When his first title fight opposite Jermell Charlo fell apart in January because the undisputed 154-pound champion pulled out with an injury, unbeaten Tim Tszyu made the difficult decision to move on with his career rather than beholden to anyone else's timeline.
"Look, I wasn't going to wait up on 'Mell, and his life and what he is going to be doing in his career or what honeymoons he wants to take," Tszyu told "Morning Kombat" this week. "I'm here to just do me."
Tszyu (21-0, 15 KOs), the Australian-born son of Hall of Fame boxer Kostya Tszyu, will instead return Saturday (Showtime, 10:45 p.m. ET) on home soil in Sydney to face the only man to defeat Charlo as a professional in former WBC junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison (29-3-1, 21 KOs).
The Showtime International special edition headlining bout will be contested for the interim WBO title, with the hope for the winner facing a healthy Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) this summer for all four recognized titles.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Tszyu vs. Harrison on Saturday night below.
"Tony Harrison was the next best option and the fight to make so this is why it's made and this is why we are getting it on," Tszyu said. "It's a big challenge, it's a very big challenge. He's the man who beat the man. When I got told about this opportunity, I took it with both hands and said, 'This is the fight I want. This is the challenge I need and the name I need on my resume at this point in my career because you need that respect.'"
Tszyu, 28, made a resounding U.S. debut last March on Showtime when he claimed a close decision against former title challenger Terrell Gausha in an all-action fight.
Even though Tszyu succeeded in showcasing his "resilency through adversity" that he is very proud of, the fight saw the boxer-puncher willingly neglect defense and head movement in exchange for constant aggression. Gausha even dropped Tszyu in the opening round.
"I was in terminator mode for some reason. I got into this mood where it was like, 'Hit me with all you got, mate. I'm walking straight through you,'" Tszyu said. "That [knockdown] was a bit of a shock. Once I warmed up a little and knew I was in a fight and all good, that's when the terminator mode kicked in and I just walked forward after that."
Harrison, a 32-year-old native of Detroit, upset Charlo via disputed decision on national television in 2018 before being stopped in the 11th round of their rematch one year later despite leading on two scorecards at the time of the TKO.
Even though he struggled at times in a surprising draw with Bryant Perrella in 2021 amidst the pandemic, Harrison bounced back strongly last April when outboxed Sergio Garcia over 10 rounds.
"I feel amazing. In past fights I'd weigh 162, 63. But I'm right there. Not only physically but mentally I feel amazing," Harrison said at the final press conference. "I hear Tim speak about how skinny I am and how frail I look, but I came up here without a shirt on so you could visualize what you're about to touch. I want you to see it, believe it. Visualize it, son. I came here to show exactly what you're going to see. I'm not here to catfish you. I want you to go to sleep and dream about me and see what you're about to get.
"Fighting for me is fun. I've been fighting every single day of my life. I don't think he's had to endure half the stuff that I have. This fight, this press conference is fun for me. Like I said, I feel great."
Given the fact that Harrison is an underrated boxer who also carries enough power to remain a knockout threat, Tszyu isn't exactly sure how much the gameplan will change after moving on from studying Charlo.
"That's a good question. I just have to figure it out on the night," Tszyu said. "I know the dangers of Harrison and what he brings to the table. Stylistically, it's a bit different than Charlo but it's me versus me at the end of the day."
Although Tszyu clearly respects Harrison's skills, he did bring up the reality that all three of Harrison's losses have come via knockout before adding a confident prediction.
"History will repeat itself," Tszyu said. "He will crumble."
The undercard will have a distinct Australian flair, though only the main event will air in the United States. Sam Goodman will take on TJ Doheny in a super bantamweight contest. And Ben Mahoney will battle Koen Mazoudier in a junior middleweight fight.
Fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Tim Tszyu -260 vs. Tony Harrison +210, WBO interim junior middleweight title
- Sam Goodman -400 vs. TJ Doheny +310, super bantamweights
- Ben Mahoney -165 vs. Koen Mazoudier +140, junior middleweights
Provided Harrison can handle the aggressive threat of Tszyu's power, this has all the makings to be a potential trap fight for the younger fighter. Harrison's veteran tricks and accurate counter shots are the perfect Kryptonite for Tszyu's more limited skill set as a pure boxer, a reality only made worse by Harrison's height and reach advantages of nearly five inches each.
However, the repeated pattern of Harrison's career that Tszyu mentioned can't be overlooked, especially if Tszyu is successful at getting inside Harrison's jab enough to force him into full-time countering. It's a result that would still allow Harrison to retain some danger as a sniper while also speeding up his demise the more he struggles to keep Tszyu off of him.
In that regard, this fight could end up looking a lot like Harrison's ninth-round TKO loss to Jarrett Hurd in their 2017 bout for the vacant IBF title. Harrison was up on two scorecards and even on the third in a somewhat commanding performance until Hurd broke down his barriers with his bulldozing style.
Just as Tszyu showcased against Gausha, that self-proclaimed "terminator" style isn't all that different from the Hurd of old and should have the same effect against a Harrison who is now six years older.
Pick: Tszyu via TKO10