Wednesday, April 14, 2021  |

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Dougie’s Friday Mailbag (Tim Tszyu, Dillian Whyte)

Photo courtesy of Sky Sports
02
Apr

TIM TSZYU

HI Dougie,

All the best to you and yours from me and mine. Talk about feeling old – one of my favorite fighters of a few years ago, Kostya Tszyu, has a 26-year-old son in the championship mix. It all goes by so quickly.

When I read the article before his fight with Dennis Hogan, I thought he was presented as unfocused, talking about future big fights before taking care of the business at hand. Not a good sign, I thought, a prescription for a problem. One step at a time. I don’t know much about him, but he took care of Hogan despite the damage from an early head butt.

I’m curious as to your take on Tszyu. I know he’s ranked in the top ten at junior middleweight, but could he realistically beat Charlo, Hurd, or Lara? He seems to want Brian Castano next. Is his plan to beat him, and then go on to the other big names?

Does he go up in weight and grab the golden Canelo ring? Thanks for all you do and making Mondays and Fridays special. – Ken Kozberg, Oakham, MA

Thanks for the kind words, Ken. It’s fine for the New Tszyu to look past Dennis Hogan, it’s even OK for him to target Brian Castano, but there’s no way that he or his handlers should be thinking about going up in weight to challenge Canelo. As talented as Timmy is, I doubt he could even spar with the super middleweight champ.

But he’s a force to be reckoned with at junior middleweight, where he’s currently No. 9 in The Ring’s rankings (he’s No. 1 in the WBO, which is why he’s aiming for Castano, and No. 3 with the IBF), and I’m enjoying watching his rise and development. I hope to one day witness one of his fights from ringside.

Tzsyu scored a spectacular second-round knockout of Judah (left) in 2001. Photo from The Ring archive.

I’m curious as to your take on Tszyu. Well, you know I’m an insane Kostya Tszyu fan. I was fascinating with Timmy’s old man before the former Russian amateur star ever fought in the U.S. I was ride or die with the Australia adoptee even after his lost to Vince Philips (who I knew fairly well at the time) and a big believer in prior to his title bouts vs. Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah. (Hard to believe that Tszyu was in the middle of his 140-pound title unification quest 20 years ago.) So, obviously, I’ve been aware of Tim’s boxing aspirations since the young man turned pro in 2016, and he’s advanced from prospect to legitimate contender, my interest has grown. I like what I see. He’s got his father’s form and rhythm, as well as his old man’s penchant for an economical offense made up of hard, accurate punches (especially to the body). However, he’s still a work in progress. He doesn’t have his father’s balance or footwork, and it doesn’t seem like he’s as physically strong at 154 as his father was at 140, so he’s going to have to develop his own style to suit his talents and strengths.

Tszyu (right) mixes it up with Jeff Horn. Photo courtesy of Sky Sports

I know he’s ranked in the top ten at junior middleweight, but could he realistically beat Charlo, Hurd, or Lara? Not this year, but if continues to improve at the rate he’s currently developing at he could have a realistic shot 12-24 months from now. At the present time, I wouldn’t be shocked if he had his hands full with a seasoned veteran like Brandon Adams or talented prospect like Charles Conwell. Remember: Tim is a bit of a late-comer to boxing and he only has 18 bouts under his belt. He didn’t have an extensive, elite-level amateur career like his father, who had proven to be the best 139-pound boxer in the world before he turned pro. Tim has only recently stepped up to facing fringe contender-level opposition, beginning with Jeff Horn last year.

He seems to want Brian Castano next. Understandable, given his WBO ranking, but I think Castano has bigger fish to fry and is aiming for an undisputed championship showdown with Jermell Charlo. Timmy might have to be patient.

Is his plan to beat him, and then go on to the other big names? That’s pretty much how boxing works – or is supposed to work – but he’s gotta take it one step at a time. He needs to beat at least one legit top-10 contender before he goes for the glory.

 

MANAGING/MATCHMAKING FOR TIM TSZYU

Doug,

The Tim Tszyu train is picking up more and more passengers each day now. If you were his management, what would his next 4-5 fights look like? – Gordon

Prior to beating Dennis Hogan, Tim told Anson Wainwright that he’ll be watching the Liam Smith-Magomed Kurbanov fight (May 8) “very closely.” I think the Smith-Kurbanov winner would represent a decent step up in opposition, especially if it’s Smith. Both are tough and crafty, and Smith brings a lot of world-class experience to the ring. Smith would also be a good matchup for Tim’s UK debut (provided COVID-19 crowd restrictions have eased up by that time); likewise for Kurbanov in Russia, which would be a sort of homecoming.

Former 154-pound titleholder Tony Harrison could give Tim Tszyu a good test. Photo by Chris Farina – Mayweather Promotions

I’d want to get Tszyu quality rounds, so I’d look for a tough-but-limited badass – somebody like Carlos Adames or Ted Cheesemen – guaranteed to bring the fight to him. Tszyu will ultimately outclass him but he’ll have to either exhibit defensive prowess and ring generalship to avoid a fire fight, or he’ll have to prove that he can overpower him. If he passes with flying colors I’d look for an American former titleholder with a name, like Austin Trout, who is as experienced and game as they come but clearly faded. This would be more of a showcase fight, especially if it’s Tszyu’s U.S. debut. Then I’d go have Timmy go after a former titleholder closer to his prime, like Tony Harrison or Jessie Vargas, veterans who have guts but can also switch up their styles from aggressive to crafty and tactical. If he can successfully run this gauntlet, I’d have no problem with him forcing a mandatory challenge to Charlo, Castano, Lara or whoever holds the major 154-pound titles a year or two from now.   

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR DILLIAN?

Hello Doug,

I hope you are well.

Going to get down to the nitty-gritty, I think people are taking a lot away from Dillian Whyte by blaming covid on his defeat of Povetkin. Personally I believe Whyte did his job, he had him rattled from the first round, bided his time and got him out of there. The question now is what for Whyte next? On our shores there is talk of Wilder, personally I can’t see that happening, I don’t see Wilder fighting at all in the near future. He is definitely amongst the big three names in the heavyweight division and it would take a brave man to bet against him. I would like to see him take on Hunter next. That would be a fun fight.

My question is, say he does fight Hunter or anyone else for that matter or even sits on his ranking (he won’t) and he beats them, he had over a thousand days ranked number 1 one with the WBC up until the Povetkin KO, he will potentially have another 730 days (or another two years) waiting for his chance to come around again. That’s 5 years in total, ranked number one without a title shot. Is that some sort of record?

Hopefully Frampton does the business as well this weekend out in Dubai. Cheers. – Damo, Bolton, England

I’m looking forward to watching Herring-Frampton live on ESPN+, and hoping for a good fight. I hate to see either man lose because they are both among the nicest, classiest active boxers in the sport. I wish them both luck.

Regarding Whyte, I agree that many fans (and even some media) are hesitant to give him his due credit. I think that comes down to his loud, sometimes boastful and blustering boxing persona. It rubs some folks the wrong way. But I’m a Whyte fan. I think he’s put together an impressive ledger since his bold stand against Anthony Joshua 5½ years ago) and I like how he handled the KO loss to Povetkin. He owned it, got back to work in the gym (with the added guidance of Harold Knight, who was part of Lennox Lewis’ team, proving that UK heavyweights utilize American coaching talent better than U.S. fighters) and then took care of business in the immediate rematch.

Sonny Liston had to wait a long time to get his shot at Floyd Patterson.
Photo by The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Regarding his thousand days as the WBC’s No. 1 contender and potentially waiting another 700 or so while Fury and Joshua (and probably Wilder) settle their business, understand that being the No. 1 contender is not always the same thing as “mandatory challenger status.” Regardless, Whyte’s been in line for a shot at the green belt for a long time. I’m not sure it’s a record. God only knows how long Archie Moore had to wait to get a shot at the light heavyweight title. Sonny Liston was the top heavyweight by the end of 1959 (or at least by mid-1960) but he was avoided by Floyd Patterson (or more accurately, Patterson’s trainer/manager, Cus D’Amato) and he had to wait until Floyd finished up his trilogy with Ingemar Johansson (June 1959-March 1961); he didn’t get his shot until September 1962. Marvin Hagler was the No. 1 middleweight contender by mid-to-late 1977 but wouldn’t get a shot until November 1979 (after Massachusetts politicians threatened to investigate boxing; and he still got jobbed by the judges). Juan Manuel Marquez was the mandatory challenger for Naseem Hamed’s WBO featherweight title for at least two years, and he was never granted a shot. I know it’s little consolation to Whyte, but he’s in quality company.

 

CLAY/ALI QUESTION

Hello,

I was reading the April ’21 issue and the reprinted articles made me wonder, when was the first time The Ring referred to Ali as Ali and not as Clay? And who was the first author in your pages to do so? Was there an editorial meeting or consensus that led to it?

With regards. – Sean

That’s good question, Sean. It looks like The Ring referred to Muhammad Ali as Cassius Clay on covers, in articles and in the rankings until late 1972. By 1973, he was only referred to as Ali (even if readers called him “Clay” in their letters to the editor, the editorial response would refer to him as Ali).

Ring Magazine still referred to Ali as Clay in the early 1970s.

I could be wrong, but I think recognition of Ali’s Muslim name was made official after founder/publisher/editor-in-chief Nat Fleischer passed away in 1972 and Nat Loubet took over as the new EIC. I don’t think Fleischer (or the old guard writer/editors, such as Dan Daniel) had anything against Ali (indeed, they continued to recognize him as the heavyweight champ for years after the sanctioning bodies and commissions stripped him of that status and banned him from the sport). Fleischer in particular was a staunch supporter of African-American boxers going back to the era of Sam Langford, Jack Johnson and Joe Gans. In the 1930s, he published a book on the history of African-American prize fighters titled Black Dynamite: The Story of the Negro in Boxing. However, I don’t think Fleischer and his peers knew what to make of the National of Islam and Ali’s name change. They probably viewed it as a separatist cult and Ali’s involvement in it as a “phase.”

 

BIN THE BELTS

Hi Dougie,

I’m writing in after listening to the fight disciple podcast, they are big on throwing all the belts in the bin and just using the Ring Belt.

It would be amazing if after the AJ v Fury fight the winner throws the belts in the bin. Would it spark the various organisations to look at themselves as they would lose the sanctioning fees as well as 2 of the biggest stars in boxing?

Could it happen?

Eddie has been quite vocal about it with mandatories, etc. and no one knows what Tyson will do. Then we have Canelo at the end of 2021 holding all the belts at SMW he may wonder if the sanctioning fees are worth paying.

What are your thoughts?

It would certainly make the front pages of the papers which boxing rarely does nowadays. – AndyT

Hmmmmm… it would make the front pages of the papers in the U.K., but I doubt the Fury-Joshua fight itself will make the front pages of U.S. papers, never mind the winner of the heavyweight championship showdown abdicating all of the sanctioning body titles. I’m afraid the business of boxing has interfered so much with the sport of boxing over the decades that the American mainstream media gave up on it many years ago.

It would be amazing if after the AJ v Fury fight the winner throws the belts in the bin. That would be quite a statement within the boxing world, and I think it would be embraced by the fans provided the winner remained relatively active vs. quality challengers.

Would it spark the various organisations to look at themselves as they would lose the sanctioning fees as well as 2 of the biggest stars in boxing? They’d feel the burn in their pockets, but that would just encourage them to hurry up and crown their own heavyweight titleholders as soon as possible. I don’t think they’d change much, if at all. Maybe the WBC would vow to encourage more unifications, but what good is that if the other three sanctioning bodies do their own thing? I think all four would just grin and bear it and wait for Fury or Joshua to lose or retire (all the while hoping to God that other unified champs don’t follow suit).

Could it happen? Sure it can. It’s been done before with lighter-weight fighters going back to Naseem Hamed and Marco Antonio Barrera. But I don’t think it’s been done by a heavyweight champ, although I think Lennox Lewis threatened doing so after his dubious draw with Evander Holyfield. But I can see Fury doing it because he’s already one all of the belts. He’s got them in his collection. If he beats AJ, he might just call himself the Greatest and then call it a career. Joshua might do it to save money and the headaches of “mis-mandatories.”

Then we have Canelo at the end of 2021 holding all the belts at SMW he may wonder if the sanctioning fees are worth paying. He might, but for now his goal is to collect all four major belts.

What are your thoughts? I’m not anti-sanctioning organization as long as their rankings and mandatory challengers aren’t crap and they’re not too eager to strip their belts from unified titleholders, however, I think the goal of EVERY world-class or potentially world-class boxer should be to earn the Ring Magazine championship belt. That’s the only title one needs to let the world know that he or she is THE champ.

 

THEY WOULD BE ‘CHAMPS’ IN THIS ERA

A lot of fans, myself included, believe that all these sanctioning bodies with all their different belts have watered down what it truly means to be a champion. It just seems to me, for example, that being heavyweight champ of the world doesn’t mean what it used to… am I right? For example, we’re already closing in on two years since Andy Ruiz Jr. STUNNED everyone with an upset over AJ. That was big and all… but… imagine if he’d pulled off that same upset against Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali or Rocky Marciano? There wouldn’t be a person in the world who didn’t know his name!

But by the same token, I feel like not only champions… but also contenders have been watered down. Am I right? I feel like there are guys who in the past were fated to be contenders that would be long-reigning champions if they were fighting today. Agree? If so, who are some you can think of? Off the top of my head, I want to say Sam Langford, Harry Wills, Ruben Castillo, and/or Oba Carr. Thoughts? – Gregory K.

Obviously, anyone in the IBHOF who didn’t win a world title back in their eras – old-time legends like Langford, Wills, Packey McFarland, Sam McVey, George Godfrey, the Gibbons brothers (Tommy and Mike) and Young Griffo – probably would have if they’d come around during a later decade with more opportunities. You can say the same for all those avoided African-American middleweight and light heavyweight contenders of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s that were part of “Murderer’s Row” (Lloyd Marshal, Holman Williams, Charley Burley, Jimmy Bivins, Bert Lytle, etc.) and never received a shot at the title during the one championship/eight-division era. They guys would be multi-belt/multi-division titleholders in this era.

In recent decades, Castillo and Carr are really good examples. Those guys could box their asses off. Unfortunately, the dudes who held titles in their weight classes at the time were monsters. Other names from the 1960s to the 1990s/early 2000s that come to mind include Jerry Quarry, Bennie Briscoe, Ron Lyle, Gypsy Joe Harris, Earnie Shavers, Ruben Navarro, Armando Muniz, Vilomar Fernandez, Willie Jensen, Andy Price, Randy Shields, Howard Davis Jr., Yaqui Lopez, Razor Rudduck, Harold Brazier, David Tua, Ivan Robinson and Angel Manfredy.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Dougie’s Periscope (almost) every Sunday.