Earning title shots can happen a lot of different ways.
There are systems in place that can be worked to get to cracks at alphabet titles. They have merit elements but aren’t inherently about merit as much as participation in the structures of the sport. If it was all about merit, we’d never see any sanctioning body go down their rankings until they find someone willing to engage in one of their eliminators.
Tim Tszyu worked that system to line himself up as a mandatory for a shot at Jermell Charlo. The shot was anticipated but there were questions about how ready he really was. This weekend’s big Showtime main event (Saturday, 10:45 PM EST) will give Tszyu a chance to win an interim WBO belt and pick up a win that can elevate the intrigue for a shot at Charlo when then-undisputed king is back from injury.
Tony Harrison is the opportunity to embellish the merit case.
It’s also a chance for Harrison to make his case. Traveling to the other side of the world, Harrison can remind everyone watching that he is the only fighter with an official win over Charlo. Is this the beginning of chapter three of the Charlo-Harrison rivalry?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title/Previous Titles: WBC Featherweight (2022)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 153 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Rockdale, New South Wales, Australia
Record: 21-0, 15 KO
Press Rankings: #3 (TBRB, Ring), #4 (ESPN), #6 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: N/A
Last Five Opponents: 100-8-3 (.914)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: None
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Jeff Horn TKO8
Previous Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2018-19)
Weight: 153 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Detroit, Michigan
Record: 29-3-1, 21 KO, 3 KOBY
Press Rankings: #4 (TBRB, Ring), #5 (ESPN), #8 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-2, 2 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 142-14 (.910)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Jarrett Hurd TKO by 9; Jermell Charlo UD10, KO by 11
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Bronco McKart TKO1; Ishe Smith SD10
The Pick: Harrison has some notable advantages in this fight. He’s taller, longer, quicker, and more experienced. While Tszyu has heavy hands, Harrison has also shown solid punching power over the years. If Harrison can establish his jab and set the pace of the fight early, the best version of him has a good chance of handing Tszyu his first loss.
The tricky part with Harrison is we don’t always see his best version and even on good nights he’s been vulnerable. He boxed well early against Hurd and Charlo in the rematch but was stopped on both occasions in the second half. Against Bryant Perrella, Harrison was lucky to escape with a draw instead of a loss.
Tszyu has faced adversity too, coming off the floor against Terrell Gausha in his last fight to grind out a victory. There are hints his ceiling is yet to be set. He beat Dennis Hogan more decisively then Jaime Munguia and quicker than Jermall Charlo but he’s not faced someone as rounded as Harrison yet.
Tszyu is a good offensive fighter with a strong right, quick left, and a nice uppercut but he also often squares up and can be hit. Harrison can be touched too but, in his last outing, Harrison used Sergio Garcia’s aggression against him and rarely got caught twice in a row. Harrison started and ended exchanges. If Tszyu can’t take away Harrison’s jab, it could be a long night. That’s the thinking here, while still being aware Tszyu is on his home turf and that never hurts if one can keep rounds close. Harrison is still too slick, too schooled, for a Tszyu who will get the best rounds of his career win or lose.
The pick is Harrison by decision.
Rold Picks 2023: 9-0
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org