Tim Tszyu brings throwback attitude and style to U.S. PPV debut against Sebastian Fundora

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If there wasn’t already an old-school feel to the way unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion Tim Tszyu carries himself, the words and actions of late from the son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu have certainly screamed throwback vibes. 

Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) will headline Saturday’s Premier Boxing Champions pay-per-view card, the first since powerful adviser Al Haymon’s company moved from Showtime to Prime Video, in what also amounts to the 29-year-old Australian’s Las Vegas debut inside T-Mobile Arena. 

The event was already expected to be a breakthrough evening for Tszyu, who sits on the verge of breakout stardom. So, when it became clear that headlining opponent Keith Thurman, the former unified welterweight champion and A-side of the promotion, was forced to pull out with a biceps injury just two weeks before, Tszyu never hesitated in accepting a new opponent. 

Thurman’s bad luck turned out to be PBC’s gain as late-replacement Sebastian Fundora, the 6-foot-6 southpaw with all-action tendencies, presents a much more difficult fight on paper for Tszyu considering the age (35) and injury history of Thurman. 

“It’s a different feel, this fight. I wouldn’t say it’s a feeling of anger but it has just been built up and it’s time to prove,” Tszyu told media members during Monday’s open workout. “I’m literally firing right now and I feel different. I think it just came from the news that Thurman is out. 

“Before, I was too relaxed. Now, I’m not. I haven’t felt this way in a long time.”

Tszyu’s willingness to accept a completely different style of opponent on such short notice also upgraded what’s at stake this weekend as Tszyu’s WBO title was initially not sanctioned for the fight given Thurman’s extreme inactivity in recent years. Now, Tszyu will not only be defending his title, the fight has become a unification due to the vacant WBC title, which Fundora was initially going to fight for on the undercard against Serhii Bohachuk. 

And to top it all off, Tszyu’s camp has also revealed rumors that undisputed welterweight king and pound-for-pound stalwart Terence Crawford (40-1, 31 KOs) is already in negotiations to fight the winner this summer. 

Tszyu’s decision to welcome even more risk ahead of such a big fight has become a trend. 

After previously earning mandatory contender status for the undisputed crown formerly worn by Jermell Charlo, Tszyu has already endured a pair of late Charlo pullouts, which forced him to scramble and stay busy against last-minute foes. Not only did he pass each test with flying colors thanks to consecutive knockouts of Tony Harrison and Carlos Ocampo, Tszyu continued to build his star while improving steadily with each fight. 

Tszyu never quite did get the Charlo fight as the Houston native chose, instead, last fall to move up two divisions and unsuccessfully challenge Canelo Alvarez. Since that one-sided defeat, Charlo has been stripped of all four titles — including the WBO, which upgraded Tszyu to full titleholder status — and has yielded his designation as the best fighter in the division to Tszyu. 

“A lot of growth is happening. I’m going from training camp to training camp to training camp,” Tszyu said. “Four fights in 12 months and that pays off. I’m getting better and better each time. I’m learning new things in the game. I’m just willing to test myself out every time.

“I think it’s quite obvious — [Fundora] is tall. But he uses his uppercuts to his advantage and they are quite long. A lot of people have the same gameplan to just get inside because he is so tall. But they also underestimate my skills.” 

Tszyu’s stay-busy campaign led him to an October homecoming last fall when he outpointed Brian Mendoza, who was fresh off an upset knockout of Fundora. Now, in a twist of fate, Mendoza will replace Fundora on the undercard against Bohachuk, although a world title will not be at stake. 

Even though Tszyu is as high as a 6-to-1 betting favorite, he will be forced to adapt form the pure boxing style of Thurman to the brawling and high octane offense presented by Fundora, who will enjoy advantages of 9.5 inches in both height and reach. 

“Compared to Thurman, of course, it’s a completely different gameplan,” Tszyu said. “I know what to do with southpaws and I know how to fight tall guys. It’s all about adjustments and even though we haven’t had much time, they have been made. In one day, two hours. It was one session.

“I’m going to hurt him bad. That’s the plan. Someone in the crowd is going to catch a head flying. That’s the plan.”

Tszyu might not be flaunting his interest in fighting Crawford next out of respect for the challenge at hand against Fundora. But he isn’t shy, at all, about the idea of accepting the opportunity as Tszyu continues to dare to be great at every turn by climbing the ladder to stardom the old-fashioned way – earning it in the ring.   

“[Crawford] is an opportunity to become a great, for sure,” Tszyu said. “This is the first opportunity to do things that no one else does and to save the show [and] to still start this historic card. Once the opportunity arises for Crawford, that’s going to be a war. 

“I guess you could say I feel right at home [fighting in Las Vegas for the first time]. This is business, I get to relax later.” 

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