After close to twenty two months away from the ring, IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Kostya Tszyu (31-1 25 KO’s) showed no signs of ring rust as he dismantled and thoroughly dominated Sharmba Mitchell (55-4 31 KO’s), stopping him at 2:48 of the third round. Referee Raul Caiz, SR. waved it off without starting a ten count. The end result of the rematch in the eyes of many was a surprise due to Tszyu’s lengthy lay off and Mitchell’s high rate of activity.
When the fight began Tszyu pressed the action and Mitchell spent much of his time clinching yet Tszyu was able to work well from the inside and sneak in some shots. Mitchell did not show any concern for the champion’s power. An accidental head butt opened up a gash over the Tszyu’s left eye but it was never a factor. Mitchell landed a few good punches but nothing of real significance. If the first round was any indication then Mitchell should have tried to use the ring and not stand and trade with the much more powerful Tszyu.
Round two saw Sharmba Mitchell fight from the inside and choose to trade with Tszyu once again. It became apparent that Mitchell had no real game plan as maybe he did not know what to expect from Tszyu since they first collided almost four years ago. Mitchell was staggered by a straight right and dropped with a flurry of punches. Mitchell got up and maybe looked more surprised then hurt as he was able to stave of Tszyu’s attack and land a couple shots of his own and then taking a hard left before the round came to an end.
Round three opened with Mitchell moving more until Tszyu stepped in and caught him flush with a right hand that dropped the challenger for a second time. After getting up, the fight slowed momentarily as Mitchell tried to clear the cobwebs. He then chose to fight off the ropes and not in the center of the ring and in doing so allowed Tszyu to close in and land another flurry of punches that dropped him to his knees. Mitchell rose to his feet and seconds later Tszyu moved in and finished him off.
Since their first fight Mitchell’s southpaw style made no difference as Tszyu was systematically able to break him down and close the show in very impressive fashion. Many of the predictions leading up to the fight were split down the middle yet I had a feeling Tszyu was going to retain his title. Despite a lengthy lay off, Tszyu was rehabbing his injuries and that in itself is a form of training and his conditioning was never a concern for me and many others. Both men deserve accolades for a good fight and their respect of each other during the post fight interviews. Kostya Tszyu is back and what he will do next remains to be seen but you can expect a career defining fight in 2005.