Childhood ties key in Tszyu's boxing rise

Adrian Warren
Tim Tszyu says mum Natasha is a key member of a small inner circle that has helped his boxing rise

For a boxer starting to make a big name for himself, Tim Tszyu keeps a very small circle of people around him.

While his famous father Kostya returned to live in Russia in 2007 and continues to offer advice from long distance, other members of the Tszyu clan have a more direct day-to-day influence.

Mum Natasha, grandfather Boris, trainer Igor Goloubev, who is Kostya's brother-in-law, and manager Glen Jennings form a close and protective unit.

They are the people who world-ranked and unbeaten Tszyu counts on as he waits to learn when he'll take the next big step in his career, with the postponed fight against former welterweight world champion Jeff Horn.

They've known a journey that started from infancy in a family familiar with the highs and lows of the fight game.

The eldest child of Natasha and former undisputed junior welterweight world champion Kostya, 25-year-old Tim has already achieved something his dad didn't by winning an Australian title - though Kostya never fought for a national belt.

"I knew how to punch before I knew how to walk, so boxing was always in my blood," Tszyu says.

At just 14 months of age, his nascent boxing skills were evident when he attended his father's world title defence against Hugo Pineda at Sydney's Parramatta Stadium.

"He was shadow boxing and all the cameras were on him," Natasha recalls.

From an early age, Tim was around his father's gym.

"I was there when I was very little, skipping with my dad, I remember shadow boxing, watching dad spar," he said.

"I remember his preps, how serious it all was and everything was always so quiet.

"There wasn't many visitors that were allowed to come in, only a few people.

"While while my dad was out there boxing, mum was always with us.

"Mum really raised the three of us kids because my dad was so focused on boxing that he didn't have the opportunity and chance to raise us.

"My mum has always been there.

"She's been to every one of my fights, you can always hear her."

As he was with Kostya, former boxer Boris Tszyu is an ever-present member of the support team.

Goloubev, who worked in Tszyu senior's corner alongside legendary trainer Johnny Lewis, and Jennings, who was Kostya's security chief and team manager, are also integral parts of the team.

"To have family and people that have known you since a little baby, there's so much trust involved," Tszyu said.

"I don't have many people in my team and I don't have many people that I'm friends with.

"But the people that I am friends with I'm close with and that's the main thing.

"I'd rather have a small group of people than a big group."

Natasha said there are differences supporting a boxing son as opposed to a husband.

"For Kostya's life we came here (to Australia after the 2000 Sydney Olympics to turn pro) because it was like a job," she said.

"You still worry about the health.

"With a son it's different emotions involved, you don't want to see him bleeding.

"With age and time I understand boxing is like a business.

"After the fight there may be lots of blood but a real woman wipes the blood and especially (I will) kiss my son."

While Tim's path to a pugilistic career might have seemed inevitable, he did briefly become disenchanted with the sport.

"I dedicated my whole life to boxing when I was young and even during school, and from such a young kid I put a lot of stress on my body and myself mentally," he said.

"When I did have an injury I decided to give it a rest and I was unmotivated and I wanted to pursue a different thing.

"I went to uni and then after a year-and-a-half I came back into the boxing gym and got the itch back.

"From then on it's been boxing and only boxing."

Even during that hiatus, Tim wasn't totally detached from the sport, as he was teaching kids in the gym.

Since making his professional debut at the Sydney Cricket Ground in December 2016, Tszyu has displayed his talents in Adelaide, New Zealand, Surfers Paradise, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Bendigo.

His career and profile jumped to the next level in 2019 after signing with promoter Matt Rose, headlining some pay-per-view cards in Sydney.

A fight with Horn, a bout in Russia - where Kostya never fought as a professional - and a world title are all targets for Tszyu.

He has displayed sufficient talent to impress experts and emerge from his father's vast shadow, despite the constant comparisons.

"I hope a whole nation can stop and watch one of my fights and talk about it for eternity," Tszyu said.

TIM TSYZU - THE STORY SO FAR

Professional record: 15-0, 11 KOs

First pro fight: December 17, 2016

World rankings: IBF 6, WBO 9, WBC 16

Super welterweight titles won: Australian, WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental, interim WBA Oceania, IBF Australasian, WBO Global