Despite his best efforts, unbeaten junior middleweight contender Tim Tszyu can’t seem to cash in on the breakthrough opportunity he has earned for Jermell Charlo’s undisputed championship.
Injuries to Charlo have been the culprit, as the 154-pound showdown to which many boxing fans have clamored for has already endured a pair of cancellations. But to Tszyu’s credit, the 28-year-old son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu hasn’t allowed that to hold him back from his goal of finding out how great he can be.
Tszyu (22-0, 16 KOs), who captured the WBO interim title in Charlo’s absence in March by stopping former champion Tony Harrison in Australia to stay busy, will do so a second time on Saturday when he welcomes former welterweight title challenger Carlos Ocampo (35-2, 23 KOs) on home soil in Broadbeach, Australia.
“In all honesty, I’m just staying active and not letting my career blow past me and watch it on the sidelines,” Tszyu told “Morning Kombat” last week. “You can only hope [the Charlo fight still takes place]. Thirteen months is a long time [for Charlo] to stay out of the ring, especially in the peak of your career. You should be maximizing every opportunity because it’s not going to last forever.
“For Jermell, it’s probably not ideal to be staying on the sideline but, for me, I just keep plodding along. It’s going to be inevitable, anyway.”
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Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) hasn’t fought since knocking out Brian Castano in their May 2022 rematch to emphatically defend all four 154-pound titles following a disputed draw in their first meeting. But if there’s a blessing in disguise for Tszyu, it could come from the added experience he will have gained once the title bout finally takes place.
Tszyu made his U.S. debut in March 2022 by outpointing former title challenger Terrell Gausha in an all-action fight that saw Tszyu hit the canvas in Round 1 and largely ignore any defensive responsibility. Although he left with a victory, his overall stock remained in question.
Yet Tszyu deserves credit three months ago for accepting a challenge as difficult as Harrison, the only fighter to defeat Charlo, while the champion continued to recover. Tszyu grew tremendously in the fight by applying calculated pressure to break Harrison down and expects to be even better prepared for Charlo after his experience against Ocampo.
“It’s playing against [Charlo] that I’m getting better and more comfortable,” Tszyu said. “The stars are aligning towards my favor and when we do meet — and we will — it’s going to end in a bad way for him.”
Ocampo’s lone defeats have come in title bouts against elite foes when he was stopped by Errol Spence Jr. at 147 pounds in 2018 before dropping an exciting decision to former interim WBC junior middleweight titleholder Sebastian Fundora last October. But Ocampo, a native of Mexico, won 12 bouts in between, including nine by knockout.
Tszyu respects Ocampo and showed excitement over the potential of squaring off against an opponent he won’t have to chase. The son of a legend continues to try and build his name separately from the pressures to perform up to the level of his father and appeared to break character after the Harrison fight by exclaiming, “Say my motherf—ing name,” to the crowd following the win.
“I’ve sort of heard my whole life that ‘you’re not daddy,'” Tszyu said. “It was a clear message from me that I am my own man so don’t judge me by my last name. Judge me by my first name. I am my own character and I created my own path to be here.”
The undercard sees the return of rising prospect Ra’eese Aleem when he takes on Sam Goodman at junior featherweight. Aleem, 32, enters with a perfect mark of 20-0 featuring 12 knockouts. He scored a unanimous decision in his lone appearance in 2022 when he beat Mike Plania in Los Angeles. In Goodman, he faces a fellow unbeaten fighter, though much less heralded as Goodman has yet to fight anywhere but Australia against lower levels of competition.
Fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Tim Tszyu (c) -900 vs. Carlos Ocampo +600, interim WBO junior middleweight title
- Sam Goodman vs. Ra’eese Aleem, junior featherweights
- Justin Frost vs. Hassan Hamdan, junior welterweights
Ocampo is a good body puncher with a crowding style and a strong chin. His defense, or lack thereof, however, is all kinds of wrong for this particular matchup.
Expect Tszyu to play the matador by wearing Ocampo down over time with hooks and uppercuts as his opponent marches forward. An eventual stoppage is possible, even with Ocampo’s giant heart, especially should cuts play a big role.
Either way, Tszyu should be able to keep Ocampo at the end of his jab so he can tee off at will in what has all the makings to be a slugfest.
Pick: Tszyu via TKO10