Tim Tszyu’s hand is raised after his victory over Terrell Gausha. (Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime)
Australian junior middleweight Tim Tszyu had been due to challenge Jermell Charlo for the undisputed championship in Las Vegas on January 28. However, those plans were put on hold when Charlo broke his left hand in training camp.
Tszyu, rated No. 3 at 154 pounds by The Ring, was understandably frustrated at the delay.
“At this level, there’s a lot of waiting. Some of it necessary and a lot of it isn’t; just politics and stuff,” Tszyu (21-0, 15 knockouts) told The Ring.
“I have been itching to get my hands on [Charlo] for months, once it was confirmed, so I was a little disappointed to find out the shot at undisputed would have to wait again after hearing he broke his hand. But that’s the fight game sometimes. It’s just delaying the inevitable for me, as I will be undisputed.”
The 28-year-old son of former undisputed junior welterweight titlist Kostya Tszyu didn’t want to sit around and was keen to get back into the ring.
“I haven’t been in the ring for a year, so I’ve got itchy knuckles,” he admitted. “Of course I could have sat on my arse like most fighters in my position would, but that’s not me. It’s my job. I’m a fighter, and fighters need to fight.”
In that spirit, Tszyu decided to face the only man to have beaten Charlo: Tony Harrison, who held the WBC 154-pound title from 2018-19.
Harrison will also be the best opponent the unbeaten Australian has fought so far, and Tszyu knows he’s taking a gamble by facing the experienced Detroit native at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on Sunday (Saturday evening in the U.S.).
“He’s tall, got a good jab, is slick and hard to hit, as he’s always moving,” Tszyu said of Harrison. “A different type of opponent to anyone I’ve ever faced before, and I think he’s actually got superior boxing skills than me.
“I know it’s going to be a tough fight because he wants the same thing I want, and that’s Charlo for all the belts. He’s got better skills than Charlo, for me, and he’s a lot happier too. Charlo’s always a grumpy man.”
To help him prepare for the task at hand, Tszyu has been all over the world testing himself.
“I’ve been in camp for months now,” he said. “I’ve been to Thailand twice for conditioning. I spent nine weeks in L.A. and then Vegas getting the best quality rounds you can find, and then brought two big strong boys out (his sparring partners included Charles Conwell, D’Mitrius Ballard and Justin and Jason Bell), to keep that work up when I got back to Australia, a few weeks back. My level has never been higher and I’m looking forward to the world seeing that work pay off.”
The last time we saw Tszyu, he made his American debut by beating 2012 Olympian Terrell Gausha, though had to get off the canvas in the opening round to do so.
“It really couldn’t have come at a better time in the fight and my career to be honest,” he said. “Everyone talks about the knockdown and judges me off that, but they forget what I did to him after that. I dominated him. He even said it himself, what I put him through. If they want to judge me off that, then that’s fine, but they should be watching my next fight.”
This also marks the first fight Tszyu has had in his homeland since he shut out Takeshi Inoue in November 2021. He expects his countrymen to turn out in force when he faces Harrison.
“I don’t think people overseas fully appreciate what we do down here and how big of an event we make it,” he said. “The stadiums are packed and the shows are insane. It makes me pumped thinking about it, as the place is going to be wild.
“I hope Tony enjoys the reception he gets when he walks out, because when he steps in the ring, it’s all over for him.”
Tszyu then expects to turn his attention back to the long-awaited showdown with Charlo.
“I’m not hoping; I know I will face Charlo next,” he said. “It’s undisputed at all costs. Tony is just another name on my journey to get there.
“[I will face Charlo in the] middle of the year, back in Vegas. That’s what I’ve been told, and that’s what I’m expecting. A big fight in Las Vegas has always been a dream of mine, from a little kid.
“We had a slight delay from the dream becoming reality, but it’s only a matter of time. And that’s ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”
Harrison (29-3-1, 21 KOs), The Ring-rated No. 4 junior middleweight, was a protege of the late, great Emanuel Steward early in his career. However, after Steward’s passing, he had to find his own path.
In his first world title attempt, the skilled boxer-puncher was stopped by Jarrett Hurd (TKO 9) when he fought for the vacant IBF belt. However, he surprised Charlo by sticking to his game plan and claiming a close and controversial decision. Harrison was stopped in the direct rematch. In his comeback, the now-32-year-old struggled with Bryant Perrella (D 12) but looked to be back to his best when he won a lopsided decision over Sergio Garcia (UD 10).
Tszyu-Harrison will be broadcast live on Showtime on Saturday evening at 10:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. PT.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].