The evolution of Tim Tszyu
Tim Tszyu confirmed that while his bark is pretty impressive, it’s nothing compared to his bite with a weekend drubbing over fringe contender Carlos Ocampo.
Tszyu, who impressively stopped former titlist Tony Harrison (TKO 9) in March, stayed busy against Ocampo. The Mexican was expected to put up some resistance. He didn’t. Tszyu was too good and blew through Ocampo in 77 seconds of the opening round.
It was a statement to the junior middleweight division, particularly the undisputed champion Jermell Charlo.
Tszyu (23-0, 17 knockouts), the son of former undisputed junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu, is cut from the same cloth of his father. There are certain traits that have been passed from father to son but, while inside the ring, Tim has his own style, he has his old man’s old-school, desire-to-be-great attitude that drives him to be the best he can.
Tszyu won 32 of 33 amateur contests before he turned professional in late 2016. He surrounded himself with some of the same people who worked with his father, like Igor Goloubev – who is also Tim’s uncle – and longtime friend and confidant Glen Jennings. However Kostya has always been noticeably absent from his son’s corner. It was by design; the father didn’t want to add pressure and stayed in Russia, letting his son find his own path, unlike many famous boxing fathers, who frankly suffocate their sons and make certain situations about themselves, not wanting to cede the spotlight.
As Tszyu moved his way through the ranks, he stayed active and developed and improved his game.
He was primed to break out when COVID-19 hit, which meant he spent several months on the sidelines. When he returned in August 2020, he bashed up former welterweight titlist Jeff Horn in eight rounds and sent the one-time Manny Pacquiao conqueror into retirement.
Notable wins followed over Dennis Hogan (TKO 5) and iron-jawed Takeshi Inoue (UD 12).
Tszyu headed to America and fought respected Terrell Gausha. It proved an interesting learning experience. The Australian had to get off the canvas in the opening round and make adjustments to win a harder-than-expected 12-round unanimous decision.
At that point, Tszyu was due to be next for Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), who became undisputed champion two months later by scoring a highly impressive stoppage over Brian Castano (KO 10) in their rematch.
It was announced several months in advance that Charlo and Tszyu would meet on January 28, 2023. However, a month before the fight, Charlo suffered a broken hand. With the fight taking longer to come about than Tszyu was satisfied with, he decided to take the initiative and fight.
He selected the only man to have beaten Charlo, Tony Harrison, who headed to Australia for a fight in March. It was a dangerous move. Harrison was widely regarded as the best fighter Tszyu had faced to date. In the eyes of some, it was foolhardy.
Tszyu was not among them. He rose to the occasion and came on strong in the middle rounds to stop Harrison for a career-best win. The victory helped cement his position as the No. 1 contender to Charlo’s 154-pound throne.
Next up: Charlo. Right? Wrong. Still radio silence from the champion.
The WBO announced that Charlo had until September to defend its championship against Tszyu. It was the only sanctioning body to put the Texan on the clock.
Tszyu could have easily sat and waited. That’s not who he is however; he’s a real fighter. And while on holiday, in Europe, after the Harrison win, instead of enjoying his time away, he cut short his trip to return home to train.
It was then announced that Tszyu would face Ocampo. He was a respectable opponent. Save being taken out by Errol Spence Jr., Ocampo had usually been pretty solid. He wasn’t expected to win but at least provide rounds.
An extra layer of intrigue was added when fight was thrown into doubt after Tszyu suffered a nasty bite from a pit bull in late May. Tszyu was quick to dispel and allay those fears and announced the fight was still on.
Tszyu decided to start fast and hurt Ocampo inside 40 seconds and quickly dropped his opponent. Shortly afterward, a second knockdown followed, courtesy of a vicious left hook. The fight was instantly called off. Mission accomplished; message sent.
The 28-year-old deserves huge credit; many fighters would have waited for their shots. Tszyu has stayed busy, fought twice and became a better, more-rounded fighter for it.
Ask yourself, going into the projected January fight, who did you think would win, Charlo or Tszyu? I liked Charlo and I suspect many of you did too.
Now things have evened up. Tszyu has been active, fighting twice, while Charlo has been inactive for 13 months now and no return is in sight.
You’d expect that Charlo-Tszyu is next but, until it’s a done deal, you never know. Maybe Charlo vacates his WBO title or is stripped and faces someone else for the other titles he holds. Maybe he moves up in weight.
Hopefully neither of those things happen because Charlo-Tszyu would be an excellent fight between two fighters who like to exchange and throw down inside the ring.
The added spice is that both fighters appear to have real distain for each other.
After bludgeoning Ocampo, Tszyu told Ben Damon, of Fox Sports Australia, “I’ve got this [WBO] interim belt but I’m not satisfied, I want all four [world titles]. But it’s not just the belts, I literally just want the name ‘Charlo’ on my resume.”
What makes this potential bout more intriguing is both have nasty sides that bring out their best inside the ring, when pushed.
A meeting between both men would bring out their best and let us know just how good Tszyu really is.
For now, Charlo is still the big dog at junior middleweight but we know Tszyu isn’t content to let sleeping dogs lie. He wants his opportunity and he wants it now.