13/04/2024

Tim Tszyu will now meet Sebastian "The Towering Inferno" Fundora on March 30 following the withdrawal of Keith Thurman - Image: Sean Michael Ham/TGB Promotions

“Definitely don’t blink during this one” – that’s the message Tim Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) gave fans at last week’s media workout ahead of his Las Vegas debut.

A brief, but striking warning, Tszyu’s words have an exciting undercurrent in that they guarantee an all action affair for the WBO and vacant WBC super welterweight titles on March 30.

From the moment the announcement was made that Sebastian “The Towering Inferno” Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs) would be replacing the injured Keith Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs) as the Australian’s opponent on 12 days notice, most took a similar viewpoint. It is very hard to imagine a world in which this fight doesn’t deliver.

For as long as it lasts, that is.

Indeed, some harbor a level of disappointment at Thurman’s withdrawal. After all, the man known as “One Time” has been a major player in boxing’s global landscape for the better part of the past decade.

Yet at 35 and with just two fights to his name in the past five years, fears that a bout with Tszyu could serve as an example of the old being fed to the young were genuine.

Granted that Thurman appeared to have brushed aside his 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) with a superb display against Mario Barrios (28-2, 18 KOs) in 2022, the fine print attached to the later performance leaves resulting question marks. That is, the bout was Barrios’ first foray into the welterweight division.

Thurman’s lack of activity is further compounded by the fact that in meeting Tszyu, he would have been fighting at super welterweight for the first time since 2012.

Pessimists could hardly be blamed for predicting a whitewash, then. Though a win over the American would have added another great name on an ever-growing resume, triumph of such a nature could have led to an asterisk attached for pundits to squabble over for years.

On the flip side, a win against Fundora, even on 12 days notice as a last minute replacement, would not offer the same kind of doubts.

This is largely based on one factor: Volume.

In the time since Thurman’s last fight, Fundora has fought three times, all of which saw the 26 year old dish out his fair share of brutality.

After a 2022 Ring Magazine fight of the year contender with Erikson Lubin (26-2, 18 KOs) in April, Fundora followed up with a career-best performance, in terms of output, in a decision win over Carlos Ocampo (35-3, 23 KOs) in October. According to CompuBox, 200 of the total of 259 blows he landed in the contest were power punches.

As such, Fundora’s moniker of “The Towering Inferno” becomes less of a colloquial and more of a reality every time he steps through the ropes. Opponents have to walk into the fire to come out victorious.

Further numbers by CompuBox show that Fundora lands 40.8% of his power punches, a number higher than the average for fighters in the super welterweight division (36.3%).

Often it is the Californian’s willingness to trade that can lead to dicey moments within fights, however.

Take the aforementioned Ocampo contest where despite such a high number of power punches landed, Fundora still managed to wear 184 himself. This total is reflective of the fact that his opponents land 30.6% of their total power punches.

In his following outing, Fundora found himself leading on all three scorecards (59-55 60-54 x 2) before being dramatically knocked out by Brian Mendoza (22-3, 16 KOs) in the seventh round.

Still, it is his aggressive and awkward style, one predicated on fighting inside of range despite standing at 6’5, that makes a meeting with Tszyu so intriguing.

Part of the appeal of the Australian’s rise from the domestic scene through the global ranks has been the way in which he has been matched. In most cases, the contrast of opponent styles would be stark from fight to fight.

Dennis Hogan’s (31-5-1, 7 KOs) jab and move game differed to that of Takeshi Inoue’s (20-2-3, 12 KOs) forward march, which again differed from the calculated countering of Terrell Gausha (24-3-1, 12 KOs) and so forth.

Each time out, Tszyu has adapted in-fight to the challenge in front of him, regardless of how much these have varied. Battling away with a giant who likes to bang away at a close distance, follows this ‘take on all comers’ trend.

“I’m sure he hasn’t fought a person my height, so it’s definitely going to be different,” Fundora said on Thursday.

“I’m not focused on using my height for this fight. Of course I have to, but I’m focused on my strategy and what I want to do.”

Experts within the sport are also cognisant of the severity of the task at hand. Ultimately, there is trust in Tszyu’s ability to come away with the victory.

“I think you’ll see Tim break him down,” former world champion Barry Michael told Jai McAllister.

“Tim might have a bit of an effort, he might not get in strife, he might find a tall rangy southpaw hard to work out for the first round or two.

“I reckon Tim will stop him within nine.”

In all, besting Fundora not only adds more data into the rolodex of experiences for Tszyu to draw back on, it would also add another layer to his incredible record.

Legacy may be a word bandied around far too often in combat sports, yet it is hard to see how a win over an incredibly dangerous and tricky, albeit flawed, active contender would be a dampener.

In a division devoid of a head honcho since undisputed champion Jermell Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) moved on to greener pastures, the winner Tszyu vs Fundora will begin their reign as weight class ruler.

Such a discussion is for the pundits and scribes to debate, though. In Tszyu’s eyes, it’s just business as usual. Defending his title and collecting belts in spectacular fashion against boxing’s best remains the main goal.

The rest will take care of itself.

“This fight’s going to be a bit of everything,” he told Jai McAllister.

“You’ve got to have variety in boxing and I believe I’ve got variety with all different sort of punches. When I see the shots, when I see the holes, whatever is there, then I’ll target.

“You’ve got to do things that no one else is going to do. This is part of greatness I believe.”

Tszyu vs Fundora goes down live on March 31 AEDT and is available to order on Main Event/Kayo, here.

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