Keep calm and play some basketball. It may not have quite the same ring to it as the standard slogan when things go pear-shaped in life, but it is exactly what Tim Tszyu did when news broke about his blockbuster bout with undisputed welterweight champion Jermell Charlo being scuppered.
“It was Christmas Day, so we played a bit of basketball and then we moved to Vegas and then got into our training camp as if we were still fighting anyway,” Tszyu told The Sporting News.
Tim Tszyu ready to ‘break the will’ of American Tony Harrison
After blitzing his way to the top of contention with a blend of brutal body blows and a deft eye for precision, Tszyu had earned himself a shot at the champion on American soil.
MORE: ‘He’s so basic’ – Tim Tszyu opponent Tony Harrison’s brutal assessment of Aussie star
He headed over to Los Angeles with his team to put in the work under the roof of prestigious trainer Joe Goossen, readying for the biggest fight of his career to date.
Yet his dreams of fighting for the undisputed crown collapsed midway through his camp when Charlo suffered a broken hand.
“I was sparring, and I threw this nice punch and as soon as it landed, I knew something was wrong,” the 154-pound champ revealed at the time.
“I felt my hand throbbing right away. I had two X-rays and an MRI to see what was wrong. It showed it was broken in two places.”
Faced with the prospect of a wasted trip to the US, the Australian informed his management, No Limit Boxing, to find him a new opponent. Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Enter brash Detroit native and former world champion Tony Harrison (29-3-1). The veteran – who is the only man to have beaten Charlo – has left a trail of destruction behind him during his promotional appearances for their WBO interim super welterweight fight in Sydney on March 12th.
DONE DEAL! Tim Tszyu (21-0, 15KO) ???????? will fight Tony Harrison (29-3-1, 21KO) ???????? Sunday 12 March at an Australian venue TBA. Tszyu is mandatory challenger for injured Jermell Charlo’s undisputed world title while former champ Harrison gave Charlo his only pro defeat #TszyuHarrison pic.twitter.com/pASCyz6yPl
— Ben Damon (@ben_damon) January 22, 2023
He’s likened Tszyu to an elephant because he’s supposedly going to be so easy to hit, questioned the logic of the Aussie’s team for pursuing a fight with him despite already being the mandatory challenger and emphasised the difference in skill level between American and Australian boxers with every chance he’s been afforded on the microphone.
“I do agree,” Tszyu said in reference to that last statement. “But I’m not like every Aussie fighter.”
Whether Harrison has been purposely trying to generate headlines or not, it’s water off a duck’s back for Tszyu.
“It’s the same thing every time,” he stated.
“For me, this is all a circus. On fight night is when I intend to prove everything.
“I’m just fully focused…and I don’t let it get to me. At the end of the day, this is the boxing industry. The longer you’re in it, the more you find out about it. Words are just words.”
As for the elephant comparison? Tszyu was less willing to let that barb slide.
“That’s the thing, I want to be like a Kinder Surprise- he’s not going to know what’s coming,” he said.
“If he really believes that and that’s what is helping him sleep better at night, so be it.
“But when you get in there and you think that you’ll be able to hit me, and you can’t, it’s going to break your will.”
Could a potential middleweight championship bout between Tim Tszyu and Michael Zerafa happen in the future?
After spending an extended time in camp preparing for Charlo, Harrison presents a different proposition with his desire to maintain the distance and get his jab working overtime.
Although, Tszyu has spoken in the past of just how much progression and change can occur within a boxer in the space of just 10 weeks.
In Tszyu’s mind, the man who Harrison thinks he is preparing for may not actually be situated across the ring from him when that bell rings for the opening round.
“I now feel comfortable being uncomfortable,” Tszyu said.
“That’s my biggest improvement- being able to be calm under high-pressure situations.”
Undisputed World Champion… ????
Tim Tszyu has one goal in mind for 2023, and the Aussie won’t be stopping for anything! ???????????? #9WWOS #Boxing pic.twitter.com/6v1a8QEi3q
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) February 5, 2023
The Aussie has made no secret of his desire to chase those high-pressure pressure situations in 2023. On the horizon is his bout with Harrison, but beyond that there lies plenty of challenges with Tszyu wanting to remain active.
Charlo is undoubtedly at the top of the hit list after Tszyu promised he’d be back for him “once he is ready and healed”.
However, there is one boxer in particular who the 28-year-old may eventually want to settle the score with: Michael Zerafa.
The two share a heated rivalry after their scheduled fight previously fell through at the last minute. And, despite Tszyu vowing to never fight him, they once again appear on a collision course in the not-too-distant future for potentially the biggest ever fight on Australian shores.
“I couldn’t care less about Zerafa,” Tszyu replied in response to rumours of a potential middleweight title fight against ‘Pretty Boy’ somewhere down the line.
“He really is so irrelevant and just a loudmouth. I don’t pay attention to those kinds of people.”
Yet the unbeaten Sydneysider was quick to brush off Zerafa’s dispersions that he was heading for a defeat in his clash with Harrison next month.
“With Zerafa, he’s predicted for the last seven fights of mine that I was going to lose,” he said. “So, welcome to the eighth prediction.”