Tim Tszyu now feels like a true champion. And bigger things lie ahead.
The Australian star, who recently was upgraded to full WBO 154-pound titleholder, defeated challenger Brian Mendoza by a unanimous decision in his first defense Sunday in Broadbeach, Australia.
The scores were 117-111 (nine rounds to three), 116-111 and 116-112.
Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) had said beforehand that he was approaching the fight as if it were for the vacant title because he hadn’t won it in the ring.
And he fought with the passion of a man seeking his first major belt.
Mendoza (22-3, 16 KOs) was a problem in the first half of the fight, during which the hard-punching American – coming off knockouts of Jeison Rosario and Sebastian Fundora – arguably outworked the champion.
However, Tszyu, took firm control of the fight from the seventh round on. He played the role of the power puncher, landing heavy blow after heavy blow — including a number of punishing uppercuts — to pull away from Mendoza on the scorecards.
Mendoza demonstrated impressive resilience – a lesser opponent wouldn’t have survived – but he had neither the skill set nor the firepower to withstand Tszyu’s attack.
According to CompuBox, Tszyu outlanded Mendoza 120 (of 406) to 93 (of 433) overall and 98 (of 258) to 71 (of 225) in power punches.
Tszyu has now beaten in succession Terrell Gausha, Tony Harrison, Carlos Ocampo and Brian Mendoza, a run that has lifted him to the top of the junior middleweight division.
However, he told many outlets before the Mendoza fight that he won’t be satisfied until he beats the longtime 154-pound king: Jermell Charlo, who chose to fight Canelo Alvarez instead of Tszyu and lost a one-sided decision on Sept. 30.
Charlo said after his setback that he planned to back down to 154, which could set up one of the most-compelling matchups in the sport.