When Tim Tszyu was knocked down in the opening round against Terrell Gausha, it looked like the Australian’s U.S. debut was about to take an abrupt turn few saw coming.
Tszyu though, to his credit, stepped up in the face of adversity to dominate the majority of the fight and while not a knockout win, it was a statement victory of a different kind.
While Jeff Horn admitted Gausha exposed a “vulnerability” in Tszyu with his big overhand rights, it could actually help the Australian ahead of an impending world title shot.
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Tszyu is in line to face the winner of the Brian Castano-Jermell Charlo fight and Australian boxing legend Barry Michael said Charlo “especially” would be encouraged by Sunday’s fight.
“Because he is a deadly puncher,” Michael told Main Event post-fight, before adding it may “work” in Tsyzu’s “favour”.
“In a way it might be good in Tim’s favour,” he said, “because if Timmy destroyed him in two or three rounds, they might have been like: ‘Woah’.”
Jeff Fenech had warned in the lead-up to Sunday’s fight that Tszyu may have been made to wait for a world title shot should he have made a knockout statement.
“After he disposes of his opponent, I think some of those guys are going to run away from him so it may take a bit longer than we think for him to get the world title,” he told foxsports.com.au.
Both Tszyu and brother Nikita admitted post-fight that there was plenty of room for improvement from the Australian as he eyes that world title shot.
But in the same breath, Tszyu was widely praised for just how dominant he was despite the early knockdown.
“You should’ve watched the whole fight. He wasn’t ill prepared. Gausha was fighting for his career & landed a great counter right. Tszyu did something no one has been able to do to Terrell — he dominated him. Tszyu is not perfect defensively but he overcomes with power, conditioning,” Hall of Fame Boxing analyst Al Bernstein wrote.
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Paul Kent, meanwhile, said Tszyu answered a key question he had heading into the bout.
“One thing I spoke about several times before the fight was seeing how Tim would react when he didn’t have it all his own way,” Kent said.
“In pretty much all of his fights he has been able to dictate the tempo. There were instances in this fight where he was unable to do that, where Gausha was landing some really nice right hands and that exposed something about Tim that certainly in his next fight they will be looking at.”
“Incredible, really,” Michaels added.
“As I said, the first couple of rounds he went down cold, he wasn’t expecting it and was badly hurt. But to come back the way he came back and to win so convincingly against a quality opponent, I think this is going to be the toughest opponent Tim has faced. To come back the way he did is magnificent.
“It shows a bit of a flaw but it is something they can work on.”
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Fenech, meanwhile, said the “biggest surprise” out of the fight for him was the fact Gausha even lasted the entire 12 rounds.
“That was a great performance but it was not a perfect performance,” Fenech said of Tszyu.
“My biggest surprise was his opponent was able to go the 12 rounds at that pace. That was my biggest surprise. It was crazy [he stayed on his feet].
“People are going to watch what Tim did today and think if we hit him with the right hand, some of these guys who are bigger punchers than the guy he fought today, so Tim has got some work to do but I’m sure he’ll do it.”
Tszyu said as much post-fight, admitting there is “a lot more to learn” despite the victory.
“This sport, there’s so much to learn, you’ve got to keep going, keep training hard, keep improving and keep fighting warriors like Terell Gausha,” he said.
“It was good that I faced adversity for the first time and I was able to come back. I dug deep. All respect to my opponent, who is one hell of a warrior and a true gentleman.”
Brother Nikita, meanwhile, took Australian boxing fans inside the Tszyu household’s reaction to the first-round knockdown, telling Main Event there was “literally silence”.
“That was stressful, way too stressful,” he said.
“The energy in the room was really, really quiet. There was literally silence. Nothing was said, all you could hear was people breathing. We were really worried because it was a shot he didn’t see coming.”
Nikita, who made a successful professional debut last year, also said there was plenty to take away from Sunday’s bout.
“It’s a good lesson for him, because he got to test himself, he got to dig deep, he got to communicate with his inner warrior,” Nikita said.
“That’s a very special thing to be able to overcome. It’s actually quite good he did something like that and didn’t get too hurt, and was able to push on. It’s not good to just have easy fights where you walk through people. You want to challenge yourself.
“It was also good to see the negatives, the things he has to learn and work on, because ultimately it’s a journey, this sport. You can’t be stationary. You always want to learn and improve. He showed holes in his game plan, holes in his armour. He’ll learn from it.”