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Newz Forum: BOXING: IBF jr. welterweight champ ready to fight again

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posted on Oct, 26 2004 @ 11:44 PM
Associated Press
PHOENIX -- Kostya Tszyu would like to retire instead of putting himself through a stringent training regimen to meet a dangerous opponent.

But the IBF junior welterweight champion sees the hand of a higher power in the back-to-back injuries that kept him out of the ring for nearly two years, and believes he has unfinished business with challenger Sharmba Mitchell.

"That's why I'm 35 and still here," Tszyu said Tuesday. "Probably if not for these particular two years off, I would be out of the ring already, enjoying myself, doing some other stuff in life. But God said that I have to be in the ring at 35, and that's why I'm here. And I'm still enjoying it."

The Russian-born fighter (30-1) arrived in Phoenix on Sunday after a flight from Sydney, Australia, where he now lives. The next day, Tszyu began working out at the Central Boxing Club for his Nov. 6 title defense in suburban Glendale. Mitchell (55-3) trains in Los Angeles and won't travel to Arizona for the fight until next week.

Tszyu added Mitchell's WBA crown to his WBC title when Mitchell aggravated a knee injury and retired after seven rounds on Feb. 3, 2001.

Tszyu made two more title defenses that year, unifying the world's 140-pound class by becoming the IBF champion for the second time with a second-round knockout of Zab Judah in Las Vegas on Nov. 3.

But he has fought only twice since then, injuring his Achilles tendon not long after beating James Leija on Jan. 19, 2003.

The leg injury forced Mitchell to wait for his keenly anticipated rematch -- originally scheduled to be fought in Russia.

After resuming training, Tszyu tore a shoulder tendon, and the rematch was postponed again. While granting Tszyu a medical exemption that allowed him to retain the IBF title as "super" champion, the federation pitted Mitchell against Lovemore N'Dou for an interim championship, won by Mitchell on Feb. 7.

Mitchell said last week he couldn't wait to take the real IBF crown. Tszyu, who was ahead on two scorecards and even on the third when their first fight was stopped, questioned whether his opponent was serious.

"Realistically, I don't think he thinks this way," said Tszyu, who has knocked out 10 of his last 12 opponents. "He can take a punch, of course, but does he take the pressure I can make? Does he take the punch accuracy can make. Even the last fight, look, the scorecard was in my favor, even (with) an unfair point deduction."

Tszyu felt the wrath of a largely Hispanic crowd when he knocked out former six-time world champion Julio Cesar Chavez in Phoenix in July 2000. This time, he expects to be the hometown favorite, in part because of training in the downtown gym and doing road work on the streets of Phoenix.

He pointed to Felix Trinidad's eighth-round knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in Madison Square Garden on Oct. 2 as grounds for fighting Mitchell without a tuneup. Trinidad took the bout after more than two years of boxing inactivity.

"It wasn't an easy fight for him, and there wasn't a tuneup fight," Tszyu said. "Maybe it is a tuneup fight for him. Who knows what's going to happen for me?"

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