On November 3, 2001, Kostya Tszyu delivered what may have been the greatest performance of his Hall of Fame boxing career when he knocked out Zab Judah at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas in the second round to win the undisputed super lightweight world championship. .
Just over 20 years later, the opportunity for his son, Tim, to accomplish a similar feat was robbed of him when undisputed super-welterweight champion Jermell Charlo broke his hand in training. Charlo was scheduled to fight Tim Tszyu at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Mandalay Bay, directly across from where his father achieved his greatest boxing glory.
At the kickoff press conference to announce his fight with Charlo, Tim Tszyu noted that it not only comes 21 years after his father won the undisputed title, but also 23 years to the day after his father defeated Jake. Rodriguez to win his first title.
There was a certain kind of vibe on that date that made Tszyu feel like the stars were aligning for him. But he ignored and didn’t hesitate when Tony Harrison was offered as a replacement.
So they will fight Saturday (10:45 a.m. ET, Showtime) with no belt on the line but for the right to be Charlo’s mandatory and next.
Tim Tszyu, who is 28 with a 21-0 record and 15 knockouts, was not looking for an easy win to occupy himself. He wanted a tough opponent and he got it.
“I was really devastated,” Tszyu said of his reaction when he learned of Charlo’s injury. “I was devastated because it was such a big opportunity. … But you have to realize that there are so many more issues you face in life than that. It’s just a small hurdle. I’m at this higher level now where there are plenty of adversaries, there’s no point in crying over things like that.
“[Harrison] is a little faster and longer. They have some similarities but I think Harrison has more boxing skills.”
Tszyu spent most of his life boxing because of his father, and he came to learn things about the game that helped him as he got closer to the top.
He does not allow himself to be annoyed or disturbed by things beyond his control. He adapts when necessary and is not one to worry about his opponents before a fight.
“Honestly, man, for me, every fight I have is me against me,” he said. “I’m trying to improve all the time and be better than I was. It’s not based on who’s in front of me. I feel like if I keep working and m ‘improve, I’ll be able to handle anything that may come my way.”
Tszyu’s father was a notoriously determined and focused fighter. He was intense not just from start to finish of a fight, but from start to finish of a training camp. Tim Tszyu was just 3 months old when his father won a world title for the first time and was 11 when his father lost to Ricky Hatton in 2005 and retired.
So he didn’t have a good idea of what was going on in his father’s career, but just being born into boxing and being with his father helped him understand the rocky road that the fighters borrow. This has been positive for him as he himself has fought for fame in the sport.
“Being there really didn’t have much of an impact on me in terms of dealing with the media and the spotlight and all that kind of stuff,” Tim Tszyu said. “I think it’s something you have to experience on your own to figure it out and how to deal with it. But from a boxing perspective, being able to see the highs, the lows, the truths about boxing, it gave me a better picture of what it is.”
He will face a highly motivated opponent when he meets Harrison. Harrison defeated Charlo on December 22, 2018, but was stopped in the 11th of their rematch on December 21, 2019, when he was leading on two of three cards.
A win over Tszyu would give him the rubber match with Charlo he’s been chasing for over three years.
“I’m here on a mission,” Harrison said. “My only focus is Tim Tszyu. I’m extremely confident in my abilities and in my training, but I know Tim is going to be tough competition. I can’t wait to see the crowd there to support him, because I I’m not going to give them any choice but to love me too. Hopefully he’s ready for a grueling 12 rounds, because I’m ready to go for as long as he can go.”