It wasn’t as easy as some might have predicted, but Tim Tszyu is the new Australian super welterweight champion.
Joel Camilleri pushed his more-fancied challenger all the way, as Tszyu pulled off the unanimous decision win (99-91, 99-91, 98-92) to dethrone the champion after a 10-round battle at Sydney’s Star Casino.
Now 13-0 on his young career, Tszyu stepped up in what was unquestionably his biggest test yet, but struggled early with Camilleri, who cared little for the hype and expectation that came with the man across from him.
The blood from Tszyu’s left eye told the story of a fight, which after a couple rounds, looked a little scarier than many thought likely. Tszyu struggled to track and hold Camilleri down, who proved somewhat of an awkward proposition throughout.
Camilleri had been largely overlooked going into this one, but moved nicely to make things difficult for Tszyu, before the challenger started to find his range and rhythm.
Tszyu, ranked 15th by both the IBF and WBA, took over in the middle rounds, and finished strongly as Camilleri slowed; struggling to evade the blows with the same success he had earlier on in the bout.
“I’m the best in the country,” Tszyu said post-fight. “I just defeated a champion … all my respect to Joel Camilleri. He’s a tough man, and he gave me a fight. It’s a learning curve for me.
“I learned more in this fight than my whole career, so thank you to Joel.”
With Tszyu headlining a pay-per-view card for the first time, the pressure was on to get the win so that bigger, shinier things could follow. And the inexperienced Tszyu did just that; importantly not getting flustered when things didn’t go his way in the opening rounds.
“Tim’s slick, [a] very smart fighter,” Camilleri said. “But a lot of people who didn’t know me; they know me now. They all thought I was going to get knocked out in the first two or three rounds … anyone can try argue with it, but I’ve got the toughest chin in Australia.
“Tim, you actually did hit me a couple times, brother … he hit me clean, my chin’s just granite, and I wasn’t going down.”
There was no knockout blow, but Tszyu’s class shone through on a night where the occasion and the test could have proven too much; a positive sign as he looks to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“He was tough,” Tszyu admitted. “You know, I expected to catch him a bit earlier, but I couldn’t get the shot. He’s slick, he’s awkward, he moves his head, and I just couldn’t get the shot.
“I dug deep, I went 10 rounds, you know. I felt good — I could do another 12.”
As for what’s next, Tszyu didn’t waste any time in calling out Jeff Horn, who was in the ring after commentating the main event.
“Whatever Australia wants,” Tszyu said, when pressed on his future. “I’m here, I’m the Oz champ now. There’s a name that everyone wants. Jeffrey Horn, Mr. Teacher, I’d love to fight ya. But you tell, you call me — you’ve got my manager’s number. You call him when you’re ready.”
The clearly overmatched McMahon looked perplexed as the referee called the bout off, but was likely saved from some serious damage after hitting the canvas almost instantly.
Hodges moved to 2-0 on his professional career.
Later on, undefeated cruiserweight Jai Opetaia impressed, again; stopping Navosa Ioata in the eighth round, before Jack Brubaker and Ty Telford battled to a draw in what was easily the fight of the night.
Cherneka Johnson def. Kirti — via unanimous decision
Kyron Dryden def. Jim Nalawa — via first round KO
Ross Pearson def. Salar King — via second round TKO
Justin Hodges def. Troy McMahon — via first round TKO
Jai Opetaia def. Navosa Ioata — via eighth round TKO — WBA Oceania cruiserweight title
Jack Brubaker draws with Ty Telford — vacant WBA Oceania welterweight title
Tim Tszyu def. Joel Camilleri — via unanimous decision — Australian super welterweight title