Tszyu-Mitchell: A Rematch With Zoo was the Thing the Do


10.21.04 – By Joseph Buro: One thing I’ll remember about graduate school is the job search. In our program, regional employers would come daily and interview dozens of applicants from the graduating class. The school solicited hundreds of employers to participate, so if you applied to enough of them, you would end up with several interviews each week for about a month and a half.

I tried to set up an interview schedule to give myself the best chance of succeeding, remembering from past experience that on the days which I had nothing to do other than interview for a job, I tended to come off badly. On days like that, I would spend most of the time thinking about the interview, about the points I wanted to make, the questions they might ask, and so on. I would practically dehydrate myself in anticipation. On other days, when my thoughts were occupied by my normal day-to-day routine, the interview was merely one of many things I needed to do, my responses were automatic and I did well.

The Boston Red Sox also know a thing or two about clamming up. They’ve waited since last year’s total collapse to beat the Yankees in a best of seven series. For the first three games of their latest battle, the BoSox came out stiff, as if overwhelmed by the moment. The Yankees, winners of twenty-six World Series, calmly started to tally another ALCS victory. For them, there would be no shame in losing to their rivals, a small blemish on an otherwise sparkling legacy.

When I think about Sharmba Mitchell’s upcoming bout against long-time rival Kostya Tszyu, I always see this as the storyline: Will Sharmba be able to rise to the occasion?

Their first encounter ended when Mitchell, plagued by injuries throughout his career, was forced to quit when his knee prevented him from going further. At the time of stoppage, the fight was a deadlock. I won’t soon forget Mitchell hopping to his corner on one foot, completely distressed as he watched Tszyu hop on two feet with his hands raised in victory. The IBF champ has been tortured by the emotional defeat ever since.

When many fighters would start to think about retirement, Mitchell picked up the pieces, recovered from his knee injury, and returned to the fight game a year later. He went on a tear putting together a string of eight straight victories, mostly against top contenders, positioning to challenge the one that got away. While box office stars like Ricky Hatton, Arturo Gatti, Floyd Mayweather, and Miguel Cotto were making waves around him, a rematch with Tszyu was the right thing to do. If it meant traveling right into the belly of the beast, he would attain that objective, and so he accepted terms to fight Tszyu in Moscow.

In some unexplainable twist of fate, the fight was postponed twice, delayed over a year, as a result of injuries to Tszyu. Following the second postponement, and Mitchell’s controversial decision win over Lovemore Ndou, he was clearly frustrated, a natural response for a fighter who was peaking physically and emotionally.

Kostya Tszyu’s perception is quite different. He’s had a tremendous career, reigning over one of boxing’s most talented divisions for years. He fought for the IBF crown after only thirteen professional fights in 1995 and has gone 13-1 with 1 NC in title bouts since, while fighting a murderer’s row of challengers. He’s gained recognition as one of today’s pound for pound best and cemented his status as a future hall of famer. Plus, he’s beaten Mitchell once already. What can he gain from a win here? A recent interview of the champ focused almost exclusively on his plans after his encounter with Mitchell, suggesting future bouts with Floyd Mayweather or Cory Spinks.

What we have here is boxing’s equivalent of the Yankees and the Red Sox. The pressure for the Sox was so crushing that they dropped the first three games of a seven game series. They showed championship heart by battling back to take the next four, the first time a team had done so in history. Beforehand, columnists all over were discussing whether game seven was, in fact, the most anticipated game of all time. Afterwards, those same columnists concluded that it was certainly the biggest win in franchise history for the Sox.

With injuries inside the ring and out, Mitchell knows a thing or two about curses. Is this the most eagerly anticipated fight of the year? For me, you bet. The storyline is too good. Are we going to witness history? I’ll let you be the judge of that.