Tszyu defends WBO crown with win over Mendoza

Boxing

Tim Tszyu made the first defense of his WBO junior middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Brian Mendoza on Sunday in Gold Coast, Australia.

Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) took control of the 154-pound fight in Round 5 and prevailed via scores of 116-112, 117-111 and 116-111.

He methodically applied nonstop pressure and broke Mendoza down, round after round. In the seventh, Tszyu rocked Mendoza multiple times with his patented chopping right hands. Mendoza also absorbed a tremendous right uppercut but somehow stayed on his feet.

Mendoza (22-3, 16 KOs) was again in serious trouble in Round 10 after Tszyu trapped him on the ropes with an onslaught of power shots, but again was able to withstand the punishment.

“He’s tough,” said Tszyu, the son of Hall of Fame boxer Kostya Tszyu. “He’s crafty. He’s slick. He’s got power. He’s world class for a reason. He’s just behind me.”

Indeed, Mendoza entered the ring rated No. 2 by ESPN at 154 pounds, with Tszyu in the top position. Mendoza, who fights out of Las Vegas, rose to that ranking with a series of upset KO wins. First, he shocked Jeison Rosario in November with a fifth-round KO. Then in April, Mendoza scored a far bigger upset with a KO of Sebastian Fundora.

But Mendoza, 29, couldn’t pull off a third stunner. Tszyu was too strong, too precise and simply too good. He carved up Mendoza with thudding power shots as he calmly stalked him. Tszyu effectively cut off the ring and delivered compact punches with patience.

Slowly but surely, Tszyu was able to overwhelm Mendoza, who outboxed Tszyu early in the fight with an active jab and effective movement. But over the second half of the bout, Tszyu proved to be too much.

By the end, Mendoza was cut under the right eye and over the left eye and was forced to survive a two-fisted beating over the championship rounds to hear the final bell.

Tszyu, meanwhile, called the bout his last in Australia. He plans to campaign in the U.S. going forward and has his eyes on Jermell Charlo, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBC titles at 154 pounds.

Tszyu was ringside in Southern California when Charlo TKOed Brian Castano in a rematch last May to win the undisputed championship. Charlo and Tszyu were set to meet on Jan. 28 in Las Vegas, but Charlo withdrew with a broken hand.

Rather than wait around, Tszyu stayed active. He scored a career-best win in March, a ninth-round TKO of former champion Tony Harrison. Tszyu followed up with a first-round KO of Carlos Ocampo in June.

Charlo, meanwhile, didn’t reschedule the bout. Instead, he moved up to 168 pounds and was routed by Canelo Alvarez last month. Afterward, Charlo said he planned to return to 154 pounds.

“In his delusional head, he’ll probably think he’s going to beat me,” Tszyu said. “Come get it. For sure, (Charlo will fight me). He fought Canelo, best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He is the best 154 but let’s prove who is really the king of the division.”

“It’s my last hurrah,” Tszyu added, “and we finished off with a bang. Hopefully we can all go to Las Vegas together.”

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