REWIND twelve months, and the careers of Tim Tszyu and Dennis Hogan seemed destined for different directions.
The unbeaten Tszyu (17-0, 13 KOs) was about to become the only pugilist in world boxing to headline back-to-back stadium events. Meanwhile, Hogan (28-3-1, 7 KOs) had plans on a fourth attempt at an elusive world title in America.
In a distinctive twist of events, the pair will now collide in New South Wales’ second-largest city, Newcastle, with local bragging rights and top billing for Brian Castano’s freshly minted WBO light middleweight title up for grabs.
We discuss the biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference and subsequent announcement.
History repeats in Newcastle
As Tszyu’s manager and proud Novacastrian Glen Jennings declared, the Tszyu family has a long-standing relationship with the city of Newcastle.
More than two decades removed from Kostya Tszyu’s emphatic first-round finish over charismatic American Calvin Grove, the Tszyu name returns.
This time, it’ll be the 26-year-old Tszyu defending his WBO Global and IBF Australasian titles at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, against an upset-minded Hogan, with the Brisbane-based Irishman competing on Australian soil for the first time since 2018.
Father Kostya competed seven times in the Hunter Region, including two successful defences of his IBF light welterweight title against Roger Mayweather and Jan Piet Bergman.
Ambitions at world level for both fighters
It took DDP Sports co-founder Danny Dimas less than two sentences to signal their intent on the podium.
When probed by broadcaster Ben Damon for their reason to compete locally for the first time in three years, Hogan’s representative offered a simple explanation — one that surprised many.
“Dennis likes to keep active, as he always has,” explained Dimas.
“He’s never backed down from any fight, and this is a great tune-up fight for him to get back onto the world stage.
“Tim’s a great fighter, a great Australian fighter. Dennis is a world class fighter.”
Although few would dispute the legitimacy of Hogan’s decade-long professional career, Dimas’ choice of words highlight the confidence of the former state, national and regional titleholder, who enters the fight as the betting outsider.
There can only be one, number one
There’s no mistaking the immediate world title aspirations of both Tszyu and Hogan.
Undoubtedly the headline attraction, Tszyu has swiftly shifted from prospect to contender in eighteen months, with a further win likely to cement his place behind aforementioned Argentine Castano, and the PBC sweepstakes.
In Hogan, Australia was robbed of a genuine world title, following the inept judging in Monterrey just two fights earlier against then defending WBO champion Jaime Munguia.
Despite his position as an outsider, Hogan admits there is a platform for Tszyu to vanquish even the harshest of critics.
“The word overhyped has been thrown at me,” he explained.
“There is a hype train going on. As I’ve said many times, Tim has done very well, and he’s beat everyone in front of him.
“There’s a lot of hype though about him. Here he’s got an opportunity now to prove if that’s correct or not.”
Activity amidst global pandemic
Almost every world-level operator has been affected in some capacity by a boxing lockdown.
Remarkably, Tszyu’s career and his ascension towards a potential world title challenge has been scarcely impacted due to the entrepreneurial spirit of his promoter, domestic leader, No Limit Boxing.
Tszyu’s March assignment against Hogan will be his third fight in seven months, which is impressive from a logistical standpoint, considering the admin-heavy nature of consecutive stadium events at both Queensland Country Bank Stadium, and more recently Bankwest Stadium.
If the stacked pay-per-view offerings for each of his headline acts weren’t enough, including the soon-to-be-announced line-up for the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, it’s worth considering that the best is yet to come.
Photo: Narelle Spangher