by Cain Bradley
Konstantin Borisovich Tszyu was born in the Soviet Union, near the Ural Mountains in 1969. His mother was Russian whilst his father was of Korean-Mongol ethnicity. His Father, a fitter in a metal factory, decided that he would take him to a boxing gym because of his hyper activeness. After impressing the Soviet team coaches, he was sent to boxing training camps for more than 200 days a year.
He was impressive as a junior, reaching the final of the 1987 Junior World Championships where he lost to Juan Hernandez Sierra, the future four-time World Champion. At only 18 he entered the Olympics and made it to the third round. He stopped his two opponents before losing a split decision to Andreas Zulow, the eventual champion. He could only win a bronze in the 1989 World Championship but then came into his own.
He moved up to Light Welterweight winning the Goodwill Games, European Championships and then the World Championships where he impressively beat Vernon Forrest 32-9 in the final. Despite being a heavy favourite, he turned professional not long before the Olympics finishing with a record of 259-11.
Tszyu was in no mood to take his time as a professional, only ever fighting one opponent with a losing record. His fourth bout saw his time for the big step up as he took on Juan Laporte, a former World Champion who three fights earlier fought for a world title. Two bouts later it was another former champion in Sammy Fuentes. Livingston Bramble, Hector Lopez and Angel Hernandez were also beaten before he received a title shot. His first defence came against Roger Mayweather, who he outworked on his way to a landslide decision. Three straight stoppage victories followed. His only loss during his prime would follow though as he was stopped by the fierce punching Vince Phillips. He rebuilt with three non-title wins by stoppage, including wins over two former world champions. He won back the interim world title in a fire fight with Diosbelys Hurtado which saw both men hurt and dropped before Tszyu finished him in the fifth.
To capture the full title he took on Miguel Angel Gonzalez, who had recently pushed Julio Cesar Chavez Sr to a draw. He once again outclassed his opponent, his corner finally pulling out Gonzalez in the tenth. Tszyu would stop Ahmed Santos and Julio Cesar Chavez before his first battle with Sharmba Mitchell to unify the world titles. Tszyu was slightly ahead when the knee injury of Mitchell forced him to pull out. He beat Urkal before taking on Zab Judah. The slick American was part of one of the most famous highlights in boxing history when Tszyu found a home for his right hand and made Zab do the chicken dance, adding the IBF Title to his belt collection. He won a wide decision over Ben Tackie before stopping Jesse James Leija. He had almost two years off but dropped Mitchell in the second round and three more times in the third saw the bouts stopped. His final fight saw Ricky Hatton brutalise his way to a late stoppage victory over Tszyu in an enthralling contest.
Miguel Cotto was the youngest of two brothers from Puerto Rico. At eleven he followed his brothers to a boxing gym hoping to lose some weight. He became the brightest talent of the brothers. He had good success as a junior, winning the silver medal in the 1998 Junior World Championships. He went on to represent Puerto Rico at the 2000 Olympics, despite only being 19 and would lose to the eventual winner Mahamadkadir Abdullayev in the first round. His final amateur record stood at 125-23 and he would turn professional not long after.
In the ring, his early career went without a hitch, however there was drama on the outside. Less than a year into his professional career he drove a car into a wall - apparently falling asleep at the wheel - luckily only coming away with damage to his right arm and shoulder. He bounced back remarkably quickly and would become a hot prospect. Even as he was stepped up, the wins kept coming, some by vicious knockout. These included victories over John Brown, Cesar Bazan, Carlos Maussa and Lovemore Ndou. To win the vacant WBO title he took on fellow unbeaten prospect Kelson Pinto who had beaten him in the amateurs. Cotto showed himself to be a different man, as his power was too much to overcome, stopping Pinto in the fifth. Next up was Randall Bailey, a former world champion. He could not deal with the speed and accuracy of Cotto and was stopped in the sixth.
Perhaps his most impressive performance at the weight came against DeMarcus Corley who had recently taken Zab Judah and Floyd Mayweather Jr to decisions. Cotto sent him to the canvas very early before finishing him in the fifth. Many called it a hometown stoppage but Corley admitted his trip to the canvas was to avoid further punishment. Perhaps one of the more satisfying fights for Cotto was his victory over Abdullayev, who he stopped after causing a swelling. He then was involved in a fire fight with Ricardo Torres, which saw him wobbled more than once and he was even knocked down. He managed to get four knockdowns himself. Branco was the next man to be defeated and he was dominated by Cotto, heavily down on points when the fight was stopped. His final fight at the weight came against Paulie Malignaggi. It was a tough bout that he edged on points mainly as his work to the body slowed down The Magic Man late on. Cotto would go on to be a fixture in the pound for pound lists, as he won world titles at three more weights. He lost the biggest fights of his career but to the fans, he was a hero.
Kostya had a great drowning style, looking to keep the pressure on his opponent and find opportunities for counter punching. Before his loss to Phillips he was more aggressive but as his physical skills declined a tad, he used his boxing intelligence. His good basis of amateur skills meant he felt confident to keep his opposition at range, sticking out a pawing left jab. His size and physicality meant he could bully most of his opponents. He had a vicious straight right, but was capable of finishing fights with either hand.
Cotto is probably best described as a boxer puncher. He is very good on the inside but tends to methodically break down his opposition and is very calculated and patient. As a light welterweight he had good reflexes and underrated power. His best shot was the famous left hook, which was vicious to the body. His defence can be quite tight but he can definitely be hit at other points. He had a reputation of being chinny as a light welterweight, mainly thanks to the Ricardo Torres bout. Perhaps because of his struggles to make the weight, he was also a fighter who looked to fight in bursts rather than keep a consistent pace.
Cotto was a great boxer on the inside and probably has the upper hand there. However, he must get there first. Early in the fight, I think Cotto is patient, looking to work his way inside, but Tszyu can keep him frustrated with the pawing jab landing on Cotto and keeping him from implementing his own attacks. Cotto is looking to work in bursts but Tszyu is not letting him get space to measure his own work and is holding when Cotto gets close. Kostya is loving the chance to pick his punches and is getting more accurate as the round goes on. Tszyu turns out to be faster and Cotto realises he is going to have to change his game plan to cause Tszyu problems.
Cotto begins to pump out his jab more and get out before Tszyu can respond. The jab is usually landing but his footwork just is not good enough for him to avoid the shots coming back. Around the sixth round, Cotto once again looks to make a change, this time hoping to use the jab to work his way in where he can unload his left hook. This begins to work as the jab can land and Tszyu was not a great inside fighter. It does also create some problems for Cotto though. He would be putting himself in danger to a big right hand. Tszyu had already landed them early and although Cotto noticed them, they only partially landed, as Cotto had his guard up. Cotto wins the sixth and seventh rounds, his first on the majority of scorecards.
Not long after the eighth begins Cotto throws a jab looking to get the attention of Tszyu. Tszyu comes over the top with a big right hand and wobbles the Puerto Rican. Unfortunately for Cotto, Tszyu was a finisher and would not let Cotto off. He follows him around, mixing his punches to the boy and head, before a left hook - right hand combination sends him to the canvas. When Cotto gets up, Tszyu is straight on the attack and as Cotto lays on the ropes taking unanswered shots, the referee jumps in and ends the contest.
Kostya Tszyu wins by eighth round stoppage after 2.12