When Tim Tszyu steps into the ring against late replacement Sebastian Fundora at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 30, he will do so not only as one of the hottest young boxers in the sport but also with a goal of cementing himself as one of the very best pugilists ever to emerge from Australia. With due respect to the likes of George Kambosos Jr., Tszyu is almost certainly already the No. 1 active boxer from the Land Down Under.

But who are some of the other names in Australia’s fistic history to whom Tszyu will ultimately be compared?

The Pioneers 

Australia has a claim to a slice of Robert Fitzsimmons, one of the sport’s first heavyweight champions. Although he was born in England before his family emigrated to New Zealand when he was a child, Fitzsimmons began his professional career in 1883 in Australia, where he had his first 28 confirmed contests, including winning and losing the Australian middleweight title. Fitzsimmons would ultimately move to the United States, where he won world titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight (and is recognized as the lightest heavyweight champion of all time).  

Les Darcy is considered the great “what might have been” of Australian boxing. Born in 1895, he campaigned primarily at middleweight but also held the Australian heavyweight title. Tragically, he died of septicemia at the age of 21. But in his short life, he achieved enough success in the ring to be inducted, in 1993, into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (Similarly, the more recent career of another middleweight, Dave Sands, was tragically cut short – in his case in a car accident in 1952, at the age of 26, when he was in line to fight Randolph Turpin for the middleweight championship of the world.)

Young Griffo (born in 1871 as Albert Griffiths) won the world featherweight championship in 1890 and held it for two years. He was elected to the IBHOF in 1991. 

The Moderns 

Like many countries, Australia has its fair share of solid modern contenders, some of whom won alphabet titles without truly threatening to build Hall-of-Fame-worthy careers.  

In the final years of his lengthy career, British-Hungarian heavyweight Joe Bugner fought in Australia, styling himself as “Aussie Joe Bugner,” fighting intermittently from 1986 until his final retirement in 1999, at age 49. Earlier in his career, Bugner fought Muhammad Ali twice, Joe Frazier and Ron Lyle, among others.

Rocky Mattioli, as with Bugner and several others on this list, was not born in Australia. Originally hailing from Italy, he captured a 154-pound title in 1977 and successfully defended it twice.

The likes of Robbie Peden, Daniel Geale, Jeff Harding, Danny Green, Anthony Mundine, Michael Katsidis, Lucas Browne, Billy Dib and Shannan Taylor all had solid careers, challenging for or winning alphabet titles and competing at the business end of major cards.

More recently, Jeff Horn pulled off one of the country’s biggest boxing upsets by (controversially) outpointing Manny Pacquiao; Kambosos produced an almost equally seismic shock when he defeated an admittedly unwell Teofimo Lopez, and now has a chance to add another big scalp when he takes on Vasyl Lomachenko on May 15. Jason Moloney holds a world title at bantamweight, while his brother Andrew fell short in tilts at flyweight and super fly.

The Elite 

At the top of the tree are the best in the nation’s history, which is the company that Tszyu will be aiming to keep by the time he hangs up the gloves.

Lionel Rose occupies a special place in his country’s boxing lore as the first indigenous Australian to win a world title. He became lineal and undisputed bantamweight champion by defeating the legendary Fighting Harada in Tokyo in 1968, then lost it to Ruben Olivares the following year. Rose retired in 1976 with a record of 42-11, 12 KOs, and died in 2011 at the age of 62.

Johnny Famechon was born in Paris in 1945 but moved to Australia with his family when he was five. In 1969, he became lineal world featherweight champion via victory over Cuba’s Jose Legra and defended his crown twice against Fighting Harada, before losing on points to Vicente Saldivar in 1970 and retiring shortly afterward. Famechon died in 2022. 

Born in Armenia in 1976, Vic Darchinyan competed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, moved to Australia and became a naturalized citizen soon afterward. He lived there for the entirety of his professional career, which saw him compile a record of 43-9-1 (32 KOs) and win the IBF flyweight title and become unified and lineal super flyweight champion. He won his first 28 contests, earning a reputation as a devastating puncher with a unique and awkward style, until he suffered his first defeat at the hands of Nonito Donaire.

Elected to the IBHOF in 2002, Jeff Fenech won titles at bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight between 1985 and 1990. He won his first 25 bouts before a draw and a loss against Azumah Nelson dropped his record to 26-1-1. He retired in 1996 but returned 12 years later for a third fight with Nelson, which he won on points to leave his record at 29-3-1.

But the gold standard of Australian boxing is someone with whom Tim Tszyu is acutely familiar. Kostya Tszyu was born in the Soviet Union in September 1969 but emigrated to Australia following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, and became a naturalized citizen who boxed under the nickname of “The Thunder from Down Under.” An accomplished amateur who won gold at the 1991 World Championships, he wasted no time in kicking his pro career into gear, taking on and defeating former featherweight titlist Juan Laporte in just Tszyu’s fourth fight. He won the IBF 140-pound crown in 1995, making five defenses before suffering a shock KO loss to Vince Phillips. Tszyu won the WBC version of the title in 1999 and regained his IBF belt via second-round KO of Zab Judah at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in 2001. After becoming undisputed champion, he retired in 2005 following his second loss, to Ricky Hatton, having compiled a record of 31-2 (25 KOs). He was inducted into the IBHOF in 2011. 

Tim Tszyu has a ways to go until he matches the feats of his old man, but his breakout 2023 – in which he scored three big wins against dangerous opposition – set him on the path. Victory over Fundora in the first PBC on Prime main event would be an important next step. By the time he’s finished, the son will be hoping two Tszyus are positioned at the pinnacle of Australian boxing history.