Tszyu: Charlo’s The Champ, Number One [At 154]; That’s Fight I Want; Don’t Care About Belts

Tim Tszyu was bewildered by Jermell Charlo’s uninspiring performance against Canelo Alvarez.

The WBO junior middleweight champion sensed Charlo simply attempted to “survive” against Alvarez in the highest-profile fight of Charlo’s career. From Tszyu’s viewpoint, going 12 rounds with Alvarez satisfied Charlo on September 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Though critical of Charlo’s most recent performance, Australia’s Tszyu still considers Charlo the man he must beat to legitimize himself as the champion in the 154-pound division. Charlo announced after his one-sided defeat to Alvarez that he would move back down two weight classes to defend his IBF, WBA and WBC titles in his next fight.

The WBO elevated Tszyu (23-0, 17 KOs) from interim champ to full champ as soon as Charlo entered the ring to face Alvarez. The Sydney native will defend that title against WBC interim super welterweight champ Brian Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs) in a 12-round fight Saturday night at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Broadbeach, Australia (Showtime; 10:30 p.m. EDT; 7:30 p.m. PDT).

If Tszyu, who is more than a 6-1 favorite according to DraftKings sportsbook, fends off the emerging Mendoza, he wants to battle Charlo next.

“If he comes back to 154, certainly, man, certainly,” Tszyu told BoxingScene.com. “He’s the champ, number one, and I’ll be right behind him. So, if he decides to move away from the division, then I guess I’m the top dog in that division.”

Facing the Tszyu-Mendoza winner would afford Charlo an opportunity to fully unify boxing’s 154-pound championships for the second time. Despite the WBO’s decision to strip Charlo of one of his titles, Tszyu still views Charlo as the man to beat in their weight class.

“For me, personally, I wanna beat him because he’s the bloke that I’ve wanted for a long time,” Tszyu said. “And I’ve been mandated to fight him, I’ve been going up the ranks, chasing him. That’s the fight that I want, you know? I don’t care about the belts or whatever. I’m going for the name Charlo and that’s all I’ve wanted in my career, at the moment.”

Tszyu, 28, was the mandatory challenger for Charlo’s WBO belt. They were supposed to fight January 28 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, but Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) suffered two broken bones in his left hand during a sparring session a few days before last Christmas.

Charlo-Tszyu wasn’t rescheduled because Charlo chose to move up from 154 pounds to the 168-pound division to face Alvarez for the biggest purse of his career.

Tszyu will fight for the third time against Mendoza since his fight with Charlo was scrapped.

He stopped Detroit’s Tony Harrison (29-4-1, 21 KOs), a former WBC champ and the only opponent prior to Alvarez to beat Charlo, by ninth-round technical knockout March 12 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Tszyu then demolished Mexican contender Carlos Ocampo (35-3, 23 KOs) in the first round of their June 18 bout at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mendoza, meanwhile, upset Sebastian Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs) by seventh-round knockout April 8 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Fundora led Mendoza comfortably on all three scorecards when Albuquerque’s Mendoza unloaded a left-right-left combination that knocked Fundora flat on his back and out.

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

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