Beating undisputed jr. welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu doesn't look that hard. I mean, he's got that awkward looking eastern European amateur style that makes him look so hittable. And his deliberate and patient style can make him vulnerable to movement and to slick boxers. But while you may have some success against him early on, pretty soon you'll start to feel the heat and you will eventually get burnt.
Such was the case this past weekend in Melbourne, Australia when world-class veteran Jesse James Leija challenged Tszyu in front of 35,000 rabid Tszyu fans. Leija put up a spirited fight early on, beating Tszyu to the punch and out-hustling him in exchanges from in close. It seemed for a moment that that plucky vet was on the verge of a huge upset.
But alas, Tszyu's strength and heavy hands would regain control in rounds five and six and pretty soon, Leija, who hails from San Antonio, Texas, was like Daniel Crockett holding off the masses at the Alamo. Leija surrendered to what he said was a punctured eardrum. Most observers had the fight close at the end of six rounds but it was clear as day that Tszyu had begun to physically impose his will on Leija and had started to punish him with his array of straight right hands and left hooks.
Leija had his moments throughout four rounds against 'the Thunder from Down Under'; Zab Judah, had his way for one round against him; but so far, only Vince Phillips has had enough to successfully hold off Tszyu and his imposing presence.
You may have your way with Tszyu here and there, or early on, but good luck doing it for 12 rounds. Like the old Georgetown Hoya's full-court press, Chinese water torture or Edwin Moses' finishing kick, Tszyu will eventually overcome whatever resistance you may have and make you succumb.
TSZYU vs. GATTI?
So what are the chances of this blockbuster happening this year? Well, Tszyu fights exclusively for the Showtime network and Gatti has been an HBO staple for years. But HBO doesn't have an exclusive multi-fight deal with Gatti and it isn't out of the realm of possibility for Gatti to go over to Showtime. But the only problem with that scenario is that Showtime- whose budget has always been significantly smaller than HBO's- is going through budget cuts in it's boxing department. It's highly doubtful that Showtime could come up with the needed money to make that fight.
There are rumors throughout the industry that Showtime would be willing to let Tszyu fight on HBO for a fee since they wouldn't be able to make that fight anyway. But there would still be a question if HBO would be willing to put up the necessary licensing fee to make that fight on their 'Championship Boxing' series. This fight may have to go on pay-per-view, which is always a risk since there would be no guaranteed money for the fighters at that point.
Another problem in making that fight is that both fighters on their respective networks make huge money and don't really need to meet each other to hit the jackpot. Which means that if they were to face off, they would have to be paid significantly – which means in the neighborhood of two million big ones. If not, Gatti and his people are perfectly content to keep fighting on HBO and make a million bucks. For the rematch with Micky Ward, he got around $1.2 million and you can assume he will make right around that same amount in June when his next HBO fight comes up. The same applies to Tszyu on Showtime.
And then there's this quandary, while Tszyu has all the belts, it's Gatti that has the box-office appeal in the United States. Tszyu hasn't come close to being embraced by the American public, while Gatti has been a fan favorite for years. So the question is, what is the more forceful negotiating chip- the titles or the ability to draw?
You can guarantee that both managements would argue their points till they were blue in the face. The jr. welterweight division is loaded from top to bottom but clearly this would be the marquee fight in this weight class. But with the advanced age of both boxers, you get the feeling that if it isn't made by this fall, we may never see Tszyu-Gatti.
Did anyone see Mohammed Abdullaev on Tszyu's undercard this past weekend? Abdullaev blew out former lightweight titlist Phillip Holiday in four punishing rounds to improve to 11-0.
Abdullaev has been overshadowed by the likes of other 140-pound prospects like Ricardo Williams and Miguel Cotto, perhaps because Williams is an American and Cotto is Puerto Rican. Abdullaev is from the faraway land of Uzbekistan; but remember, Abdullaev easily downed both of these guys on his way to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games.
I was there ringside in Sydney and trust me, this guy is a machine, who under the guidance of world-class trainer Kenny Adams is only getting better and better.
Abdullaev, who is promoted by Vlad Wharton (who also has Tszyu), could very well be the heir apparent to Tszyu.
You may not like Floyd Mayweather's personality, you may not be particularly enamored of his style or his antics, but you gotta give him this- he doesn't duck anybody.
'The Pretty Boy', who is the current WBC lightweight titlist, will be facing WBA belt-holder Leo Dorin at the Madison Square Garden on April 19th in a unification title.
Since the beginning of 2001, he has faced the likes of Diego Corrales, Carlos Hernandez, Jesus Chavez and Jose Luis Castillo twice. That's two highly respected champs in Corrales and Castillo, and two solid pro's in Hernandez and Chavez.
And now he's facing Dorin, who is universally regarded as one of the games better lightweights.
You can say a lot of things about Mayweather, but you can't say he doesn't take tough fights.