RARELY in Australian boxing do we see two fighters meet at the pinnacle of their professional careers.
But in a matter of days the exception will become the rule as world rated pair Tim Tszyu and Dwight Ritchie collide in an unofficial world title eliminator at Sydney’s ICC Exhibition Centre on August 14th.
Although the looming regional title fight is seen by many as a chance meeting, leading boxing broadcaster Ben Damon admits it has been months in the making.
“Tim and his promoter outlined a four-fight plan at the start of his Main Event journey and they haven’t wavered,” Damon told Aus-Boxing.
“After getting past Joel Camilleri and winning the Australian title there were some, including myself, who felt perhaps an international opponent with a bit of a name and some spark might be the right promotional move for Tim’s second pay-per-view event.
“But they wouldn’t budge and were keen to take on Dwight Ritchie who, in my opinion, was easily the toughest fight of all those that were on the table from around the world.
“Dwight is the world number nine with the IBF and an extremely slick boxer and if Tim can get past him it proves he is something special and he moves into the position of being the top super welterweight in the country. That decision alone shows Tim’s confidence is exceptional.”
Despite his well-traveled resume and pedigree as one of the leading faces in a stacked light middleweight division, the wider public have deemed Ritchie (19-1, 2 KOs) as the underdog.
As Damon underlines, the once-beaten Shepparton resident is well respected within the boxing community and is on the cusp of a major career breakthrough.
Among the potential opportunities include the chance to face the winner of this month’s meeting between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa in Bendigo.
“Dwight is not being underrated by the boxing public but by the broader sporting public he most certainly is,” he explained.
“People in boxing know Dwight – they’ve seen how slick he is – and how well he moves, and they’ve heard his confidence ahead of this fight. Boxing people have been watching Dwight since he was a teenager and everybody knows how good he is.
“The wider viewers just don’t know who he is yet, to them he’s just an opponent with a ranking and a cowboy hat, but on August 14 he gets the chance to steal the spotlight and to make sure everyone knows the name Dwight Ritchie.
“The winner is expected to go top five in the world – or as high as top three – so they will be in a position where the next time they enter the ring they could be fighting for a world title.
“It means there’s a life-changing and career-making opportunity awaiting the winner.
“Obviously there’s also the potential of a fight with the winner of Horn and Zerafa which is only two-and-a-half weeks later, but on the world scale there are massive opportunities as well. It’s all on the line.”
Meanwhile, Tszyu (13-0, 10 KOs) will be granted another chance to validate the prodigious labels that have followed his career since turning professional.
And while the former national and regional titleholder has plans that go beyond next week’s bout with Ritchie, Damon is quick to serve the probability of both outcomes.
“This fight has the capacity to make or derail the career of Tim Tszyu,” he continued.
“It’s his second headline outing on pay-per-view and he looked good the first time but this is another step up and another opportunity to build his brand and to announce his arrival.
“You have to remember he’s approaching just the second Main Event headline appearance of his career, but you can tell he and his team are really starting to believe the hype. They believe he was born to be a star and now he gets a chance to prove it.
“If he can win and look spectacular in doing so we know that Tim Tszyu is here to stay. For the Tszyu team, a loss at this point is unthinkable.
“They are thinking of the Horn fight, and world title fights, but if he loses to Dwight Ritchie then that all gets put on hold, at the very least. For Dwight, it’s a chance to announce himself to the broader sporting public, on the biggest platform that exists, and to move into world title contention.
“For Australian boxing it is another chance to embrace the new chapter of mainstream televised boxing and to continue breathing new life into the sport from the highest level.”
The bulk of the viewing audience is understandably tuning in to see the salivating match-up between Tszyu and Ritchie next Wednesday night.
However, event promoter No Limit Boxing has delivered a card worthy of its pay-per-view platform, with Damon citing the last offering from the Sydney-based company.
“It’s a great sign that the promoter has been forced to find a bigger venue to hold the crowd that want to watch this event live,” he concluded.
“The name Tszyu is resonating, probably even more strongly than we all imagined. Add to that the outstanding undercards that are being served up and it makes sense that the ticket sales have been so strong.
“On the last show the fight between Ty Telford and Jack Brubaker stole the show, and this time around there’s several fights that look well placed to do that.
“There’s the fight between Renold Quinlan and Mateo Tapia as well as Tayla Harris against Renee Gartner, and more. While this main event promises to be an even more aesthetically pleasing contest than last time.
“The pay-per-view figures for Tszyu’s last fight with Camilleri were stronger than expected and if that momentum continues, as expected, then this will be a huge event and a success by every measure.”
Photo: Kelly Owen/KO Photos