I WANT TO HELP YOU MATE. It was those six words that led to Michael Katsidis packing his bags and moving back to Toowoomba. And no it wasn’t Brendon Smith saying those words to Michael Katsidis – it was the other way around.
It’s been well documented what Smith has been through with the loss of his son. For many of us it’s a feeling we can’t even imagine let alone understand. That’s not the case for Michael Katsidis – he knows EXACTLY what Brendon Smith is dealing with.
In 2010, just weeks before the biggest fight of his career, against future hall of famer Juan Manuel Marquez, Michael’s older sibling Stathi was found dead in his Brisbane home. The man who delivered the news – Brendon Smith.
“That was the most gut wrenching, heart breaking, world shattering moment of my life,” Michael Katsidis said.
“We were in Thailand and I was on the beach recovering after a big training session the night before and preparing for training that morning. Brendon called me and asked me to meet him immediately at the training camp.
“I saw him coming towards me and I could see the look in his eyes – something terrible had just happened.
“When he told me Stathi had died, I slumped to the ground, I bellowed in sadness it was the most shocking moment of my life.
“Who was beside me to deal with the grief and emotional roller coaster that occurred for the following days, weeks and months – Brendon Smith.
“If it wasn’t for him, it’s scary to think what could’ve happened to me.
“He was my shoulder to cry on, the voice of reason, the voice of hope – my salvation.
“I have never forgotten that and I never will.
“Now it’s my turn to return the favour.” Katsidis said.
Not only has Katsidis been close to Brendon Smith for a large majority of his life but he was also close to Braydon Smith. Katsidis spent so much time with the Smith family – Michael was viewed as a big brother to Brayd and his younger siblings Tanner and Noah.
“I know exactly what Brendon and his family are going through right now,” Katsidis said.
“To lose a loved one, suddenly – is a pain indescribable, you can’t put it into words.
“That’s why I’m here, I know first hand there really isn’t anything anyone can say to make the situation better, but I can be there like he was for me when I lost Stathi.
“I have to be there as a shoulder to cry on, I need to be there if he needs someone to talk to, I need to be the best person I can be to help a man who did more than anyone will ever know to help me…and I’m not talking about boxing I’m talking about in life.
Brendon Smith admits he was overwhelmed by the gesture.
“Michael Katsidis has always had a very big heart and a very kind heart,” Smith said.
“He has helped me a lot since Brayd passed, we’ve talked nearly every day – now to have him back in Toowoomba is an example of his kind heartedness.
“When Michael heard of the death of Brayd he flew straight from Melbourne to Brisbane – even though he had a fight that week.
“He was bed side with Brayd and it was a very touching moment.
“The next day he flew back to Melbourne, re-grouped for his bout – he even walked out to Brayd’s entrance music, then the next morning flew back to Toowoomba for the funeral.
“Michael was always very good to Brayd and Brayd looked up to Michael.” Smith said.
Ironically Katsidis says he looked up to Brayd.
“I used to look at him and think – this kid is amazing,” Katsidis said.
“I watched him grow up from a little boy into a man and as a man – you couldn’t find any better.
“I definitely looked up to him and wished I was more like him.
“I tried to guide him in the right direction and advise him not only in the ring but outside the ring as well.
“I used to say to him use my mistakes as examples to avoid.
“The reality is – he didn’t need any guidance, he had such a good head on his shoulders.
“As a teenager he was in Vegas when I fought Marquez, he was in camp with me several times in Thailand.
“When I fought Michael Lozada on the Gold Coast in 2011 Brayd made his debut on the undercard then walked with me to the ring carrying my World title belt.
“That was very special, it was my first fight back in Australia for five years and on the same night a new star was born – Brayd Smith.
“When I heard about Brayd, it took me back to the day Brendon delivered the news to me about Stathi.
“I didn’t think twice I came straight up from Melbourne to see Brendon, Brayd and his family at the PA hospital in Brisbane.
“At least I got to say a final goodbye.” Katsidis said.
The death of Braydon Smith has had a major impact on so many lives – Michael Katsidis one of them.
“My life went off the tracks after I lost Stathi,” Katsidis said.
“Brendon did everything possible to keep me on the tracks but honestly I was a train wreck and it was hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.
“I really struggled to come to terms with everything.” Katsidis said
Is it any coincidence when Katsidis mentions he ‘went off the tracks’ with it went his boxing.
Between Toowoomba, the Gold Coast, Sydney. Melbourne and Los Angeles he became a bit of a nomad. He crashed to four losses in five bouts. His career seemingly spiraling in the wrong direction.
Then seeing his former mentor and great friend Brendon Smith lose his son in the very sport that made him a World wide hero – reality hit home hard.
“It’s hard to explain,” Katsidis said.
“What it did do is make me understand – it’s not just me that tragedy occurs to, it’s not just me that has to live the rest of my life with a piece missing.
“When you lose some one close to you nothing is ever the same and Brendon summed it up perfectly – you don’t get over it but you get through it.
“In life we all have a calling, we all have the opportunity to help some one in need – now it’s my duty and that’s what matters to me.”
Michael Katsidis is a hardened warrior. His deeds in the ring – legendary. His heart and courage – unmatched. But you know this situation proves once again to be bigger than boxing. In the ring Katsidis has hit the deck, he’s risen to his feet and put his gloves up ready to fight again – but that’s just sport.
Step into reality and back into the biggest ‘game’ of all – Life. Like he did in the ring, in life Michael Katsidis has been dealt some ‘knock out blows’ yes he’s risen and attempted to move forward again – sometimes he’s taken a few steps backwards, other times sidewards – this time he can only see one way – forwards.
“You know what boxing doesn’t matter when you really think about it,” Katsidis said.
“There is more to life, a few online media outlets have jumped the gun saying Brendon and I are back together, that’s not what this is about.
“I’m here to help a great friend of mine – Brendon Smith.
“I’m here to help him deal with what he’s going through the way he did for me when I lost Stathi.
“He’s got a gym full of great fighters preparing for fights, If I can assist in their preparation – I’m happy to do so.
“Whatever Brendon wants in or out of the ring I’m happy to do.
“I would love nothing more than to see all of the Smithy’s TGW Gym fighters fighting out of the orange corner win on the night..
“They all have big fights and I will be the best sparring partner I can be for them all.
“What direction my own boxing career takes – we will wait and see, I’m sure it will take care of itself.
“I didn’t come home because of boxing, I came home to prove to myself and everyone I can be a better person.” Katsidis said.
Katsidis has won World titles, he’s earned big money, he’s had his face splashed all over the world wide media he’s done things no Australian boxer has ever done before. That’s all great.. but is there any greater prize then extending a helping hand to some one in need? is there any greater prize than knowing you actually made a difference in some one’s life? Is there any greater gift than the selfless act of putting some else ahead of yourself or to simplify it in aussie terms – ‘help a mate.’
“After I beat Graham Earl in England for my first World title I said a few words that captured a lot of attention – If my heart was big enough I would give it to the World.
“Brayd had a bigger heart than me and he did give it to the World.
“Now it’s my turn.
” I will give my heart to Brendon Smith, his family, his gym and my home town of Toowoomba.” Katsidis said.