Tim Tszyu has landed the first target on his hyped ‘John Wick hit list’ – after finally signing to face USA’s Brian Mendoza in an Australian world title shot on Sunday 15 October.
Just a week after pitching Mendoza to Fox Sports Australia as “the firework match of the division” – and the man he most wants for his first WBO world title defense – ‘The Soul Taker’ has now been granted his wish by promoters No Limit.
As well as defending his new WBO belt for the first time – which is set to be stripped from Jermell Charlo just a fortnight before – Tszyu will also compete for, at worst, Mendoza’s WBC interim super welterweight title.
There’s also still a chance that by the time this fight rolls around, the WBC will also have stripped Charlo – who moves up two weight classes for a Las Vegas showdown with Canelo Alvarez on October 1.
And Tszyu said Wednesday that he sees this fight as his ticket to a fight with the winner of the big showdown.
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Tszyu said at the announcement of the fight – which will take place in an as yet undetermined Australian city – that it was a fight for the kings of the division after Charlo moved weights for the Canelo fight.
“We’re the next two pit bulls in the division… It’s a huge challenge and I’m looking forward to taking it with both hands,” Tszyu said.
“We’re the top two dogs in the super welterweight division because the other guy runs. Number one against number one, he told Main Event afterwards.
Mendoza is a 22-2 giant killer with knockout power, and he promised another “explosive performance” in his first trip down under.
“You can definitely expect an explosive show and fireworks. Big fireworks.”
Despite the American’s 16 knockouts from 22 wins, Tszyu said he was not afraid of his rival’s power.
“Honestly, anybody who puts on gloves has some kind of power. Us boxers, we’re paid killers basically. That’s what we do,” he said.
“So I respect anyone who gets in the ring and I respect anyone who has power. His last few appearances, you’ve seen, one-punch KOs, and they’ve been against very, very top opposition. I don’t take this lightly.
“But at the same time, people fall from me too, their eyes go silly too!”
Mendoza said his work ethic and adaptability would give him victory over the Australian: “As I’ve said with all my previous opponents, I bring something to the table that they haven’t seen before.
“I can do a little bit of everything … I can adapt. It’s my work ethic that pays off in these fights. I work harder than anyone in the world.”
“He’s been on my radar since he became a big name in the division,” Mendoza added, calling it a “full circle” moment given he fought as a swing fight in Minneapolis on the card where Tszyu beat Terrell Gausha (March 2022) .
Speaking to Main Event after the announcement, Tszyu said he ‘couldn’t care less’ about his opponent’s stunning rise and record of three straight knockouts, which included a massive upset over Sebastian Fundora in April this year.
“Honestly, I couldn’t care less about what he’s done. I focus on myself. I couldn’t care less about his knockouts and his ability,” Tszyu said.
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The blockbuster fight between Charlo and Canelo Alvarez happens to involve two more names Tszyu wants.
Same deal with Errol Spence Jnr. And the undisputed welterweight king Terence Crawford.
“I was on the plane watching this John Wick movie,” Tszyu said recently when asked about his chart-topping reference.
“And he was just sniping everyone.
“I thought ‘man, that’s me … it’s going to be me in the next couple of years.’
“And mark my words now, next year I will be the face of boxing all over the world.
“Errol Spence, Canelo Alvarez, those are the names I’m chasing.”
But while Tszyu sees a number of megastars in his fighting future, his first test will now be big hitter Mendoza, who also serves as the WBC interim champion.
Back in April, the 29-year-old took the aforementioned strap from Sebastian Fundora via a left hook, then an overhand right so brutal they’ve put him in Knockout of the Year discussions in 2023.
Before that, the American also scored a decisive upset against Jeison Rosaria, finishing off his rival in the fifth with a devastating uppercut.
The consecutive highlights have also elevated Mendoza (22-2) to what Tszyu insists is the division’s No.3 ranking — behind himself and, right now, still-unified King Charlo.
And with Charlo now set to be stripped of WBO gold – and Tszyu elevated from interim champion – the Aussie is eyeing “the biggest challenge of my career” in a title fight where the host city is yet to be finalised.
“Right now the top three in our division are Charlo, myself and then Mendoza,” Tszyu told Fox Sports Australia last week.
“He’s the WBC interim champion, sharp and slick, throws unorthodox punches.
“And he has power in both hands. Boasting knockouts on highlights.
“So when you look at his last performances, and my last performances, it’s the fireworks of the division right now.”
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Asked if Mendoza was the most dangerous rival available, Tszyu continued: “For sure.
“And my biggest challenge so far.
“With the Fundora KO, everything was on time. Caught him off guard.
“Fundora’s hand was placed just slightly where it shouldn’t have been – and that was all it took.”
But when it comes to respecting the American’s underdog rise to interim champion?
“I respect every fighter that comes into the ring,” Tszyu continued.
“And as a potential opponent, I respect Mendoza.
“But I’m not the type to give out kisses, hugs or thank-you notes.
“I just know, if a fight between us is signed, I’m going to be fired up every second I’m in there.
“Because in boxing you have distractions right through a fight.
“So I have to work on staying sharp for the full 12 rounds.”
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