The 154lb. Jr. Middleweight division has been one that has seen many notable battles through the years. In recent times, it has seen Jermell Charlo emerge as the division’s central figure after scoring a knockout of Jeison Rosario last September to unify the WBC, WBA, and IBF world championships. Although Charlo has yet to become undisputed world champion in the division, as the only unified champion currently at 154lbs., the natural question that usually is asked after a fighter emerges victorious from a unification bout is who might be the next challenger.
A potential candidate that has made a strong argument for himself is undefeated top contender Tim Tszyu. Tszyu, the son of former longtime Jr. Welterweight world champion and Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu, has emerged as a fast-rising contender in the division. Much like his father, Tszyu has also developed a reputation for having an ability to score knockouts. The marquee victory for Tszyu thus far came in August of last year when he stopped former WBO Welterweight world champion Jeff Horn in eight rounds.
Tszyu’s victory over Horn moved him into position as a top ten rated contender in the WBO, IBF, and WBO. Although Tszyu is currently the top contender in the WBO Jr. Middleweight ratings, a world championship currently held by Brian Castano, his number three rating in the IBF and number seven rating in the WBA could make him a potential opponent for Charlo. After defeating Horn, Tszyu scored a first round knockout of Bowyn Morgen in December of last year.
This led to what some felt would be another potential test in the form of former two-time world title challenger Dennis Hogan on March 31st in Newcastle, Australia. Hogan, who entered the bout with a record of 28-3-1, with 7 Knockouts compared to Tszyu’s 17-0, with 13 Knockouts, had previously lost in world championship bouts to former Jr. Middleweight world champion Jaime Mungia and Jermell Charlo’s brother Jermall at Middleweight.
Even though it is insulting to give any fighter the label of a “Gatekeeper” because anything can happen when two fighters get into the ring, Hogan’s experience as a fighter who came up short in two world title bouts did make him in some ways an ideal opponent for a fighter in Tszyu’s position. The type of fighter that can be used by a contender’s handlers to gage how close their charge might be to challenging for a world championship.
Tszyu’s approach in this fight can be described as one that was systematic as he applied consistent pressure on Hogan from the outset. An offensive output that seemed to have an emphasis on hooks to the body, gradually broke through Hogan’s defense as he was never really able to find his rhythm due to Tszyu’s pressure. This ultimately created an opening for Tszyu to land a flush left uppercut to the head of Hogan that sent him down in round five. Hogan’s corner elected to throw towel in shortly after Hogan got up from the knockdown as Tszyu pressed forward with follow up punches.
The ending of this fight was somewhat anti-climatic and can simply be described as a fighter showing patience and taking advantage of an opening once it presented itself. Tszyu’s performance however, was as good as one could expect from a fighter that has built the momentum he has and appears to be on the verge of fighting for a world championship. There was not much that one could point to as a potential reason why Tszyu should be held back in terms of what took place in the ring.
In terms of what might be a potential roadblock outside of the ring, in this observer’s view it will likely come down to whether or not promoters on opposite sides of the spectrum can work together to make a fight for a world championship happen for Tszyu. With a record that now stands at 18-0, with 14 Knockouts and having established a career knockout percentage of nearly 78%, it may be hard to say Tszyu hasn’t earned a chance at either Jermell Charlo or Brian Castano. The only questions that might remain are which world champion is available and whether or not a deal can be made that will determine whether or not Tim Tszyu will challenge for a world championship in his next fight.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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