Michael Katsidis: Boxing’s Spartan Warrior

88742971EM007_Michael_KatsiThis Saturday Britain’s next great boxing hope ( all tabloids) Kevin Mitchell faces off against Aussie Michael Katsidis for the WBO Interim Lightweight title at West Ham’s Upton Park. Anyone who’s seen Katsidis, 29, in action will know 25-year-old Mitchell is walking into an epic battle. And though he’s expected to defeat his antipodean opponent, Mitchell’s rise to stardom could well be dealt a Greek tragedy.

One of around 350,000 Australians with Greek heritage, Katsidis’ father lives in a hamlet said to be the birthplace of Trojan hero Achilles, the warrior whose body was invincible bar his infamous heel. Katsidis loves his Greek heritage, and has made it his trademark to step into the ring wearing a Spartan war helmet and warrior’s skirt.

Katsidis’ back is even emblazoned with a tattoo of the Vergina Sun, a decorative symbol associated with Alexander the Great’s father Philip II of Macedon. It is who I am – and I am so proud of who I am, he tells the BBC. (Greeks) love what I do in their name – that I walk out there with my heart on my sleeve, with the Greek warrior helmet – and they love their boxing.

“Greeks love what I do in their name – that I walk out there with my heart on my sleeve, with the Greek warrior helmet.”

Katsidis is famed for a particularly brutal brand of pugilism, so the allusion to ancient Sparta couldn’t be more apt. Sparta was a feared city-state from the Peloponesse which rose to prominence from the 10th to the 5th century BC, when it defeated Athens and her allies in the Peloponnesian War of 404 BC. Famed for their steely attitude and terrifying bloodlust, Spartan warriors have been immortalised thanks to films like 300 and Spartacus. Recent series Spartacus: Blood and Sand was even dubbed the goriest show in TV history.

True to his Greek ancestory Katsidis remains philosophical on his chances against Mitchell, a true-born Eastender being carried on a wave of publicity. He can’t be disrespected. He can’t be underestimated either. But I believe when it comes to the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds and he’s going back to his stool and he’s lucky to be able to stand up, he’s cut everywhere and he’s got nothing left in his body, nothing I say beforehand will have made a difference to the fight.

There are no plans for the future,” Katsidis adds. “Every fight I’ve had has been a war and I can’t see this being any different. Kevin Mitchell beware: few have gone to war with a Spartan and survived.

Romans were famed for their bloodsports: click here to view a special video on London’s hidden past, including its incredible gladiatorial amphitheatre.