Boxing


King Kostya Overthrown by Hatton

06.06.05 - By Scoop Malinowski / Boxinginsider.com - The final images of the great fighters in their last battles is rarely a beautiful spectacle. But somehow Kostya Tszyu managed to come away looking grand in what was not one of the better evenings of his monumental career. You will rarely see such a great champion shine in defeat the way Kostya Tszyu did on Saturday night.. You rarely will see a man lose with such respect and honor and such sportsmanlike qualities. Most likely, the Australian-based Russian will not fight again. It was the end of a long and successful career that won't be duplicated. Tszyu was the first Russian fighter to achieve acceptance, superstardom and pound-for-pound status in the world of international professional boxing.

It all began for Tszyu when his father took him to the gym as a six-year-old. Tszyu remembers those early days, "Boxing was the national sport of Russia but I was not really interested. Everyone else there was older. Three years later I went back. Now everyone was the same age. Then it was more interesting. I was happy to be there. Of my first 100 fights I won 99."

Later on there would be many more victories and championships - national amateur, European and amateur worlds. Eventually Tszyu would become an elite professional, on the same level of such names as Jones, Barrera, De la hoya, Lewis, Hopkins and Mayweather.

I first realized Kostya Tszyu was something extraordinary when I called him unannounced at his hotel a few days before his first world title fight against Jake Rodriquez. I hoped to do a Biofile interview for some boxing magazines with the unknown phenom and Tszyu obliged my unexpected call to his hotel room. This is the answer he gave me when I asked what his "Pre-fight Feeling" was: "Very comfortable. Relaxing. I always sleep before the fight. Getting ready to go to the ring, I concentrate, get focused. Think of what I will do, like a plan. Yes, I look at my opponent. I've got a special power in my eye. I don't know what. It's like a fire. I can see how he feels, how he's nervous, how he feels inside. I can tell. I can tell by eye if my opponent is a good or bad person."

The other answer that was very memorable to me was when I asked him which people does he most admire? "Professionals. People who do things professionally. Very classy. Because I like to see everything. If it's ballet or drawing, it should be very professional, without mistakes. There are not too many good professionals. I try to be the best I can be."

"The player owes the gallery as much as an actor owes the audience." --tennis champion Bill Tilden

Now that the great reign is over, nobody can discredit the greatness of Kostya Tszyu as a champion. He has to be ranked as one of the best 140-lb. fighters in history, right there with Aaron Pryor. Also, don't forget that Tszyu even did something that Roy Jones would not or could not - and that's travel to foreign land to defend his title on the home turf of a dangerous challenger. Tszyu conquered Julio Cesar Chavez in Arizona, Zab Judah and Sharmba Mitchell in the U.S. before attempting to subdue Hatton in England.

Not to downplay the victor on Saturday night, Ricky Hatton showed the world just what a tremendous fighting machine he is. He was mightily relentless, smart in executing his strategy and so endearingly humble when the dream came true. Judging by Tszyu's post-fight reaction towards his successor, there can be no more clearly legitimizing affirmation that Ricky Hatton is indeed something special to behold.

Hatton was supposed to succumb to the grand master, just like Judah did. Like Vargas did to Trinidad. Like Grant did to Lewis.

But Hatton was just too young and too strong for the wily, clever champion to control. Tszyu was constantly on the back step, continuously enduring violent barrages. Contrary to what many of us thought, Hatton was not intimidated or overly respectful to Tszyu. He believed in victory and made it happen, against all odds.

It must be considered how much the emotional energy of around 22,000 Mancunians pulling for the hometown hero and against the enemy invader may have had effect on the outcome. It is a hard enough task to fight as it is. Imagine how hard it must be to battle when every person's spirit in the arena is against you. Just ask George Foreman, Marvin Hagler, Azumah Nelson or Eusebio Pedroza.

The ending was dramatic. After the 11th round Tszyu's trainer Johnny Lewis could be seen passionately and urgently imploring Tszyu on, to punch more, PUNCH MORE. Tszyu, looking like a beaten man, was unresponsive to the instruction. His head was bowed, resembling Joe Frazier in Manila. Then suddenly, we could sense the confusion and turmoil in the corner. The realization struck us all that Tszyu did not have it in him to want to go on. As he sat there swollen and battered, we knew the great Kostya Tszyu had nothing left.

Today there are whispers by some media people and boxing fans about some rubbish that Tszyu "quit," as if it was some kind of violation, some kind of bad act. But this is uncalled-for criticism. What do people want - to see a man beaten till he's unconscious? Joe Frazier was never called a quitter for failing to get off his stool in Manila. Muhammad Ali was not called a quitter for failing to answer the bell against Larry Holmes was he? And no reasonable person should ever demean Kostya Tszyu in such a ridiculous way. We have to accept that Tszyu had his own reasons for surrendering. He's the one who took the punches and suffered the physical agony. He's the one who's been fighting at the highest levels of the sport for 26 years. If Kostya Tszyu felt he didn't have enough left to hold off that tiger for another three minutes, no ingrate should question his judgement to retire.

Even in defeat, Kostya Tszyu came away impressive. Did you ever see such a great champion so gracious and honorable after such a painful loss? Did Toney, Jones, Judah or any other super champ handle failure as politely and good naturedly as Tszyu did? It was so touching to see Tszyu so kind and gentlemanly to the man who had just brutally ended his career. Kostya Tszyu even seemed sort of happy for Ricky Hatton, even offering him his friendship and advices, if the new king should ever need any.

There were no excuses by Kostya Tszyu about making weight or struggling to find motivation, he simply said Hatton "was the better man tonight."

"The best effect of fine persons is after we have left their presence." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

You will remember Kostya Tszyu however you want to...the class, the power, the intensity, the intelligence, the inspiration, the perfect techniques, the nobility he brought to such a brutal business. There were many outstanding, extraordinary qualities exemplified by this man who was a superb ambassador and representative of our sport. And he should be remembered for that the most, not what happened last Saturday night.

Just ask yourself this, Can you think of a few, if any, finer, more honorable champions from any sports who graced the world as well as Kostya Tszyu did?
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Observations:
After seeing how difficult it was for the 35-year-old Tszyu to hold off the youth, strength and determination of Ricky Hatton, you have to wonder just what was going through the psyches of Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor as they watched the Showtime telecast. It is conceivable that Hatton's excellent performance could work as a major inspiration for Taylor. Hatton's success has to boost his confidence levels. Conversely, seeing Tszyu lose like that had to be hard for Hopkins to witness. His 40-year-old body has not been tested and challenged by the youth, enthusiasm, hunger, and power of a young gun since...maybe Trinidad, if you could qualify him as a young gun four years ago. Hopkins may have the struggle of his career on his hands next month.

Tito, Tszyu...will 2005 be the year of the vanquished champions?

Contact Scoop: mrbiofile@aol.com

Article posted on 06.06.2005



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