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Will Kostya Tszyu Fight Again?

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Something Worth Fighting For:
A Boxing Legend Faces His Toughest Choice
by Paul Upham
274 pages. $32.95 (AU$). ABC Books
Available at ABC Books & at Kostya Tszyu's website

Book review by Chris Cozzone

The last chapter has not been written on future Hall-of-Famer Kostya Tszyu—but in Something Worth Fighting For, the latest book on the former champ, by boxing scribe Paul Upham, this is an understatement.

But first, a couple of warnings; one good, one not.

Like other books out there, on champions still fighting, considering a comeback, or caught somewhere in between, Something Worth Fighting For lacks the neat and proper ending most of us come to depend on in a biography.

It’s not the author’s fault, however. It’s merely the subject matter that he has taken on.

On the positive side, author Upham provides us a look-see backstage and behind the curtains, into the life and mind one of the top fighters of this era—and, at the same time, pegs his pet pug as an everyday Joe who, like most of us, simply can’t make up his mind.

It’s been over two years—approaching three come May—since former 140-pound tsar Tszyu was dethroned in Manchester by Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. Since the loss, Tszyu, now 38, has not answered the question, around which this book has been based:

“Are you, or are you not, retired?”

This book tries to answer the question in a variety of ways, pulling quotes from Tszyu that range from nebulous affirmatives to hazy negatives, with less-vague maybes, could-be’s and not-quite-sure-yet’s generously applied between.

With that in mind, and knowing now, that you are not going to get the straight answer you might’ve thought you were going to get, you will have to ask yourself whether you really want to wine and dine this tease of a book—hopefully your answer will not be as vague as Tszyu’s replies on retiring.

If I may assist, however, in determining whether this book is worth a swiping of your debit card, I need only recall a date I never quite had, a thousand years ago, with this hot Italian queen of flirtation I never quite kissed, who would “maybe” consider giving me her number, who “could be available” next weekend, and who, upon giving me her number, would tell me on the phone, “Sounds great, I’ll let you know,” when hard-pressed for an answer.

I never did go out with her, and soon gave her up for easier prey, but the notion of such a fling I never had has kept my brain active for going-on-20-years now.

Sooner or later—more like sooner, than later, as Tszyu approaches 39 this year—we’re going to ask ourselves whether the “Thunder From Down Under” would’ve won that rematch with Hatton, now that the UK sensation has lost to a superior technician like Floyd Mayweather. Or, comebacking into the golden welterweight ranks, could Tszyu have been the one to outmaneuver the master of maneuvers, Pretty Boy? How would he have fared against De La Hoya? Mosley? Cotto?

Most likely, we’ll never know—unless, of course, Tszyu is tempted back into boxing, which is what this book is essentially about—finding something worth fighting for, hence, its title.

Each chapter is a journey, and though you know now it will not result in a satisfying yay or nay, they are not without merit. Upham does a good job in navigating the reader through the sort of soul-searching journey taken by Tszyu, beginning with his final bouts, then weaving through endless charity and press functions, a season of the Australian-televised Dancing With The Stars (where Tszyu gets as far as the semi-finals), a trip to Russia and sitting ringside as a color commentator for the big Aussie showdown between Danny Green and Anthony Mundine.

Each trip yields introspection for Tszyu, the man, as opposed to Tszyu, the fighter, who must decide whether a tempting offer and the glory of reclaiming world championship honors is enough to pull him away from family, friends and business; or whether the risk is too great for a past champion who, really, has nothing more to prove.

Being only one of two men to defeat Tszyu as a pro, and the last man to do it, Hatton is mentioned quite frequently throughout the book. Though Tszyu praises the Hitman, ending up his mate and going so far as to give him a ring on the eve of his showdown with Jose Luis Castillo in 2007, it can be deduced from the many quotes and reflections on their fight that Tszyu is irked by the loss.

The referee was Hatton-friendly. The 22,000 Manchester fans were intimidating. The “low blow” in the ninth was a turning point for Tszyu. Fighting at 2 a.m. threw Tszyu’s body clock off-kilter, and made him weary . . . the excuses, whether suggested by the author, or given by Tszyu or a member of Tszyu’s web-friendly “Tszyu Crew,” are too many to be ignored, and can only be rectified by doing that which Tsyzu is, yet, nearly three years later, unable to decide upon, and that’s rematch.

“I am still undecided . . .” says Tszyu, ad nauseum, tap-dancing around the question after his episodes on Dancing With The Stars, watching Mundine defeat Green, signing books, starting businesses, playing cricket, watching Hatton fight Juan Urango or Jose Luis Castillo on TV, or visiting Russia where even a bit of verbal sparring from former Tszyu-victor Vince Phillips, or, later, taunts from a rematch-hungry Zab Judah, cannot ignite the fire that once stoked Tszyu’s furnace through 270 amateur fights and 34 pro bouts.

One chapter later, however, rifling through the many options available to a fighter of Tszyu’s caliber, Upham quotes the unhurried Tszyu with, “Why should I make a decision?”

“I am still looking, trying to find the right answer,” says Tszyu.

Then, 13 pages later the teasing Tszyu bats his eyelashes at us with, “Have I achieved what I want? No. I am still hungry to do something.”

In the final chapter, rife with tempting movie deals and a glorious future he certainly deserves, outside the ring, Tszyu spurs us on with his indecisive decision of “but if the right offer was to come along I would definitely consider it.”

Tszyu’s waggish wavering continues to the very end of the book where, surprise surprise, he summarizes his plight with a similar, not-so-final sentence:

“Will I fight again? I don’t know. Every day there is a war within myself . . . there still is.”

There’s your answer, kiddos, the answer of no answer.

If you’re a Tszyu aficionado, you’ll want to add Something Worth Fighting For to your collection. Just because.

But, if you’ve got no patience to be chasing your man all over the ring, if you hope to rack up the rounds for experience, or if you think you’re going to get a definitive answer out of Kostya Tszyu, get yourself some headgear and aspirin for all the beating-your-head-against-the-wall you’re going to do trying to figure out if this book is a playful precursor of a Tszyu comeback, or a hint that Tszyu’s show is, indeed, over.

141 Posts
I doubt he'll come back. He doesnt have a chance of making 140 these days IMO and its highly unlikely that he would have ever been effective at a weight above.
Hmmmmm .... KT at 147 ...perfect he could come back and get Mayweather doing the famous Judah Chicken Dance ! If their ages were a little closer I really think that KT has ( or had ) the weapons to put Floyd away. I think now though Mayweather would put him away.
As for Tzsyu not being affective at 147 .... He hits like a super middleweight ! ... So I dont think that statement would be true really. Ask anyone that has fought Tzsyu they will tell you that the man has missiles powering his fists
I would really love him to come back and fight Oscar De La Hoya . That was a fight I have wanted to see for a decade. If he could get the passion back , the fitness , and they agreed on a weight division ... what a dream !
That is probably never going to happen , but we could only hope.
Kostya Tzsyu for President !
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