Tim Tszyu eyes undisputed championship bout, but hasn't lost focus on Tony Harrison
On Nov. 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.
A little over 20 years later, the opportunity for his son, Tim, to accomplish a similar feat was stolen from him when undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo broke a hand in training. Charlo had been set to fight Tim Tszyu at Mandalay Bay's Michelob Ultra Arena, just across the street from where his father achieved his greatest boxing glory.
At the kickoff news conference to announce his fight with Charlo, Tim Tszyu noted that it came not only 21 years after his Dad 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 to that date that made Tszyu feel the stars were aligning for him. But he shrugged it off and didn't hesitate when Tony Harrison was offered as a replacement.
So they'll fight on Saturday (10:45 ET, Showtime) with no belt on the line but for the right to be Charlo's mandatory and next up.
Tim Tszyu, who is 28 with a 21-0 record and 15 knockouts, wasn't looking for an easy win to keep himself busy. 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, there are so many more problems you face in life than this. It's just a little hurdle. I'm at that top level now where there are plenty of opponents. There's no point crying about things like this.
"[Harrison] is a bit quicker and rangier. They have some similarities but I think Harrison has more boxing skills."
Tszyu has been around boxing most of his life because of his father, and he came to learn things about the game that have helped him as he's moved closer to the top.
He doesn't let himself get annoyed or bothered by things out of his control. He adjusts when necessary and isn't one to worry about his opponents much before a fight.
"Honestly, man, for me, each fight I take it's me versus me," he said. "I try to improve myself all the time and be better than what I was. It's not based upon who is in front of me. I feel like if I keep working and improving myself, I'll be able to handle whatever may come my way."
Tszyu's father was a notoriously determined and focused fighter. He was intense not only from start to finish of a fight but from start to finish of a training camp. Tim Tszyu was only 3 months old when his father first won a world title and was 11 when his Dad lost to Ricky Hatton in 2005 and retired.
So he didn't get a good sense of what was going on in his Dad's career, but just being born into boxing and being around his father helped him understand the rocky road that fighters ride. It's been a positive for him as he's fought his way himself into prominence in the sport.
"Being around it really hasn't made much of an impact on me in terms of dealing with the media and the spotlight and all of that kind of thing," Tim Tszyu said. "I think that's something that you have to experience for yourself to understand it and how to deal with it. But from a boxing perspective, being able to see the ups, the downs, the truths about boxing, it gave me a better picture of what it is."
He'll face a highly motivated opponent when he meets Harrison. Harrison defeated Charlo on Dec. 22, 2018, but was stopped in the 11th of their rematch on Dec. 21, 2019, when leading on two of the three cards.
A win over Tszyu would give him the rubber match with Charlo that's he's been chasing the last three-plus years.
"I'm here on a mission,” Harrison said. “My only focus is on 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 all out there to support him, because I'm going to give them no choice but to love me too. I hope he's ready for 12 grueling rounds, because I'm ready to go as long as he can last."