Rocky's wild ride worth it
IN a sport loaded with characters, Michael
"Rocky" Katsidis, Australia's newest world boxing champion, is in a
league of his own.
Katsidis, 26, who
became the first Australian to conquer a lightweight division on
Sunday, has a life story so riveting it belongs next to the
fictional character with whom he shares a nickname.
He's done time,
has a brother, Stathi, who is a Group I-winning jockey, wears a
gladiator-style helmet into the ring to celebrate his Greek heritage
and trains using old school "Rocky" techniques.
He also holds the World Boxing Organisation interim lightweight
title after punishing Briton Graham Earl in front of 12,000 fans at
Wembley Arena on Sunday.
After returning to Australia yesterday, Katsidis said his
roller-coaster ride to fame and fortune, which included a drawn-out
battle over visas with US consular officials last year, had been
"All the experiences I've been through, that's all been part of the
journey," he said, shortly after being greeted by dozens of family
and friends at the Brisbane International Airport.
"It's character-building and now I'm holding the most prestigious
boxing title in the world."
For so long, Katsidis, who boasts a 22-0 record (19 KOs), feared he
would miss his shot at glory after being refused a US visa.
The American officials had expressed concerns about his conviction
for assault in 2001. He served eight months of a two-year sentence.
The dispute ended only after Queensland Premier Peter Beattie
Katsidis's trainer and manager, Brendon Smith, used Gleason's Gym in
Brooklyn - world famous among fighters and used by Muhammad Ali
before his bouts - for the Aussie's world title preparation.
Smith said Katsidis had barely tapped into his potential.
"He's 70 per cent to what he can be," Smith said.