Boxing
Marquez-Katsidis: Lightweight champion bangs drum for Pacquiao
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - Just another day on the "Get Me Manny Pacquiao in 2011" world tour.

Oh sure, when Juan Manuel Marquez climbs through the ropes Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the immediate task at hand will be dispatching rugged challenger Michael Katsidis in defense of belted WBA/WBO supremacy at 135 pounds.

But what the Mexican veteran will really do with a victory is remain viable in a race to get the sport's reigning pound-for-pound sensation in front of him for yet another 12-round duel sometime next year.

The two met in a pair of memorable bouts four years apart in 2004 and 2008. And, while Pacquiao owns a 1-0-1 advantage in the record books as a result, much of the jury remains out on whether either has truly established superiority across 24 eyelash-close rounds.

Bout No. 1 ended in a featherweight draw after Marquez survived a three- knockdown onslaught in the first round and went on to capture 10 of the remaining 11 on the card of judge Guy Jutras and seven of 11 in the view of judge Burt Clements.

Marquez won five of the last 11 rounds on the card of judge John Stewart.

The rematch at 130 pounds was similarly close, with many media members seeing Marquez a close winner in spite of the split verdict awarded to Pacquiao by judges Duane Ford (115-112) and Tom Miller (114-113) over the 115-112 dissent of Jerry Roth.

Regardless, while Pacquiao has parlayed the duel into status and paychecks at 147 pounds and beyond, Marquez has been left to a less-heralded lower road -- with handlings of Juan Diaz (twice) and Joel Casamayor at 135 sandwiched around a failed accosting of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009.


Michael Katsidis won 23 straight fights at the outset of a pro career that began in December 2001
So, even as a date with Katsidis nears, the Filipino remains heavy on the minds of both Marquez and the higher-ups at Golden Boy Promotions, who claim neither Pacquiao nor his team at Top Rank have been genuine when discussing prospects for a third match.

"He knows people want to see that fight, but he's afraid to face me," Marquez said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to make the fight. Let's do it. Let's finish our business."

"I don't think Arum or Pacquiao have any interest in making the fight," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said. "It's not in my hands. We can plea, we can ask, but that's not the way this sport goes."

The Marquez-Katsidis affair headlines a three-fight card to be broadcast on HBO at 9:45 p.m. ET.

Also scheduled are a defense for WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto against Freddy Hernandez, and a 10-round non-title match at 130 pounds between former junior featherweight claimant and once-beaten world title challenger Jason Litzau.

Katsidis, a 27-year-old Australian now living in Thailand, won 23 straight fights at the outset of a pro career that began in December 2001. He was stopped in 10 rounds by the aforementioned Casamayor in March 2008, then dropped a 12-round decision to Diaz six months later for the vacant IBO title.

He's unbeaten in four fights since the brief skid, including a third-round TKO of previously unbeaten regional champion Kevin Mitchell in a scheduled 12- rounder on May 15 in London, and chose to go ahead with the fight in spite of the death of his 31-year-old brother, Stathi Katsidis, in October.

Marquez and Berto head into the fights as heavy favorites, according to World Sports Exchange (wsex.com). A $280 bet on Marquez is required for a $100 return, while the same payback on Berto would necessitate an initial $1,300 outlay.

Meanwhile, a $100 wager on Katsidis would bring back $230 and $100 on Hernandez would yield $800.

"What more can you say about Juan Manuel Marquez," Katsidis said. "He's one of the best in the world pound for pound, and a future Hall of Famer. I'm ready for the challenge though, and I don't think he'll be able to hold me off for 12 rounds. I'm coming for those belts."

TV Topics (Some fights may not be televised)

SATURDAY HBO - MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nev.

Juan Manuel Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KO) vs. Michael Katsidis (27-2, 22 KO) - WBA/WBO lightweight titles

Andre Berto (26-0, 20 KO) vs. Freddy Hernandez (29-1, 20 KO) - WBC welterweight title

Celestino Caballero (34-2, 23 KO) vs. Jason Litzau (27-2, 21 KO)

Erislandy Lara (13-0, 8 KO) vs. Tim Connors (10-1, 7 KO)

Showtime - Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland

Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KO) vs. Carl Froch (26-1, 20 KO) - WBC super middleweight title

Robert Helenius (13-0, 8 KO) vs. Attila Levin (34-3, 27 KO)

Ville Piispanen (15-1-2, 6 KO) vs. Daniel Rasilla (18-3, 5 KO)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.