Tszyu: I’m faster and hungrier than Horn
AHEAD of his big fight with Jeff Horn on April 22, Tim Tszyu talks to Grantlee Kieza about growing up with his famous father, the moment he realised he could beat Jeff Horn, and who he believes is the best fighter he's ever seen.
GK: Most great fighters grow up poor and hungry in the school of hard knocks. You went to one of Sydney's best private schools and grew up in a mansion with your father's Bentley in the garage.
TT: Yes but my dad (all-time boxing great Kostya Tszyu) never gave me anything for free. He was so focused - like an army sergeant. With or without money everything had to be precise, had to be on point, no arguments. When you have a father like that it's actually quite a tough upbringing. Life with my father wasn't easy. He made me work for everything. He made me hungry for success. I know I'm much hungrier for this fight than Horn. He's only in it for the money now but I have goals on the world stage that I want to reach.
It must have hurt when your father decided to leave his family in Australia and start a new life back in Russia.
My dad found new goals and as a man I understand what he did. I never took it to heart. We are still friends and that's all that matters.
The bookies have made you the warm favourite for the fight. Does that surprise you given the fact Horn was an Olympian, he beat Manny Pacquiao and Michael Zerafa, a world ranked middleweight?
I never pay attention to that sort of stuff, but wow, that's surprising to be the favourite given what he's done in his career. It's a complement.
What's your take on Horn?
He's very strong physically. He has a strong will, too. He's passionate and he's always ready to fight. But he's very open and he can be hit. Look at all the punishment he's taken. Horn has been in wars. That can be a good thing because he has proved himself but it also takes a toll on your body and health. I still feel fresh.
Some opponents say Horn is dirty fighter who comes in swinging with his head.
He does, but I'm not concerned about that. I can do the exact same thing if he wants to play that game. It doesn't bother me.
Three years ago you posed for a Courier-Mail photo with Horn in Brisbane. He was getting ready to fight Pacquiao in one of the great moments of Australian boxing. You were only a novice pro at the time. Did you ever imagine you would be fighting him?
In the back of my mind, yes. I always thought about it. But watching the Pacquiao fight convinced me I could beat Horn. I was in the crowd at Suncorp Stadium that day and as soon as Horn won I told my manger (Glen Jennings) that he was the fight I wanted. I believed I could beat him. It became my goal and I've worked my way to getting the fight.
Michael Zerafa says Horn will win a close fight against you and that experience in big fights will be a key difference.
That's great. Zerafa has tipped my last four opponents to beat me. He just might be my lucky charm.
Why can you beat Horn?
I have more skills and I want it more. All the talk goes out the window when you're in the ring. The person who is hungrier and wants to win more will win the fight. I know I'm going to be outworking him three times what he'll be doing to me.
Horn has a lot trouble with cut eyes. Will that be a big factor for you?
I'm going to target every part of his body and his head, not just his eyes. He cuts a lot and that's a disadvantage for him. I'm there to fight and he's there to fight and we'll both be trying to knock each other's heads off. I'm aiming for everywhere.
Horn lost his world title to Terence Crawford in 2018. Did you see things in the way that Crawford fought that you plan to employ?
Crawford and I are completely different fighters. Stylistically we'll have to wait and see until April 22 how it plays out but I know I'm faster than Horn too.
You went to Manila last year to spar Pacquiao.
Yes, I spent three weeks with him before his last fight with Keith Thurman (in July).
He's a cool bloke but I came home because I was fighting Dwight Ritchie and Manny has a totally different style to Dwight.
I covered many of your father's fights including his last bout in Manchester against Ricky Hatton. I remember you and your little brother Nikita as small boys swinging from the top rope of the boxing ring like you were on monkey bars in the playground.
Some of my earliest memories are of going to the gym. At a very young age
I was training with my uncle (Igor Golubev) and I'm still training with him now. He's the man. I was always put in with the big boys who could fight from a young age so I was always challenged. I love challenges and I love big tasks, that's what motivates me.
Who is the best fighter you ever saw?
Apart from my father, it would have to be Roy Jones. I loved his style growing up. Mike Tyson as well, Lennox Lewis, that great rivalry. I'm a big fan of Floyd Mayweather, too. I like the way Floyd fights. I like the way he approaches boxing. I don't like him as a person, though. Lately I've taken a liking to GGG (Gennady Golovkin). I try to learn from those guys but I don't really try to copy their style.
When did you decide you wanted to be fight for a living?
It was always in the back of my mind from a young age. It became a reality when I turned pro but my goals have gotten bigger and bigger since then. Now they're up to the moon.
Your only loss in the amateurs was against the Rio Olympian Daniel Lewis, who is now making a name as a pro. Are you looking for revenge?
I'm not interested in Daniel any more. He's going on his own path. The only guy I want now is Jeff Horn. He's the only fish in the ocean as far as I'm concerned.
You were a frequent flyer to Queensland as a youngster.
I won the Golden Gloves at Caboolture three times. I fought there with my brother Nikita, who was a champion, too. These days Nikita is into architecture, though. He's put the same discipline and approach from his boxing into his architecture and is doing very well.
What does your father think of Horn?
My dad is very confident I will beat him. He tells me it's all about the preparation.
The knowledge my dad has about boxing you can't buy. He knows the game better than anyone in Australia. We haven't talked in great depth about the Horn fight yet, but I feel that I already know how to win it.
After Horn who are you looking at?
I'm going for a world title as soon as I can. Guys like Jermell Charlo, the WBC champion, and Patrick Teixeira, the WBO champion. I want to be a world champion in my own right.
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