On paper, the matchup between hard hitting Kostya Tszyu and rugged counterpuncher Miguel Angel Gonzalez seemed like an even proposition. Once in the ring, however, it was all Tszyu. From the opening bell to the merciful stoppage ten rounds later, Tszyu unleashed a debilitating attack that would have folded most fighters in a mere round. It was quite a display.
It only took 30 seconds before Tszyu landed the first heavy blow. Once he did, Gonzalez clinched wildly and wrestled on the inside with the Russian "interim" champion. Amidst the hugging was a headbutt which opened a long gash over Gonzalez's left eye. Infuriated, MAGO intentionally headbutted Tszyu and immediately began fighting like a desperate fighter: hugging, running, and fouling. It wasn't enough.
Whether his conduct was a conscious plan to upset Tszyu's rhythm or an unconscious reaction to Kostya's power is irrelevant...it was despicable. In the first half of the second round, Gonzalez hit low, rabbit punched in the clinch, and threw more than a few all-too-obvious shoulders and headbutts. Referee Frank Santore's repeated warnings did little to stop the fouling, so Tszyu offered his own solution. Hooking off the jab and following with a crisp right hand, Tszyu swiveled Gonzalez's head and sent him reeling across the ring. And then it got worse.
For the next six rounds, Kostya Tszyu threw everything but the kitchen sink at Miguel Angel Gonzalez's head and landed most of it. Gonzalez's fouling cost him a point in the fourth, but it wasn't the only 10-8 round in the books. The fifth round was a 10-8 round if ever there was one. Gonzalez began the round firing downstairs only to be hit with a Tszyu right hand that melted his legs. As Gonzalez retreated from one corner to the next, Tszyu repeatedly swiveled his head with clubbing hooks and laser guided straight rights. Criticize Tszyu for headhunting if you must, but his bombs were landing with increasing frequency and rearranging Gonzalez's face.
Although Gonzalez never went down in the fifth, Santore was within moments of stopping the bout on a number of occasions. Each time Santore looked to be on his way in to call the bout, Gonzalez would fire a single shot to keep him back. Allowed to continue in the contest, Gonzalez was able to do little more than build upon the reputation of his granite chin.
Gonzalez had plenty of opportunities to show his ability to take a punch, since that's pretty much all he did for the next 5 rounds. Firing exclusively to the body in an effort to slow Tszyu down, Gonzalez's output was minimal. Tszyu was just the opposite: always attacking, always coming forward, always punishing. In every round, Tszyu turned Gonzalez's head into a living speed bag, turning it one way and then the next. Referee Frank Santore was close to stopping the bout at nearly every turn, and Abel Sanchez was close behind...telling Gonzalez repeatedly that he would halt the contest.
Sanchez stood true to his word in the tenth round, after an eighth and ninth defined by Tszyu mauling Gonzalez at will, by calling off the fight after the round began with more Tszyu bombs. Gonzalez was never down in the bout, but his face showed the effect of a ferocious beating. The unmarked Tszyu raised his hands in the air, showing only a tad bit more emotion than his assassin's demeanor in the fight.
Slumped on a stool in the ring, Gonzalez was despondent. Ending a 14 month layoff with this non-performance may have fatally wounded his career. Once considered a potential heir to Chavez, Gonzalez has failed to win a major fight in years. His fouling and inactivity in this bout have tarnished even his contender status, and in a division ripe with rising talent, Gonzalez (43-2-1/33) may find himself shut out of the rankings.
Kostya Tszyu was certainly impressive this night. His calm attack and unusually heavy hands have now brought him to his second world title. His propensity for headhunting, and his susceptibility to the right hand remain his biggest weaknesses...but it remains to be seen if the division's other top dogs can exploit them. Next up for Tszyu (22-1-1/19) appears to be aging Julio Cesar Chavez. Although the Mexican legend's chin might even be better than MAGO's, it is difficult to imagine him having any more success. Hopefully Zab Judah, Sharmba Mitchell, or Shane Mosley will find their way into the ring with Tszyu instead...we might just get the fight of the year we were hoping for.
-Tszyu's victory fills the WBC 140 lb title slot that has been vacant since Oscar DelaHoya abandoned the belt to become a welterweight over two years ago. Although Tszyu had been named "interim" champion following his knockout of Hurtado, his recognition as full "champion" was not in place until this evening. Wearing two WBC belts in the ring, one for his "interim" championship and one for his "real" championship, Tszyu was announced as now being "the undisputed WBC champion". Great! So now we're going to have unification bouts within each sanctioning body? When will it end?