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Despite family tragedy, Michael Katsidis ‘here to win’

With brother’s death still on his heart, Katsidis says he’s ready for first world title

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Steve Marcus

Lightweight boxer Michael Katsidis of Australia listens to speakers during a pre-fight press conference in the lobby of the MGM Grand Tuesday, November 23, 2010. Barely a month after the death of his older brother, Katsidis will take on WBA/WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.

Marquez Katsidis news conference

WBA/WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, left, of Mexico greets a fan as he arrives for a pre-fight press conference in the lobby of the MGM Grand Tuesday, November 23, 2010. Marquez will defend his titles against Michael Katsidis of Australia at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Michael Katsidis has spent the last nine years paying his dues to the sport of boxing so that one day he might fight for a world title.

This weekend, all that work finally will pay off.

Katsidis (27-2, 22 KO) faces unquestionably the biggest fight of his life Saturday when he meets Juan Manuel Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KO) in his first world-title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It's a fight the current interim titleholder has asked and hoped for during the past year.

"I've had a lot of fights, and I've been through a lot of training camps," Katsidis said. "Every single thing I've been through my entire life has all been climbing to this moment. There's one guy between me and the dreams of my life."

Katsidis, 30, will be no stranger to a tough fight when he enters the ring, as the Australian boxer had to endure the heartache of dealing with his older brother's death during his recent training camp.

Stathi Katsidis, a Thoroughbred horse jockey in Australia, was found dead in his Brisbane, Australia, home in October. Michael Katsidis was informed of the tragedy by phone while training in Thailand.

Although Katsidis has requested that no questions during a recent press conference be directed to the matter out of respect to his family, he acknowledged the hardships he's faced.

"This was one tough camp," Katsidis said. "I know there's been speculation on my brother's death last month. He was very close to me. It was tough, but nothing in this sport is ever easy.

"We've come out here because I'm here to fight and I'm here to win."

Even Marquez, who has a brother he's close to, took the pre-fight press conference as an opportunity to express his admiration for Katsidis.

"I really applaud Michael Katsidis's character," Marquez said. "He's suffering from the death of his brother, and I applaud him. Everybody knows Michael Katsidis is a strong fighter. He's a warrior."

While Katsidis certainly has the respect of the boxing world, he doesn't necessarily have its confidence when it comes to taking on Marquez.

Las Vegas sports books opened Marquez as more than a 3-to-1 favorite — although that number has decreased since.

In fact, the boxing public seems more interested in a potential trilogy fight between Marquez and reigning pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao than it does in his upcoming matchup against Katsidis.

None of that seems to matter to Katsidis, however, as he's just happy his opportunity to claim a world title finally has come.

"Everyone wants to fight Pacquiao," Katsidis said. "I said, 'Hey, do you want to be the lightweight champion of the world or you want to go for a fight with Pacquiao?' He basically went for me.

"(The Pacquiao question) doesn't phase me. What he wants to go for is what he wants. He's a great fighter, and he deserves those great fights."

But while Marquez might be waiting for another crack at Pacquiao — the two have fought to a draw and a controversial split decision in favor of Pacquiao in their previous bouts — Katsidis's wait is finally over.

And even with the pain of a family tragedy still on his shoulders, he believes he's in the right spot to take advantage of the title shot.

"It's perfect for him," said Brendon Smith, manager and trainer to Katsidis. "He's coming off four great wins. I think with any boxer it's a long road they have to take. The timing for this opportunity is perfect for Michael, and he's 100 percent ready."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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