Tim Tszyu v Keith Thurman: Opportunity Knocks..will Thurman answer?

By Gary Todd - 02/20/2024 - Comments

In the sport of boxing, sometimes all you need is the chance to show that you belong. To do that, you need to go out and prove yourself by not just winning, not just tapping on the door of opportunity, but by breaking it down and taking it off its hinges.

Keith Thurman has been boxing since he was 8 years old, under the watchful eye of Ben Getty, winning multiple national championships and finishing his amateur campaign with 101 wins with 76 Kos. Getty was a school janitor and also a tough and very respected boxing coach who had also helped develop the great Sugar Ray Leonard on his path to glory. Thurman and Getty embarked on a journey together turning professional in November 2007 at the age of 18, fighting 4 and 5 fights a year, while racking up a string of knockout wins along the way. Thurman ( 32 fights 30-1 draw 22 by knockout) was certainly one to watch then tragedy struck when Ben Getty died unexpectedly in 2009, which impacted the young contender to his core. He fought on but then sustained a deep bone bruise in 2010 that kept him away from boxing in 2011.

Thurman had to get back in the gym to get fight ready and on his return, he came back with renowned trainer of champions, Dan Birmingham.

Birmingham had helped the defensive genius, Winky Wright , and puncher, Jeff Lacy win world titles and in February 2012, he was back doing what he did best but also coming back better .

From there, he beat all comers in Carlos Quintana, Jan Zaveck, Diego Chavez, Jesus Soto Karass, Julio Diaz, Robert Guerrero, and Luis Collazo, becoming a World champion in 2015.

In 2016, Thurman was getting ready to fight his toughest opponent to date in Shaun Porter, when he was injured in a car accident .

They eventually met in June and gave us a tremendous slugfest and fight of the year, with both fighters hurt and Thurman winning on points in a close battle of champions.

Tim Tszyu ( 24 fights 24 wins 17 Kos) was born in 1994 and as a young boy, he was captured in his father’s boxing success as a super lightweight world champion and at the age of seven, he was running around the gym with Tszyu’s sparring partners, Golden Johnson, David Sample, and Gairy St Clair, watching , while his old man prepared for his world championship fights against Julio Cesar Chavez, Sharmba Mitchell, Oktay Urkal, and Zab Judah.

As a boy, he enjoyed training and being fit and strong. He enjoyed going to the beach and took to gymnastics and soccer before trying his hand at boxing. Tszyu started his amateur campaign at 15 years of age fighting a 33-1 record to then turn professional in December 2016 at age 22.

The pressure on him was intense with the media watching his every move, all the while comparing him to his hall of fame father. He just smiled . He was a smiling assassin.

In 2020, after beating foe after foe, he challenged fellow Australian, and former WBO welterweight world champion, Jeff Horn proving to be too much for him , with his corner stopping their fighter from further damage for an 8th round victory. Again Tszyu smiled .

With confidence growing fight by fight, he was setting his opponents up and it seemed he was knocking them down just for fun.

In 2021, Tszyu faced the Japanese brawler, Takeshi Inoue.

The Japanese strongman had challenged the tough Mexican world champion for his belt and took him the distance, losing on points so Tszyu would have to be at his best to withstand the challenge. In the fight, Tszyu threw every punch he could summon and although he battered Inoue, the proud , stubborn warrior wouldn’t take a backward step nor would he fall, going the championship distance . With 20 fights behind him, all the talk was fighting for a world title and fighting the best at 154.

Next up for Tszyu was the Olympian, Terrell Gausha, and this was to be Tszyu’s introduction to an American audience so he had to make a strong statement.

Gausha was a boxer, not a devastating puncher and he had experience at the top level sharing the ring with champions, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, and Erickson Lubin, so all eyes were again on Tszyu to see what he could do. In the fight, the 33 year old Gausha summoned every bit of his strength by knocking down the Australian in the first round and then the stamina and resilience to withstand the pressure and attack to take Tszyu the distance in Minneapolis. With this win, the door had opened slightly but not enough. There was more talk of fighting the big names and fighting for a world title but it seemed the door was closed, for now.

Tszyu smiled again and next up was the former WBC junior middleweight world champion, Tony Harrison . The Detroit fighter had beaten Jermell Charlo on points in 2018 and had shared the ring with good fighters in his career and after losing his world title to Charlo in the rematch, this was his last chance at the championship level. Tszyu never gave him a chance, hammering him into a shock like trance, and knocking him out in the 9th round, winning the WBO interim junior middleweight title in Sydney. Three months later, he made his first defence of his newly won title, obliterating the Mexican, Carlos Ocampo in 77 seconds.

Tszyu was elevated to champion of the world status by the WBO and this news was timely as his next opponent was the experienced and hard punching fighter , Brian Mendoza.

The man known as ‘ La Bala’ which translated to ‘ the bullet’ was gunning for Tszyu and he wasn’t coming to Australia to see kangaroos. Mendoza had relieved the six foot power punching interim champion , Sebastian Fundora of his title and his senses a few months earlier and it was clear he was coming to win down under.

Tszyu left no stone unturned and trained intensely for the American puncher and in the fight, Tszyu was visibly stronger and sharper, hurting Mendoza and leaving him panting for air, and holding on and surviving the full twelve rounds. Harrison, Ocampo, and Mendoza have not fought since.

Tszyu is a sensation in Australia. He is a promoters dream . He is an unbeaten world champion and he has made a lot of money but for some, it’s just not enough . Tszyu wants more . He wants to be undisputed.

Life for Thurman was good. It was 2017 and the WBA had made him their super champion and Showtime had big plans for the man known as ‘ One Time’. Next up was the undefeated champion from Philadelphia, Danny Garcia who had hold of the WBC welterweight title. Leading up to the fight, there was no love lost and when they both touched gloves, it was a very back and forth closely fought fight of pride and guts, with Thurman winning by a split decision win in New York, solidifying himself as the man at 147 and the unified champion.

It was then announced that the champion would be away from boxing due to a bone spurs in his elbow and a hand injury that required rehabilitation and rest. After 20 years in the amateurs and the pros, the toll of training and sparring, his body was starting to break down.

Thurman came back in January 2019 beating Josesito Lopez by majority decision in Brooklyn NY. With the win, another door opened and standing there was the eight division world champion and legendary fighter , Manny Pacquiao . The Filipino dynamo was near the end of his career but was still a handful to anyone in the division and this proved to be the case, knocking Thurman down with a fast left right that he didn’t see coming. In the end , after an entertaining fight, Pacquiao got the nod and the win, most likely due to the first round visit to the canvas and his eye catching combination punching.

Thurman left the building and drove off into the sunset to regroup, repair his ego which was dented , went on vacation and rest the bones , and tend to injuries and remove the doubt of losing. Covid 19 hit and that was that until another return , some thirty one months later to face the smaller, tough guy, Mario Barrios who himself was again moving up to another weight class in order to get another shot at 147. Thurman was bigger and better, despite the long lay off , making a successful comeback in Las Vegas, to then disappear again and the door well and truly slammed shut.

Tszyu announced that he would be making a full on assault in America, fighting anyone and there was some pretty big hitters on his list.

To the surprise of many, It was then announced that Keith Thurman was up next. Thurman was moving up in weight to challenge Tszyu at a contracted catch weight of 155Lbs.

The obvious questions is why would he come back at all after yet another long lay off?

At age 35, with a long career and injuries a plenty, and a stack of good paydays , why would he come back again . The only thing that is driving Thurman is his self belief, his ego , the chance to dethrone the younger Tszyu and the catch weight .

Tszyu’s people have always been there. Same crew that sweated in the gym with Kostya. Same crew that were by his side through thick and thin, through the spectacular wins to the bludgeoning defeats. They have been there forever and they know a thing or two about the fight game, and they are all there for Tim Tszyu. It’s a family, but they are also savvy and brutal in business and business is good.

‘ One Time ‘ had one punch power but that was yesterday. The door has opened for Tszyu where opportunity knocks . Thurman will be on the other side pushing against it, trying to hold back Tszyu for as long as he can but there will be too much coming at him, until he folds and slumps to the canvas in the 7th round.

Gary Todd has been involved in all aspects in the sport of boxing for over 30 years. He is an international best selling author with his books around the world. Check out his new book, ‘ Annie’s Boy’ garytodd.org