Tim Tszyu On Battling Brian Mendoza: I Think This Is [My] Toughest Challenge To Date

Tim Tszyu is heavily favored to beat Brian Mendoza on Sunday afternoon in their fight for Tszyu’s WBO junior middleweight title.

The surging Australian still considers his hard-hitting American challenger the most imposing opponent he has agreed to fight since Tszyu (23-0, 17 KOs) made his pro debut in December 2016. Tony Harrison is the most accomplished opponent Tszyu has fought thus far, but Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs) upset previously unbeaten Sebastian Fundora by seventh-round knockout in his last fight and knocked out former IBF/IBO/WBA 154-pound champ Jeison Rosario in the fifth round of his bout before he defeated Fundora.

“It’s a tough challenge,” Tszyu told BoxingScene.com. “He’s coming off two big wins, two big knockouts. He’s got a bit of momentum and confidence, so that always presents a touch challenge. And he’s got that underdog mentality, so I’m looking forward to a challenge like that. … I think this is [my] toughest challenge to date. I think his heart – if you’re ripping into him, he ain’t gonna quit. He’s built something of a warrior courage. That’s always tough.”

Oddsmakers have nevertheless installed Tszyu as at least a 6-1 favorite to defeat Mendoza in a 12-round main event Showtime will televise live Saturday night in the United States from Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Broadbeach, Australia. Showtime’s two-bout broadcast will begin at 10:30 p.m. EDT with a 12-round bout between Australian junior featherweight contender Sam Goodman (15-0, 7 KOs) and Miguel Flores (25-4-1, 12 KOs), of Spring, Texas.

Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs), a 6-foot-6 southpaw from Coachella, California, closed as a 9-1 favorite over Mendonza, but Tszyu wasn’t surprised when Albuquerque’s Mendoza came back and pulled off an upset April 8 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

“He’s got the power,” Tszyu said. “He’s got the IQ. Fundora is always a tough challenge for everyone because of his height and his awkwardness. [It was] just a perfectly timed left hook, but the mistake was made by Fundora. He threw a sloppy uppercut and he was wide open. It was a simple, textbook left hook counter from a left uppercut. That’s all it takes, just one punch, a perfect piece of timing and a mistake from your opponent.”

Mendoza trailed on all three scorecards – 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55 – when he caught Fundora with a left hook in an exchange early in the seventh round. Another right-left combination by Mendoza before Fundora fell ensured that the former WBC interim super welterweight champion couldn’t get up in time to beat referee Ray Corona’s count.

“It’s sorta like a ‘Rocky’ story,” Tszyu said of Mendoza. “He’s got that drive in him. Again, it’s a tough challenge because when you’re training you’re thinking he’s training that hard, so you’ve gotta push that extra bit as well.”

Tszyu thus anticipates a more difficult fight from Mendoza than Harrison gave him March 12 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Tszyu led Detroit’s Harrison (29-4-1, 21 KOs) by the same score, 77-75, according to all three judges before he dropped and stopped the former WBC super welterweight champ in the ninth round of their fight for the WBO interim 154-pound crown.

“I actually did find it quite an easy fight,” Tszyu said of his victory over Harrison. “I wasn’t tired much at all. It wasn’t a hard, dirty fight at all. It was just, yeah, I made things quite simple, you know, and used my physique and power to be able to overwhelm him and sorta take him out.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.

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