Tim Tszyu is feeling like he hit the lottery these days.
The 154-pound titlist from Australia will embark on the biggest challenge of his career on March 30, when he takes on former welterweight champion Keith Thurman at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in what will be the inaugural Premier Boxing Champions pay-per-view show on Amazon Prime Video.
Thurman, a career welterweight, will move to take on Tszyu but the fight will take place at a contractually-agreed-upon 155 pounds; moreover, Tszyu’s WBO title will not be at stake.
In an interview with a media scrum at the airport in Australia, a wide-eyed Tszyu spoke fondly about the opportunity before him.
“It was months and months for the talks,” Tszyu said. “I was probably bothering these guys (his handlers). I was actually quite patient this time but I started to get a bit edgy but you know what, the deal went down and I couldn’t have asked for a better result. This is a pinch-yourself-moment type things. When you think of the word YOLO, this is it.”
The 29-year-old Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs), son of the great boxer-puncher Kostya, has emerged as one of the top fighters in the junior middleweight division. He is coming off a dominant decision over Brian Mendoza in October.
Tszyu linked up with Al Haymon’s PBC a couple of years ago, in an effort to boost his profile in the United States. He spoke about outgrowing the domestic scene in Australia, despite enjoying widespread partisan support.
“When you talk about moments and experiences, you’re talking about T-Mobile Arena, headlining Amazon Prime, going to the States, it’s a big deal,” Tszyu said. “I love fighting in Australia. It’s been absolutely an honor and such a great time. But now I’m glad I’m here, at the airport, heading over to do our history-making things.”
The 35-year-old Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs) will have been out of the ring for more than two years when he takes on Tszyu. His last bout was a decision over Mario Barrios.
Of the challenges that lie before Thurman, Tszyu said, with a smile, “He’s never faced a Tim Tszyu in his life. That’s the most challenging part for him.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.