Tim Tszyu.
Tim Tszyu was calculated and devastating in his defeat of Brian Mendoza on the Gold Coast. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS
  • boxing

Tszyu to chase unified world-title dream in Vegas

Darren Walton March 19, 2024

No looking back, Tim Tszyu is bent on creating the greatest family legacy in boxing history after sensationally earning the chance to emulate his legendary father as a unified world champion.

Tszyu will fight tricky tall timber Sebastian Fundora instead of injured fellow American Keith Thurman in his long-awaited Las Vegas debut, after the stakes were dramatically raised for the March 30 blockbuster.

The Tszyu-Thurman bout was to have been a non-title fight but, after a frantic night of negotiations, the undefeated Australian has the chance to add the WBC super-welterweight belt to the WBO strap he already possesses.

But Tszyu won’t have to place his WBO title on the line because he will square off with Fundora at 155 pounds – a pound above the traditional super-welterweight limit.

“It’s a more awkward fight but whoever they put in front of me, man, I really don’t care,” Tszyu said during a video call from the US on Tuesday.

“I’m fighting for the WBC and WBO at the same arena on the same platform.

“There was no hesitation. There was no reason for me to back out. I fear no man. I know I’m the best at 154.”

The dream opportunity comes 25 years after Kostya Tszyu scored a technical knockout victory over Mexican Miguel Angel Gonzalez in Miami to snare the vacant WBC super-lightweight title, having captured the IBF version in 1997.

Kostya Tszyu
 Kostya Tszyu during his unification win over Miguel Angel Gonzalez in 1999. Image by AP PHOTO 

“I haven’t really thought about it, but it’s pretty cool that it’s going to be a unification (bout). That doesn’t really happen often in boxing,” Tszyu said.

“So I guess that’s the next drive for me. We’re talking about the greatest boxing families to ever set foot on this earth.”

Team Tszyu, in Vegas preparing, had been left scrambling for an opponent when Thurman pulled out of the headline act on Sunday night US time after suffering a biceps injury in training.

A former unified welterweight champion, Thurman has fought just once since losing to the great Manny Pacquiao in July 2019.

The 35-year-old’s future in the sport now looks increasingly uncertain.

Not so Tszyu’s after No Limit Boxing boss George Ross secured the Fundora fight in a huge twist for the 29-year-old.

Nicknamed the ‘Towering Inferno’, the 197cm Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs) is the tallest boxer in the division.

The southpaw is some 26cm taller than Thurman.

Sebastian Fundora.
 Sebastian ‘Towering Inferno’ Fundora will put his WBC title on the line against Tszyu. Image by AP PHOTO 

He was originally slated to fight Ukraine’s Serhii Bohachuk for the vacant WBC super-middleweight belt on the same Vegas card that also features Tszyu’s countryman and arch-rival Michael Zerafa against Erislandy Lara.

Fundora claimed the interim WBC super-welterweight belt with a ninth-round stoppage of compatriot Erickson Lubin in Sin City in April 2022.

He defended the strap once against Mexican Carlos Ocampo – who Tszyu knocked out in the first round on the Gold Coast last year – before losing it to Brian Mendoza in Carson, Arizona, last April.

Tszyu (24-0, 17KOs) subsequently scored a unanimous points decision over Mendoza, also on the Gold Coast, last October in the most impressive performance of his professional career.

Tszyu’s coup comes after a series of setbacks for the Sydney slayer.

He had been scheduled to fight former divisional king Jermell Charlo in Vegas in January 2023 for undisputed honours.

But Charlo broke his left hand in training and postponed the super-fight until later in the year, before pulling out altogether to move up two weight divisions and take on pound-for-pound superstar Canelo Alvarez in a mega-money bout.

After repeatedly calling Charlo out for “holding up the division”, Tszyu derided the Texan as finished after he lost a unanimous decision to Alvarez at T-Mobile Arena last September.

“I wouldn’t say I’m used to it, but it’s happened a couple of times,” Tszyu said of his rival’s surprise scratching.

“We move on. The show goes on.

“You’re disappointed at first because your whole preparation, you’re focusing on this one bloke, one style, and it’s just a switch.

“So my shift has changed. Thurman’s out of the picture. I’m onto F-Dora now.”