Katsidis-Earl to go ahead despite safety concerns

Graham Earl and Michael Katsidis trade blows at Wembley in 2007. Photo: Andrew CouldridgeQueensland slugger Michael Katsidis insists his fight against Graham Earl will go on despite the British Board of Boxing Control urging local governing bodies to ban the Englishman from taking part for his own safety.

Katsidis (29-6, 24KOs), a former interim WBO lightweight title holder, has been scheduled to fight Earl in Toowoomba on July 4 in a rematch of their 2007 epic at Wembley, won by Katsidis after five hellish rounds of what was regarded as one of the fights of the decade.

That was seven years ago and both men are now trying to make comebacks after long periods of inactivity. Katsidis has fought once (Eddy Comaro in March, third round victory) since being well beaten by Albert Mensah in April of 2013, while Earl hasn’t fought since June of 2009.

Prior to that, his last three fights resulted in brutal first round losses to Amir Khan (TKO) and Henry Castle (TKO) before a points decision in a six-rounder against the ultimate journeyman Karl Taylor, who boasts a train-wreck record of 16 wins, 125 defeats and seven draws.

The fight has drawn criticism in the UK, where there is concern Earl is well past his best and lost the ability to take any punishment in the ring. And a number of prominent Queensland boxing figures contacted by Fairfax Media on Wednesday expressed serious concern about neccessity of the bout.

It also raises further concerns about the lack of any government-backed combat sports commission in Queensland, a long-running issue that came to a head after the farcical reaction from the sport to the death of young amateur Alex Slade in 2010.

But Katsidis said there was no medical reason why Earl (26-4, 12 KOs) couldn’t take part and there was no doubt the fight would go ahead if Earl passed all of the relevant testing.

“I’ve had one fight in two years, Graham’s had one fight in four years. This fight pleased the crowd seven years ago and will please the crowd again. This fight is going ahead and the first doubt I’ve heard about is when you questioned me,” Katsidis said.

“What I know is Graham Earl is medically cleared to fight. The bloke has been trying to fight me since our first fight. Of course he’s medically fit.”

The BBBofC disagrees, with general secretary Robert W Smith contacting the Australian National Boxing Federation and saying it wasn’t in Earl’s interest to take part in what they fear could be a one-sided beating at the hands of Katsidis, now 33 and attempting to make inroads back into the fight game.

But in the absence of specific medical advice to the contrary, ANBF president Jim Young said there was no concrete reason to ban Earl from taking the fight. Earl hasn’t been given a licence by the BBBofC but has been cleared to fight by a board in Malta.

“The national secretary rang me and said he had a fax from the British Boxing Board of Control saying they don’t like the fight,” Young said. “I asked them if they could tell me if he’d been banned, or failed any medical tests they know of. They just sent back a note saying they felt it was not in his best interests.”

Young said the ANBF would send a doctor to the UK to put Earl through his paces and if he passed those tests, the fight would be given the green light.

“It’s a risky one for both fighters and you could say it’s one they shouldn’t have. But we need a reason why – there’s risk in every fight. We’re sending a doctor over and if he passes that, we can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t go ahead,” Young said.

Katsidis had a health scare of his own when a brain scan was thought to show scarring from his many wars in the ring over a career that pitted him against some of the best in the world.

But Katsidis has since been cleared and said it was a medical mistake and there were no concerns over his health.

“That was absolute garbage. They overlooked the fact I had a broken eye socket. I’ve been in heavy wars. I had a break in the eye socket in 2009 and when that healed, the doctors didn’t see the residue and thought there might be a problem,” Katsidis said.

“They never confirmed there was a problem. It was a misread and doctors jumped to conclusions. Rest assured, there is no problem.”

Katsidis’s manager and fight promotor, Brendon Smith, said there was no roadblock from stopping a fight he insists fans want to see take place.

“He’s fine. We have clearances and everything is in place. This was sanctioned by the ANBF a long time ago. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with Graham whatsoever,” Smith said.

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