Tszyu truly was great in blowout
November 8, 2004
From pillar to post: some pretentious pugilistic pontifications and prognostications:
— The word “great” is used too generously in the boxing world, but after watching world junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu destroy Sharmba Mitchell in a Showtime-televised event from Phoenix on Saturday, great is about the most appropriate way to describe Tszyu.
Tszyu’s four-knockdown, three-round blowout of one of the game’s finest technicians is simply incredible. Tszyu, now 31-1, with 25 knockouts and one no-contest, didn’t just come back from 22 months of inactivity. He underwent two serious operations – one on his Achilles’ tendon and another on his rotator cuff – and at 35 years old, he isn’t exactly a spring chicken.
Many boxing pundits compare Tszyu’s long layoff and convincing victory to that of former welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight titlist Felix “Tito” Trinidad, who recently came out of a two-year retirement to bludgeon former welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga. There was a big difference, however, in that Mayorga was just a blown-up welterweight with plenty of heart and a big punch, but few boxing skills.
Even though Tszyu made it look easy, Mitchell, now 55-4 (30 knockouts), was a slick southpaw with a strong amateur background who also happened to be, outside of Tszyu, the best boxer in the strongest and deepest weight division in the entire sport. Put simply, Tszyu had no right to do what he did to Mitchell.
What makes Tszyu, who won the world 139-pound amateur championship in 1991, so great? He has tremendous discipline, a fantastic work ethic, supreme self-confidence and incredible punching power. Tszyu also possesses the timing, accuracy and explosiveness of a precision-guided missile. Against speedy, slick and elusive southpaws Zab Judah and Mitchell, Tszyu has somehow managed to catch each with quick, decisive, fight-ending bombs. Amazing.
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For those keeping score at home, I had initially pegged Tszyu to win his rematch with Mitchell. But the fight, which was scheduled to take place in Moscow in February, never came off because of Tszyu’s rotator cuff. But, nine months later, taking into account Tszyu’s age, injuries and inactivity, I took Mitchell via decision for this fight. Tszyu showed me the folly of my ways. Beating Mitchell is one thing, but tearing through him like a cardboard cutout is another. When talking of the mythical pound-for-pound championship, you have to include Tszyu.
— I’ve been of the opinion that the pound-for-pound championship belongs to Floyd Mayweather Jr., the undefeated and former junior lightweight and lightweight champion. When he’s on top of his game, hitting Mayweather is about as easy as hitting a fly with a toothpick. I respect what Bernard Hopkins has done, but the pound-for-pound title should belong to the winner of a Tszyu-Mayweather matchup.
— Time to play Tszyu’s matchmaker. First up would be Manchester, England’s Ricky Hatton, who is 37-0 (27). Hatton is as exciting a fighter as the sport has, including Arturo Gatti. Hatton, who likes to bring the action to his opponent, says the key to beating Tszyu is to be on the inside or the outside, but not in the middle as Mitchell was. I think it’s a combination of both, after all, “Cool” Vince Phillips stopped Tszyu back in 1997 for his only defeat. But, like Mitchell and Judah, the quick-fisted and thin-skinned Hatton will find out that Tszyu also has a talent for controlling the gap and closing the distance. Tszyu by exciting, bloody five-round stoppage.
— Second up for Tszyu should be the winner of Mayweather-Gatti, which will be Mayweather. It’s a significant matchup – unlike any of Don King’s pay-per-view fights on Saturday (what a surprise) – and it should be on PPV. It would satisfy Tszyu’s desire for big fights for big money. And judging by Mayweather’s less-than-scintillating performance against DeMarcus Corley, it’s a fight Tszyu can win. Mayweather does not have the right build or power for 140 pounds, now does “Pretty Boy” have the right attitude to fend off the strong-willed Tszyu, whose pluperfect precision power punches will find their mark and give Mayweather his first defeat. Tszyu by decision.
— This will set the table for WBO lightweight titlist Diego Corrales to step up and challenge Tszyu. Although Corrales is to be respected because of his power and his height – he’s between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot – he’ll find out Tszyu is not Acelino Freitas. Tszyu not only will be there for the duration, but he’ll also be able to hit Corrales with more power than “Chico” can stand. Tszyu by 10-round kayo.
— WBA 140-pound kingpin Vivian Harris is no joke. WBO titlist Miguel Cotto is a superstar in the making. But let’s forget about the belts. Tszyu is the champion in spite of what the Alphabet Boys say. There is no need or reason for Tszyu, whom only the IBF recognizes as its champion, to have to re-unify the titles. Look what it got Tszyu the first time. He was stripped of his WBC and WBA belts while he was injured. Let Cotto and Harris mix it up for the right to fight Tszyu. I’ll pick Cotto to beat Harris. Right now I’d have to take Tszyu over Cotto, but we’ll have to see how much Cotto progresses between now and then. That would be a great fight.
— If I were managing Tszyu, before he faces Cotto, I’d move him up to welterweight to face the winner of the Cory Spinks-Judah rematch. For the mere reason Don King’s involved, I think Judah will own the belt whether he deserves it or not. Call it the Don King-Chris Byrd Syndrome. But Tszyu can beat either one. He’ll hit Spinks or Judah so hard that it’ll make King’s hair go limp. It would be at this point that I’d match up Tszyu and Cotto, which should be a superfight by then, and after, I’d have Tszyu retire whether he wins or loses.
— Finally, a bunch of quick picks and quick quips on King’s “Battle For Supremacy,” otherwise known as another group of boring fights that I’ll pay to watch, but that King should pay us to watch. It’s not a knock on the fighters, it’s a knock on the matchmaking. Styles make fights. This is just another King hodge-podge production.
— From worst bout to best: Evander Holyfield, 38-7-2 (25), will score a boring decision over Larry Donald, 41-3-2 (24). The 42-year-old Holyfield shouldn’t be allowed to fight and Donald is on the card because only for reasons known to King. The good news is neither fighter can hurt the other. Don’t be shocked if the electric-haired King is holding up Holyfield’s hand whether he deserves the decision or not. After all, he knows Mike Tyson is still out there. Think dollars and sense.
— Hasim Rahman, 39-5-1 (32), will knock out Kali Meehan, 29-2 (23). Meehan got reamed against WBO titlist Lamon Brewster, but it’s Rahman, not the judges, he has to worry about. Rahman will be overweight and lethargic, but he has too much left for Meehan.
— WBA heavyweight titlist John Ruiz, 40-5-1 (28), will score another boring win, this time over Andrew Golota, 38-4-1 (31), with one no-contest. Golota’s a head case and Ruiz could put an insomniac to sleep, but Ruiz should be able to pull out a very ugly win.
— The most interesting fight of the night is between IBF heavyweight strapholder Chris Byrd, 37-2-1 (20), and Jameel McCline, 31-3 (19). In spite of what the judges ruled, Byrd lost his last two fights to Fres Oquendo and Golota. McCline is bigger, more powerful and more of a boxer than both, but he’s still amateurish. That said, Byrd has no jab and if McCline can figure that out and throw hard right hands behind his own range-finding left jab, he should win. But all you have to know is that McCline is talking about how good a friend Byrd is. Great, that means 12 rounds of pitty-pat slapfighting. It also means Byrd will win whether he deserves it or not. Only in America. Or, more particulary, Only on a Don King card.
Contact Mike Houser at Houser9502@aol.com