There was a point where the only thing on Tim Tszyu’s mind was the manner in which he planned to take apart heated rival Michael Zerafa.
Now he can barely recall his countryman.
“Michael who?” Tszyu quipped when asked about his previously scheduled opponent. “I haven’t heard from him in quite a while.”
The hope was for Tszyu and Zerafa to share the stage Monday morning in Newcastle, Australia for the final pre-fight press conference ahead of their originally scheduled July 7 grudge match at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Those plans changed in a hurry when Zerafa withdrew over concerns of coronavirus restrictions amidst growing numbers throughout the nation. Neither Newcastle nor his hometown of Melbourne are currently under lockdown, with his actions drawing the ire of boxing fans as well as the promotion.
The show goes on for Tszyu, as he now faces late replacement Steve Spark (12-1, 11KOs) who answered the call just last Wednesday. Spark regularly campaigns at junior welterweight, though his last fight took place at welterweight and resulted in his best win to date as he outpointed Jack Brubaker this past April.
While appreciative of Spark stepping in to save the show and also respectful of his media-friendly foe, it will be all business on Wednesday. Tszyu (18-0, 14KOs) will likely head abroad in the near future as he begins the road to title contention. With that comes official business to handle in the ring, for which he has prepared over the past two months.
“Thank you to [Spark] for stepping in on short notice,” acknowledged Tszyu before quickly ending his pleasantries. “But we’re not friends yet. All that’s on my mind is taking him out by any means possible. I’ve had this fight burning within… great preparation for the past 10-12 weeks. I’m in it to take this guy out. Whoever they put in front of me, my objective is to take my opponent out.”
Tszyu has done precisely that in the ring, remaining perfect as a pro and having stopped nine of his last ten opponents. The most recent came in a one-sided fifth-round knockout of former two-time title challenger Dennis Hogan in this very venue this past March. Two fights prior came a well-celebrated eighth-round stoppage of former welterweight titlist Jeff Horn last August, as Tszyu has rapidly emerged as a top junior middleweight contender.
Spark is a longshot underdog but has won eleven straight and believes he boasts at least a puncher’s chance. The belief by many—including the crowd favorite—is that reality will soon set in once the bell sounds to begin their Pay-Per-View main event.
“It’s good to have dreams. It’s good to have belief. It’s good to have vision. Once you get in the ring, all of that disappears and you get into my territory,” vowed Tszyu. “It’s my zone, you get into my cage.
“There’s only one thing that happens there, and it’s that the hope, the soul and everything gets taken away. I’m in control, this is my home. When he steps into the ring, it will only end in one way.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox