Michael "rocky" Kadsidis

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 worth it.
"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 intervened.

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.

As seen in http://townsvillebulletin.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,7034,21266904%5E23218,00.html

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