Tim Tszyu makes maiden title defense vs Brian Mendoza as he waits for Jermell Charlo
Rising Australian star Tim Tszyu will return to action for the third time this year when he puts his WBO junior middleweight title on the line for the first time against big-punching Brian Mendoza at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia, on Sunday (Saturday in the U.S.)
Tszyu, rated at No. 1 by The Ring at junior middleweight, had been due to face then undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo earlier this year. But when the Texan was sidelined with an injury for an extended period, Tszyu elected to stay busy and impressively beat Tony Harrison (TKO 9) and then ran through Carlos Ocampo (KO 1).
Ultimately, Charlo decided to jump two divisions and face boxing’s biggest star Canelo Alvarez, which led to Tszyu being upgraded from his interim WBO status to full champion – and now he faces Mendoza as regular titlist.
“It’s a fight that excites me as with Charlo running off and doing his thing against Canelo for the cash,” Tszyu (23-0, 17 knockouts) told The Ring. “Mendoza was the only other guy in the division worth (fighting).
“He’s been my sole focus, I’m locked into taking him out and moving forward again. From what I’ve seen, his style can be awkward at times, and he throws from different angles, but I’m eager to unpack it on October 15th.
“I was hopeful the WBC would follow the WBO and elevate Mendoza, so we could unify but it is what it is and it’s still fight that fight fans are excited to see.”
The eldest son of former undisputed junior welterweight Kostya, will be hoping to make another statement when he faces his American opponent but admits despite a quick knockout against Ocampo last time he didn’t go in with that intention.
“Not at all,” he said. “I had trained hard and worked on lots, fully expecting a war with him but I’m not complaining it ended it the fashion it did.
“I knew I rocked him early and then saw red and was swinging wildly but once I came through the red haze and slowed down it was only a matter of time because I was seeing things so clearly.
“You never fully plan on how the fight may end but I loved every bit of it. So did everyone in the arena and around the world. We all want those highlight reel moments and that one will be replayed for a long time.”
Despite trading several barbs over the months with Charlo, Tszyu holds no ill-will toward him and understands why the Texan decided to go down that avenue as opposed to face him.
“I’ve said it a few times already but I can’t blame the guy. It was a business decision,” he said. “If the phone had rung and they had offered me to fight Canelo, I would have said, ‘Yes’ in a heartbeat.
“So, it was win-win for him as he got paid and got to keep most his belts at 154, so a loss didn’t mean anything to him. Whereas fighting me would’ve been career ending as it was for less money I would’ve taken all the belts away.”
That said 28-year-old was very disappointed with what some labelled as a non-effort from Charlo.
“I thought Charlo was terrible,” he said pulling no punches. “Canelo figured him out in one round and that was all she wrote. [Charlo] talked a big game and called himself a lion but he seriously looked scared in there, like a cub.
“I’ll give him respect for surviving a full 12-rounds with Canelo but man, I fully expected him to have a better go. He had the chance to make history handed to him on a platter and ultimately he crumbled. He didn’t adapt to anything his corner was telling him either, it was so weird man. It was frustrating as while I was watching it, all I could think was that it should’ve been me giving him that lesson, not Canelo.”
While Charlo still holds The Ring championship and three other sanctioning body belts, Tszyu hopes to add more hardware to his collection whether it’s against Charlo or someone else.
“Mendoza first and then mega-fights,” he said. “Who knows how long that bloke Charlo is going to need to take this time after that performance, but knowing him it’ll be another 12 months and I’m not waiting around. Titles will come but I want the big names on my resume. I’m not waiting for anyone.”
Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs), rated at No. 3 by The Ring at junior middleweight, won his first 18 fights before tasting defeat against Larry Gomez (SD 8). After beating Thomas LaManna (UD 10), he suffered another reverse, this time against Jesus Ramos (UD 10).
Unperturbed, the 29-year-old Albuquerque native got back to winning ways as a late substitute, stunning former unified titleholder Jeison Rosario (KO 5), and most recently he scored a dramatic come from behind knockout over previously unbeaten Sebastian Fundora (KO 7).
Tszyu is on the crest of a wave and seems to have stepped up his game this year. He’s enjoyed two stoppage wins and I expect him to continue to build on that momentum. Mendoza is tough but will get stopped in the later stages of the fight.
Tszyu-Mendoza, plus Sam Goodman-Miguel Flores, will be broadcast on Showtime at 10:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].