Australian boxing sensation Tim Tszyu believes the difference between himself and former world champion Jeff Horn will be the ability to stay at the top of the sport for longer than six months.
Tszyu (15-0-0) is set to fight Horn (20-2-1) in Townsville on August 26, a junior middleweight battle which will unofficially determine Australia’s No. 1 boxer. Just under a month out from the fight, Tszyu has already thrown a jab in Horn’s direction, undermining the Queenslander’s stint at the summit of the welterweight division.
Horn famously won his championship belt when he scored a controversial points decision over future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao in July 2017. He managed one championship defense against Gary Corcoran later that year before surrendering his title to American Terence Crawford in early 2018.
“There’s a lot of things that separate Jeff, an average world champion professional boxer, from a world class contender,” Tszyu tells ESPN. “Becoming a world champion is one thing, but staying world champion is another thing.
“He’s reached his highs and he doesn’t have the characteristics to stay as a world champion. I mean, look at what Crawford did to him. I don’t think Horn even won two or three seconds of that fight. That just proves the different class.
“That’s the difference [between me and him]. Once I win a world title, I will stay a champion. I will show the two different classes we’re at right now.”
The attack from Tszyu comes just days after Horn claimed the 25-year-old is riding on his father’s coattails and that their fight wouldn’t be happening had it not been for his surname.
Tszyu’s father Kostya is Australian and Russian boxing royalty, having won the world lightweight title in 1998, before going on to defend it for a staggering six and a half years.
While proud of his father’s legacy, Tszyu is adamant he is forging his own path in the sport and that Kostya has very little to do with it.
“In my career, what I’ve accomplished and what I’m doing, my dad doesn’t play much of a role. I do my own stuff,” Tszyu tells ESPN. “He taught me one thing and that’s work ethic, because of that I am who I am. If you want to succeed you have to put in the work.
“I’m proud of what my dad achieved. He’s the greatest boxer in Australian and Russian sports history. I do everything that he’s done. There’s a blueprint. If I could do half of what he did, I’m going to be a great in this sport.”
While Horn’s form has been a little shaky since losing his world title — with a further loss coming against Michael Zerafa in Bendigo last year — victory for Tszyu would undoubtedly be his biggest win to date and put him on a similar career trajectory to his father.
Much has been made of Horn’s awkward style and explosive power, which has surprised a number of opponents, perhaps none more so than Pacquiao, but Tszyu insists it won’t matter when the two step into the ring.
“I’m going to hit him from the top down and I’m going to keep hitting him until he gives up. I will hit him so hard that he quits,” Tszyu warned. “I’m eager to get back into the ring and proving that I am in the best in Australia. I’m at the point in my career where I’m in the best shape of my life.
“I want to win convincingly. I want to win by KO and I’ve trained for that. Whatever way it goes the only thing on my mind is victory.”
If Tszyu manages to get the job done against Horn he will likely in the conversation for a championship fight either late in 2020 or early next year. It’s an objective Tszyu has been targeting since he first laced up the gloves.
“The international level is the stage I want to be at,” he says. “I want to climb up the rankings to not just be No. 1 but to be the champ and to remain the champ. Life’s a journey you just have to take it step-by-step. Hopefully after this fight I can move on to bigger and better things.”