Boxing 2023: Tim Tszyu opens up on dad Kostya’s absence, heartbreaking family split, childhood, move to Russia, fight vs Tony Harrison

Tim Tszyu will be aiming to take a step out of his famous father’s shadow when he fights for an interim world title this weekend, but his dad won’t be there to watch him.

Tszyu takes on American Tony Harrison for the interim WBO super welterweight title in Sydney on Sunday afternoon and can call himself a world champion, albeit an interim one, if he wins.

It’s the biggest fight of the his career but the 28-year-old’s father, former light-welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu, won’t be ringside watching his son in action.

Watch undefeated Aussie superstar Tim Tszyu return to the ring for his biggest fight yet versus USA’s former world champion Tony Harrison for an Interim WBO Super Welterweight title LIVE Sunday March 12. ORDER ON MAIN EVENT ON KAYO SPORTS

Kostya hasn’t exactly been a consistent presence in Tim’s life since leaving his wife and kids to start a second family in Russia over a decade ago and Tim is happy to keep it that way.

The 53-year-old surprised Tim by flying in to watch his professional debut in 2016, but he hasn’t been ringside for his son’s fights since.

Tim didn’t enjoy his dad barking instructions at him from the other side of the ropes, and Kostya now tunes in to watch his fights via FaceTime.

“It was uncomfortable because he was screaming too much,” Tim told the Howie Games podcast.

Boxing has always been a family affair for the Tszyus and brothers Tim and Nikita will fight on the same card for the first time on Sunday.

Tim has always packed a punch, as was proof when he somehow gave grandfather Boris a dislocated jaw as a toddler.

“I don’t know the full story but there was a dislocation (of his jaw),” he recalled.

“Growing up with the sport, it was a part of us. Me and my brother, it was built into us. This is what we do.”

Growing up with a world champion for a dad wasn’t easy and Tim said at the peak of Kostya’s career, he had to deal with an absent father.

“I remember my dream was always to have … every year at school there was a father’s day camp. I never had one father’s day camp. Never had a father’s day breakfast.

“He was never there for us. Now looking back to it, I understand where he came from because to get to where he got to, there’s a lot of sacrifice.”

Once his career was over, Kostya uprooted the family and moved to Russia, a transition Tim found tough.

“When dad left after his career, it sort of changed everything because he was extreme and then it sort of gave us freedom to explore,” he said.

“We went there to try and live there. It was just a different life. We went to a Russian school.

“I was the new kid. Everyone knew my dad. In Australia, everyone gets treated the same way. There, it’s different. We had drivers, me and my brother had our own driver 24/7.

“At school, we’d get treated differently. We didn’t have to do this or that. It was a different life.

“We didn’t have any friends. The weather was completely crap, you don’t see the sun, you live in apartment complexes. The life is not something we’re used to.

“There was luxurious parts but when we came back home and with friends, catching a bus to the cinemas and just hanging out and talking the language we were used to was the best thing.

“I told my mum we can’t go back. We wanted to be normal. We didn’t want that life. That life wasn’t for us. In Australia we’re not used to that stuff — drivers, or bodyguards and having special privileges.

“We’re all the same in Australia. The Russians, they treat you differently when you become an icon of the sport.”

Even harder was when his parents split up and Kostya moved to the other side of the world to start a new family, leaving his old one behind.

“It was tough because you always think your parents, it’s like a fairytale, they love each other,” Tim said.

“Then all of a sudden it’s completely gone. Dad moved to the other side of the world. For me, it wasn’t a big shock because he’d always be in and out. As soon as he finished boxing in 2005, he was always in out and of Russia non stop.”

Tim visited his dad a few years ago and saw a vastly different character to the father he grew up with.

“He’s got his own life,” he said.

“Now he’s got two little ones with in Russia now, he’s a completely different man. When I went and saw him, the kids are running around and they’re running amuck. I’m looking at him and I’m like ‘Is this the same dad as before?’. He’s gone soft, man.”

Being the son of a sporting legend has been a blessing and a curse for Tim, who has had to listen to countless opponents claiming he was only in the spotlight because of his surname.

It’s been a long road to forging his own path and earning respect as a fighter, not as Kostya’s son.

“I think it was more the expectation people had that I was supposed to be this monster as soon I turned professional,” Tim said.

“But everything takes time to build. You know, a Rolls Royce is built in one year, while a Toyota is built in two weeks.

“Everything took time and was trying to get that expectation off people. I wasn’t put on a platform straight away where I was fighting in front of massive audiences. I wasn’t. I was on local shows.

“I fought in Toowoomba with 200 people, I fought in Sylvania where I live, with 200 people there. It wasn’t like the platform was big. It was just the expectation.

“But over time, with consistency, training and the mindset I’ve got to where I got to go.”

A proud man, Tim is determined to add his own chapter to the family’s boxing legacy.

“It’s going to be big” Tim told

“This is going to be the biggest father and son duo that’s ever competed in combat sports. It’s going to be an honour to represent my family and my ancestry.”

He puts his undefeated (21-0) record to the test against Harrison on Sunday, with the winner to earn a date with Jermell Charlo for the undisputed super welterweight belts.

Tszyu’s camp is still very much a family affair.

He’s trained by his uncle Igor Goloubev and grandfather Boris is a constant presence in Tim’s life, with the diminutive figure casting a watchful eye over Tim’s every move.

Boris has been by Tim’s side at every moment of his preparation for the Harrison fight, including at training sessions at the modest gym in Rockdale where the walls are adorned with posters of Kostya, Tim and Nikita’s fights.

Asked to assess Tim’s preparation for the most important fight of his career, Boris told “Sunday, we will see. Everything, we will see.”

He’ll be hoping Tim can rattle Harrison’s jaw on Sunday.

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