Boxing


It's Time For Kostya Tszyu To Retire Before He Gets Hurt

10.08.05 - By James Allan: The boxing world is already littered with the remnants of fighters who wonít or who donít know when to stop fighting. Evander Holyfield, Tommy Hearns, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Meldrick Taylor were all exceptional fighters who fought on after their best days were clearly gone. In the cases of Tyson, Duran and Leonard it meant losing to fighters who were clearly no match for them in their prime. For Holyfield, Hearns and Taylor it was more sinister, with a defined slurring of their speech and a perceptible slowing down of their reflexes. In the case of Muhammad Ali nothing needs to be said. He is a living warning of the dangers of boxing on for too long.

The above is only a short list. Looking further back, the names of Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson and Sugar Ray Robinson could also be used as a warning to fighters who insist on ignoring the signs that their own bodies and their opponents are sending out to them. So taking all of this into consideration, I hope that Kostya Tzsyu is only talking about coming back to fight again and not seriously contemplating it.

It is the very attributes that a boxer requires to become a true champion that more often than not persuades them into getting back in the ring when they really should be stepping back and basking in the glory of their achievements. Heart, pride, courage, intelligence, determination, a mixture of skill and power, a good chin and a refusal to know when they are beaten are all necessary assets that a fighter requires to reach the top of their profession and to stay there once they have, but while these things are required on the way up, they can become severe liabilities on the way down. In his last fight against Ricky Hatton, Tszyu showed all of these characteristics. He stayed in that fight longer than he really should have and by the time it was eventually stopped, it was obvious he had nothing left.

Now, I can understand why Tszyu may want to come back and wipe out the perceived dishonour of being forced to retire on his stool, but understanding it doesnít mean I agree with it. Tszyu has nothing to be ashamed of in staying on his stool at the end of the eleventh round. He had given his all, and he had nothing left to offer. Hatton was younger, stronger and more determined. There is no shame in being beaten by a fighter as good as Hatton, a man who could very well go on to become a truly great champion.

Tszyu may well believe that in a rematch, he will be able to hang in long enough to catch Hatton with a clean right hand and win back his title. He may even have convinced himself that he had an off night, and that if he could stay in the fight for eleven rounds when not at his best then he could defeat Hatton handily when he is on top form. The fact remains however that Tszyu was beaten fair and square by a better fighter on the night. Reading the other columns that have touched on Tszyu talking about coming back to fight Hatton again, I completely agree with their opinion that there is nothing in their first fight to suggest that a rematch would produce a different outcome.

Hatton is a pressure fighter. He gets in close in and stays on top of his opponents all night. This kind of style is a nightmare for Tszyu who likes to stay at a distance and give himself room to work. As well as being a strong fighter, Hatton is also a clever fighter. He knows and has already utilised the best way to defeat Tszyu, and in any rematch I would expect him to fight the exact same way to gain the exact same result. It should also be remembered that this fight was a gruelling affair. Hatton himself has admitted that it was the toughest fight of his career and that he was taking some time off to recover from it.

At 26, Hatton is nine years younger than Tszyu and he has also been in constant action, unlike Tszyu who had only three fights in two and a half years. At Tszyuís age you canít afford long lay offís. Especially not the eighteen-month break he had between fighting James Leija and Sharmba Mitchell. While his defeat of Mitchell was a spectacular display of punching power, it didnít help him to get ready for a fighter like Hatton. A total of nine competitive, or not competitive rounds as happened to be the case, in two and a half years, are not enough to prepare for a young, hungry boxer determined to seize his chance to become the recognised number one in his division. It is not surprising that Hatton has no interest in fighting Tszyu again.

While there is no doubt that Ricky has the utmost respect for Tszyu his attitude will probably be one of, been there, done that letís move on to the next challenge. Hatton now will be looking to unify the titles and will want to test himself against Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather. He canít be blamed for that. If Tszyu had won, I doubt that he would have offered Hatton a rematch he would have been looking towards fighting one of these two fighters. Champions come and go, thatís just the way it is.

Tszyu came and now he has went. To steal a quote from Pulp Fiction, ďYou see, this profession is filled to the brim with unrealistic people. People who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don't.Ē

Tszyu has made enough money from boxing to insure that he never needs to fight again. He is healthy and he has his family around him. His victories over Mitchell and Zab Judah, were exciting and devastating, for these fights alone he will be assured of a place in the Hall of Fame. Now it is time for him to step back and live the rest of his life, not putting his body and his family through the hell of preparing for and then fighting Hatton again. Letís hope he has already fought his last fight.

Article posted on 10.08.2005



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