Brian Mendoza: Once We Go in There, That Switch Flips and It’s War

Once seen as a lesser version of his father, Tim Tszyu has ignored the critics, continued to evolve his game, and after a year in which he’s dispatched Tony Harrison and Carlos Ocampo, the Australia native has gone from a seemingly sacrificial lamb to junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo to the odds-on favorite to beat Charlo if and when their bout gets scheduled.

What a difference Charlo’s tepid effort against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez can make. But even without Charlo’s failed attempt to take all the belts at 168 pounds, there’s been growing sentiment that if someone is going to topple Charlo at 154, it’s the son of hall of famer Kostya Tszyu.

Enter Brian Mendoza, who will face the younger Tszyu for the WBO title this weekend at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, armed with the belief that just as he dropped, stopped and upset Jeison Rosario and Sebastian Fundora in his last two bouts, he has the goods to do the same to the home country hero. And he won’t need his mouth to get the victory; the fists of the Albuquerque native will do.

“I’ve always said that I want my performances to speak for me,” said Mendoza during a recent media appearance down under. “I’m not a trash talker. And I feel like the people that flip the switch a little too early, they force it. It comes off corny and I think the reason I’ve been resonating with people is because I’m real. I’m myself. This is who you’re going to see on and off camera. But on fight night, I’m definitely a killer and I’m in there to hurt my opponent. There’s no friendliness in there.”

It’s why Mendoza is resonating with fight fans, and why Tszyu is doing the same, making this a fight that could steal some accolades from more high-profile bouts. Mendoza isn’t one of those fighters who says if the knockout comes, it comes. He makes no bones about it – he’ll go 12 if necessary, but if he has his way, he won’t have anything to do with the judges’ scorecards.

“The thing about me is I have power, but I’m not just a power puncher,” said Mendoza. “I don’t go in there trying to look for one shot. I’ll hurt you for 12 rounds. I’m old school. I think Miguel Cotto versus (Ricardo) Mayorga. That was a 12-round, last second knockout. I’m even content with that. I do look for the knockout. I do want to put on a big show. I think that’s why I got called here to this beautiful country in the first place for this title fight. But I’m in there to put punishment on you for 12 rounds. Yeah, I have one shot knockouts here and there, but you see my last few fights, it’s been fifth round, round six, round seven, and I carry the power late and I’m totally fine however long the fight needs to go for me to get that victory.”

Tszyu, like his father before him, has the similar kind of punishing power that can either take you out instantly or make you wish it did as each passing round takes the fight out of you. And that’s precisely what makes this fight intriguing. Tszyu has been the hammer throughout his unbeaten 23-fight career, with the exception of a knockdown at the hands of Terrell Gausha in a 2022 fight he ultimately won via unanimous decision. What happens if he’s the nail against Mendoza? 

That’s something the 29-year-old wants to find out because while he learned what he’s made of after rebounding from decision defeats to Larry Gomez (2019) and Jesus Alejandro Ramos (2021), Tszyu hasn’t had to ask himself those questions yet.

“I have a bigger chip on my shoulder,” said Mendoza of dealing with defeat. “I have more to prove each time out. So I’m always hungrier. I always hated to say that, but it is something I needed to go through. It’s something I had to experience because before you feel that taste of defeat, it’s something impossible. It’s unfathomable. You go in there, you really don’t think it’s possible, and then it kind of crushes your reality. So if you can make it through that, the ups and downs of that rollercoaster, there’s a lot to come out through on top of that, and I really had to dig it out. I have that chip on my shoulder and it’s just no pressure. I’ve already tasted defeat and I know I don’t ever want that again. So that hunger’s really what makes a difference here and I feel like that’s what adds to my hunger more than anything else.”

That hunger was evident against Rosario and Fundora, two fights in which he was expected to show up, put on an entertaining scrap and, most likely, lose. Mendoza didn’t get the memo, defeating Rosario in five rounds and Fundora in seven. Now he’s a long way from New Mexico, in Australia, and expected to show up, put on an entertaining scrap and, most likely, lose.

No one’s told Brian Mendoza. 

“Once we go in there, that switch flips and it’s war,” he said. “We’re aiming for the same goal and only one can come out on top. There’s no second place in boxing. Second place, you come out, you lose, and you stop getting those calls for fights. You stop getting the opportunities. I know what that feels like, and I never want to go back to that. That’s why when you see me in that ring, I pour my heart and soul in each and every time and you’re never going to see me say, ‘Oh, I wish I would’ve done this or that.’ I’m leaving it all out there.”

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