The gamble paid off in a big way.
Tim Tszyu knocked out former beltholder Tony Harrison in the ninth round of a scheduled 12-round 154-pound bout Saturday (Sunday in Australia) to set up a fight with undisputed champion Jermell Charlo.
The meeting with Charlo was already set. That means he didn’t have to take the risk of fighting Harrison, the only man to beat Charlo.
However, he did. And now, after a brutal stoppage in his toughest test, the fight with Charlo is even bigger than it was before it was postponed after Charlo broke his hand in training. And Tszyu has more valuable experience.
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Tszyu (22-0, 16 KOs) was asked in the ring afterward whether he had a message for Charlo.
“The message was sent clearly,” he said to the cheers of his hometown fans in Sydney. “… You know what’s next. I’m coming to America.”
Tszyu’s strategy against Harrison was neither a surprise nor complicated: keep the pressure on his American counterpart, which gradually wore him down.
Harrison (29-4-1, 21 KOs) had some success, particularly with his quick, long jab, but it was Tszyu who landed the cleaner, harder shots – mostly right hands to the head – round after round.
Harrison was staggered by an overhand right with about one minute to go in Round 3, although the crafty veteran was able to survive the rest of the round.
Tszyu was just getting started.
Harrison tried to move in the middle rounds, an effort to thwart Tszyu’s attack. However, the Aussie continued to pound away as the fight went into the late rounds, which slowed Harrison down and set up the brutal ending.
With about a minute to go in Round 9, Tszyu unloaded as vicious a volley of perfectly placed, punishing blows as you’ll ever see – including a number of head-snapping right uppercuts – before Harrison finally fell to the canvas.
He was able to get up before the count of 10 but referee Danrex Tapdasan took a good look at him and decided he was in no shape to continue.
The official time of the stoppage was 2:43.
The judges all had the same score after eight rounds, 77-75 for Tszyu, five rounds to three. Boxing Junkie had it 78-74, six rounds to two, for the winner.
Of course, Tszyu made sure none of that mattered in the end.
One of Tszyu’s missions has been to forge a name for himself in a sport that his father, Kostya Tszyu, built a Hall of Fame career. He took a significant step in that direction in front of his family, friends and fans.
“One sentence: What’s my motherf—ing name?! What’s my motherf—ing name?! he yelled to the crowd and the world, which has a better idea of who he is after his most-impressive performance.
And it might get even better. Or not.
Charlo, who knocked out Harrison in their rematch, is considered one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound. He has skill, experience and elite punching power, the last of which Harrison lacks.
The champion worked as a television analyst for the fight. He said in so many words that he’s a level above his two-time opponent.
“My movement, my style, my power will make him do completely different things,” Charlo said immediately after the fight. He later added, “Man, I’m ready. … I’m a different animal in there, I’m a different fighter than Tony.”
Tszyu evidently is different from Harrison too.