Katsidis aiming for Hatton’s achilles heel

The Greek warrior Michael Katsidis could be the man to stand between Ricky Hatton and a successful return to the ring

Boxing loves a comeback, the high drama of the scarred and weary warrior clambering through the ropes in a bid to win back his crown. Wiser in life but older in body, desperately trying to wind back the clock. At stake? The chance to be the champ or the risk of being the chump. There is nothing in between. It is no wonder that Hollywood loves the ring.

The latest in line is the British fighter Ricky Hatton, the former WBA (Super), IBF and IBO light welterweight champion and WBA welterweight champion.

“It’s more than a comeback,” said Hatton. “I’m fighting to redeem myself.”

Already 33, beaten to a pulp by Manny Pacquaio in his last fight three years ago, it really doesn’t make sense.

The Mancunian, though, is immensely popular and any fight that does go ahead is sure to put bums on seats and make a few bob through the broadcasters. Will it matter who else is in the ring with him?

Some names are already being bandied about for the November bout, the favourite being the all-action Greek-Australian Michael Katsidis.

Katsidis is almost the same age as Hatton, he is 32 now, but he is one of those fighters who has operated around the fringes of the very best. Yes, he has won two interim lightweight world titles but, hand on heart, he has never truly been the best in his division.

Katsidis was all power and aggression against Ricky Burns but came up short of the title

Katsidis has won 28 of his 34 fights, 23 by knockout but four of those six defeats came in his last five fights, including a defeat by WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns at Wembley Arena in November.

Like Hatton, who has suffered from alcohol and cocaine addiction and has admitted he contemplated suicide, Katsidis also has his skeletons. A decade ago, he served an eight-month stretch in jail for assault and two years ago had to deal with the death of his brother Stathis, a successful jockey.

It would certainly be an entertaining fight – although also quite a risky one for Hatton as he faces a man who cites Achilles as his touchstone.

“My father is from a village called Aetoraxi near to Larissa in Thessaly, the homeland of Achilles,” he told me in an interview in 2010, before Stathi’s death.

“It is important I mention this because it gives the people from there so much happiness and they are my blood.

“Katsidis is Pontian. Those that are alive today are said to be fighters because they survived through the war.”

Katsidis’ father was just 16 when he sailed to Australia with his mother and father, Maria and Kostantinos, to join up with his six siblings.

“My father was actually working in a small country town Moree where he met my mother who is Australian. After Stathi was born, mum and dad moved up to Toowoomba to be with my Australian grandparents.

“Stathi and I went to English-speaking schools and I grew up all of my life in Toowoomba which is predominantly Anglo-Saxon English-speaking people.

“Apart from visiting our relatives in Greece once a year, I missed a lot of the Greek culture when growing up. We spoke English at home. But I fight the way I do with my heart on my sleeve as a tribute to my heritage.”

Katsidis takes his Greek heritage very seriously, here showing off the Vergina Sun

Katsidis doesn’t just wear his Greek heart on his sleeve. He enters the ring wearing a Spartan helmet and has a tattoo of the Vergina Sun on his back.

“I feel I am fighting for my country and for my heritage, something I am very proud of. The rest doesn’t matter. No matter what culture or creed you are, it is what strength you can draw from within yourself to achieve your goals which is important.

“It is inspiring that my bloodline is from the homeland of Achilles. The sun I wear on my back is that of Alexander the Great.

“These are forces to be reckoned with and that is what I strive to be every time I go out and fight.”

Katsidis even draws the analogy of Achilles to mothers.

“My mother told me before I left for America to be very careful,” he says.

“I had a choice that I could stay home and get a job and settle down. Or I could go overseas leave everything behind and chase my dreams.

“Don’t laugh but this is the same as what Achilles mother said to him before he left to go and join the Greek armies in Troy. He died in battle but will be remembered till the end of time.”

Achilles mother Thetis attempted to make her boy immortal by dipping him in the sacred waters of the river Styx. But as she did so she held him by the heel, leaving one vulnerable spot in the body of Achilles. It was to prove fatal.

Who knows if Ricky Hatton will find Katsidis’ achilles heel – or vice versa.

©Barney Spender 2012