No matter how well he performs in his next fight, there will be a part of Tim Tszyu that will remain a little bit unsatisfied.
The unbeaten, second-generation contender from Rockvale, Australia has spent nearly two months gearing up for a long-brewing junior middleweight grudge match with countryman Michael Zerafa to have taken place July 7 at Newcastle Entertainment Centre. The show will go on at ‘Tszyucastle,’ though without Zerafa whose team cited concerns over traveling during COVID restrictions as cause to withdraw from their planned Pay-Per-View headliner.
“There’s a bit of anger in there—a lot of anger, actually,” Tszyu told local reporters in Newcastle, Australia of the stunning development at the start of fight week for his fight with late replacement Steve Spark. “I’ve been preparing hard for this fight. I really wanted to take this guy out.
“It’s been a long buildup, a couple of years in the making and a lot of anticipation for this moment. I was only one week out of getting my hands on him.”
The fallout occurred just as No Limit Boxing, the event promoter and local TV outlets began rolling out shoulder programming ahead of what was billed as Australia’s biggest grudge match. It was all for naught, as Zerafa and his team remained adamant in their refusal to fly from Melbourne to Newcastle—and more so enduring a potential two-week quarantine period upon returning home—at a time when several parts of the country are on lockdown due to a rise in coronavirus cases.
Tszyu—the son of Hall of Fame former lineal junior welterweight king Kostya Tszyu—now moves forward with Toowoomba’s Spark (12-1, 11KOs), who agreed to terms from the moment it was clear that Zerafa was no longer in the mix. The 24-year-old has only recently moved up to welterweight, where he claimed an eight-round win over Jack Brubaker this past April in Wollongong, Australia.
The fight took place on the undercard of unbeaten heavyweight Paul Gallen’s first-round knockout of Lucas Browne, for which Tszyu was ringside—though at the time not realizing he was watching a future opponent in Spark.
“I watched him live at the fight. I was ringside there for the fight,” Tszyu recalled. “He’s talented, he’s dangerous. He’s coming with that mentality, there’s nothing to lose. That always provides a dangerous fight when you have that type of mentality.
“We’ve met a few times. He’s not a bad guy. Right now, I have this fire burning within me. Likeable, unlikeable, there’s no emotion in this anymore. This is all business. You have to be ice cold if you want to succeed.”
That fighting mentality is carried into the ring ahead of every fight for Tszyu, who has emerged as a top contender in the red-hot junior middleweight division. A title shot is in his sights for the future, though—not the type to say “never”—there also exists the possibility of coming full circle with what this fight week was supposed to represent.
“I still do want to get my hands on [Zerafa],” admits Tszyu. “Just for the fact that this made me angry. I’m not happy.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox