Junior middleweight champion Tim Tszyu and middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly turned in impressive performances this weekend.
Tszyu (24-0, 17 KOs) defeated Brian Mendoza by unanimous decision to retain his WBO junior middleweight title in Gold Coast, Australia. The fight was close for the first six rounds, but then Tszyu took over and dominated Mendoza the rest of the way to set up a potential unification bout with Jermell Charlo for all four 154-pound belts.
Tszyu was scheduled to face Charlo in January, but a month before the fight, Charlo suffered a hand injury that forced the fight to be postponed. Once healed, Charlo moved up two division to face super middleweight undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez and lost a one-sided decision. The WBO stripped Charlo of his junior middleweight belt and elevated Tszyu, then its interim champion, to full champion.
Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) could revisit a fight with Tszyu to regain the belt. He still has the WBC, IBF and WBA junior middleweight belts.
In Texas, Alimkhanuly defeated Vincenzo Gualtieri by sixth-round TKO to unify the WBO and IBF middleweight titles. The victory was impressive, but he seems to be the classic high-risk, low-reward gamble for the other champions in the division, Jermall Charlo and Erislandy Lara. If those unification fights are not an option for his next fight, what would be a good fight for Alimkhanuly?
Mike Coppinger and Ben Baby have some answers for both Tszyu and Alimkhanuly.
Tim Tszyu is legit and ready to face Jermell Charlo
Tszyu grinded down Mendoza over 12 punishing rounds and then asked, "Charlo, where you at, buddy?"
Tszyu made it crystal clear whom he wants to face next, the man he was supposed to face in January for the undisputed junior middleweight championship.
And Tszyu made it abundantly evident on Sunday, if it wasn't apparent already, that he's more than ready for a fighter like Charlo.
While Charlo recovered, Tszyu delivered a breakthrough campaign with a TKO win over Tony Harrison, a first-round drubbing of Carlos Ocampo and now a brutal beatdown of Mendoza.
Tszyu possesses serious snap on his shots, the kind of punches that thud when they connect. His punches just sound damaging -- and they were. Mendoza's face ripped apart under the duress with cuts under his right eye and over his left eye.
Tszyu didn't jab much, but he did vary his offense with precision and did his best work with a chopping right hand. Tszyu's punches were compact and he never seemed remotely out of breath, even at the final bell after five rounds of sustained, nonstop pressure.
Tszyu has star qualities. He never takes a step backward, is an attraction in Australia and talks a big game.
"In his delusional head, he'll probably think he's gonna beat me," Tszyu said of Charlo. "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."
And then, of course, there's his last name: Tszyu. His father is Hall of Famer boxer Kostya Tszyu, the best 140-pounder of his era. Tszyu was known for his power and entertaining style, and Tim Tszyu is quickly earning that reputation all his own.
He's proven to be a class above every opponent he's faced, but now he needs to fight the sort of truly elite dance partner that can lift Tszyu to the next level.
The only fight for Tszyu is Charlo, a bout he's earned and one he has a great chance of winning.
Alimkhanuly wins, unifies two titles, but can he get the other champions?
Janibek Alimkhanuly finds himself in one of boxing's more unusual situations.
After a dominating win over Vincenzo Gualtieri, the undefeated Kazakh fighter now holds the IBF and WBO middleweight titles and is a unified champion. But that doesn't mean that another unification bout against fellow champs Erislandy Lara or Jermall Charlo should be next.
Why? Because given what Alimkhanuly has done in recent bouts, he poses far too much risk for Lara or Charlo without any significant financial reward. A quick scan of the Fort Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas on Saturday, saw a slew of empty seats for a fight between two titleholders in one of boxing's most storied divisions.
It has to be worth it for Lara and Charlo to take on a younger, more active fighter who carries plenty of power. When Gennadiy Golovkin made his way through the middleweight division, he created buzz with sensational stoppages and victories over many notable names before he got a crack at the biggest one in boxing -- Canelo Alvarez. By the time in 2017 in the first of three bouts and one of the sport's best rivalries of the last 20 years, Golovkin showed why he warranted a bout against a walking payday in Alvarez.
Alimkhanuly isn't there yet. It's going to take much more than a couple of belts for him to become a strong financial draw. The best option could be a fight against Chris Eubank Jr., a British contender who does well at the box office in the United Kingdom. Those are the types of fights that could get people excited about Alimkhanuly and force top fighters to step into the ring to face him.
For Eubank, the risk is worth it. It gives him a shot at a title, something he hasn't had since he lost to George Groves in 2018 in a bout for the WBO super middleweight belt.