighting Lebedev—all against weak opposition, none of whom had much of a punch.
You have to hope his career will fizzle out like that of Evander Holyfield, who finally retired this year, rather than see him step up to fight another contender and take an all-too-predictable beating.
3. Shannon Briggs
42 years old
56 wins, six defeats, one draw
In the past six years Shannon Briggs has only fought one meaningful opponent, and that was the WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in 2010 (pictured).
The American put up an incredibly brave stand to go the 12-round distance, but realistically the fight should have been stopped; it was one of the most one-sided beatdowns you will ever see.
Steve Lillis in The Daily Mail reported that Briggs ended up in intensive care. Although he made a full recovery, that told you what kind of a future he had at the peak of the heavyweight division.
Briggs had not even deserved the fight against Klitschko to begin with, given that he had not beaten a world-level heavyweight since 2006.
The American did not fight in 2011, 2012 or 2013 but has had five fights this year, knocking out four ridiculously overmatched opponents in the first round and going 12 rounds with the halfway respectable Raphael Love.
You have to hope that Klitschko has been an unwitting victim of Briggs' erratic behaviour and that he has no interest in promoting a fight with the 42-year-old, however tempting it may be to shut up the excitable Brooklyn native.
If Briggs is serious about his comeback, he needs to stop stalking the heavyweight champ and actually fight someone in the top 50. Better yet, he should call it a day.
Despite his still impressive physique, he has no business fighting a top contender—not least because his courage could see him on the receiving end of some devastating punishment.
2. James Toney
46 years old
76 wins, nine defeats, three draws
James Toney is one of very few fighters of the modern era to approach 100 pro fights, currently standing at 88. His first came way back in 1988, and he's been around so long that in 2003 he was awarded "Comeback of the Year'" by The Ring Magazine.
As recently as 2011 he lined up in a world-title fight at cruiserweight and lost wide on points against Denis Lebedev, but he did at least go the distance (unlike Roy Jones) and despite injuring his leg early on.
Like Jones, Toney started out as a middleweight, winning the IBF title in 1991 against Michael Nunn. He repeated the feat at super-middleweight two years later against Iran Barkley, with both wins coming by way of stoppage.
The Michigan native was then one of boxing's pound-for-pound kings, and it was his first defeat, by points to Jones in 1994, that announced the former Olympian as the sport's coming man.
Toney, 5′10″, had one of the best skill sets around but would not seriously trouble the pound-for-pound lists again for the simple fact that he kept putting on the pounds, perhaps unsurprisingly for a fighter whose idea of a post-fight celebration was "Burger King!"
There was a career renaissance between 2003 and 2006 in which he won the IBF cruiserweight title from Vassiliy Jirov before a draw with WBC heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and beating former champ Evander Holyfield along the way.
Realistically, Toney has no business as a heavyweight, fighting men who are naturally much bigger than him, but his defensive savvy and old-school skills mean that he has never been knocked out.
Even so, Father Time has long caught up with him, and he has not looked in any way impressive since a last hurrah, outpointing Fres Oquendo in 2008.
Toney's most recent appearance was in a Prizefighter heavyweight tournament in London last November, where he was eliminated in the semi-final as a shadow of his once great self.
This prompted British writers such as the BBC's Ben Dirs and The Guardian's Sean Ingle to call for his retirement. He has not fought since, and hopefully it stays that way, but there has been no official announcement.
1. Danny Williams
41 years old
46 wins, 23 defeats
As much as all the fighters on this list have declined, none has fallen so far from grace as Danny Williams, a former British champion and world-title challenger who registered a win over Mike Tyson in 2004.
Williams is now ranked outside the top 350 at heavyweight by BoxRec's computerised rankings. He has been on the wrong end of the result in 14 of his most recent 17 fights. Last time out he lost to Pavel Doroshilov, a fighter making his professional debut.
After being stopped by Dereck Chisora in Round 2 in 2010 (pictured), the British Board effectively refused to sanction him again, and all of his official fights since then have been held on foreign soil.
As reported by ESPN back in 2011, Williams has only been able to fight on with a Latvian license. This sorry loophole undermines the efforts of more responsible commissions.
Unbelievably, Williams is set to return to the ring later this month in Germany, a serious boxing country from which you might expect higher standards than the likes of Romania, the Czech Republic and the UAE, locations where the Londoner has appeared recently.
In his prime Williams was a European-level heavyweight who was first immortalised by a British title defence against Mark Potter in 2000 when he dislocated his shoulder but fought on and won by knockout with his one good arm.
He was picked as Tyson's comeback opponent after the Lennox Lewis title fight but upset the odds by weathering the former champion's early onslaught and then stopping him in Round 4. That was essentially the end of Iron Mike, who fought once more.
That earned the Brit a 2004 world-title shot against Vitali Klitschko in Las Vegas. He was overmatched but not overawed and put up a brave stand before being stopped in Round 8.
Despite not losing since 2003, the final bell tolled for the elder Klitschko in 2012, and yet Williams has still to hear his. Three years ago he told Ron Lewis of The Times, “I’ve been fighting since the age of eight, and I love the sport too much to walk away...all I want to do is box."
Aided and abetted by some of the worst sanctioning bodies in the sport, Williams continues to do just that. As he racks up defeats in boxing's heaviest-hitting division, you can only fear for his long-term well-being.