Kostya Tszyu – A Biography! 

Kostya Tszyu
Date of Birth:September 19, 1969
Place of Birth:Serov (Siberia), Soviet Union
Nationality: Russian until 1991, Australian since 1995
Gym(s): The amateur, boxing travelling training camps of the USSR
Location: Multiple locations in the USSR
Manager: Soviet Army (USSR), Bill Mordley, Glen Jennings (Australia)
Trainer: Johnny Lewis (Australia)
Boxing Career: Amateur, Professional
Nicknames: The Thunder from Down Under
Height: 5 Ft 7 inches. 170cm.5 Ft 7 inches. 170cm
Reach: 67 inches. 170cm
Stance: Orthodox
Weight Class:Light welterweight.
Professional Record: Total Fights: 34, Wins: 31, Wins by KO: 25, Losses: 2, Draws 0, No contests 1


Kostya Tszyu or Konstantin Borisovich Tszyu to give him his full birth name, is a professional boxer who was born in Serov, inthe USSR (former Soviet Union) before he emigrated to Australia in 1992. KostyaTszyu’s professional career spanned 13 years from 1992 – 2005 during which time he held multiple light-welterweight world championships, including the lineal and undisputed titles from 2001 to 2005.

Kostya Tszyu: Style

Kostya Tszyu was remembered by fans for his phenomenal punching power and incredible KO rate/ ratio during his fights. Boxing experts however would see Tszyu as much more than this: a boxer puncher with exceptional all round skills whose wonderful accuracy and timing made him one of the hardest punching fighters in the divisions history. A fighter in short with very few flaws, other than perhaps the propensity to cut a little easily though this did not really affect any of his fights – probably as they didn’t go on long enough!

Early Life and Amateur Career

Kostya Tszyu’s was born in the Ural Mountains to a Korean/Mongol father and a Russian mother. Initially attracted to boxing, according to his biography, ‘Kostya: My Story’ in order to protect himself from the harsh Siberian environment, Kostya Tszyu was spotted by the Soviet amateur team training coaches and would engage in an extremely successful but rather unorthodox amateur career. Noted as a prodigious talent at a young age Kostya Tszyu would visit more than 30 countries while training with ‘the boxer traveller’ training camps of the Soviet Union. This would see him train or fight in championships 250 days a year and in doing so establish a stellar record. 

Amongst his medal successes were:

  • 1987 Cuban, Junior World Championships  (Lightweight)  Silver Medal.
  • 1989 Moscow, World Championship Bronze Medal
  • 1989 Athens, European Championships (Lightweight) Gold Medal
  • 1990 Seattle, Goodwill Games (Light-welterweight) Gold Medal
  • 1991 Gothenburg, European Championships (Lightweight-welterweight) Gold Medal
  • 1991 Sydney, World Championship (Lightweight-welterweight) Gold Medal.

The successes of Kostya Tszyu’s amateur career highlighted above to an extent do not show a full true picture of just how extensive and expansive his career was. For more details regarding this take a look at the two following links:




A member of the Soviet Army, Kostya Tszyu, as an elite athlete was not required to serve ordinary military duty and accordingly managed to finish his amateur career with a record of 270 fights, 259 wins, 11 losses, no stoppages and no draws.

The Professional

When Kostya Tszyu became the only Soviet boxer to win gold at the 1991 World Championships in Sydney it was no surprise he was approached by various local boxing promoters immediately afterwards – especially given the Soviet Union was already in a terrible state of disintegration. The lifestyle that Australia offered appealed to Kostya Tszyu and he decided to relinquish his chance to appear at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in favour of turning professional. One week after the Championships and Kostya Tszyu had signed Australian promoter Bill Mordley as his Manager and Johnny Lewis as his trainer.

Professional Debut

Kostya Tszyu made his professional debut on the 1st of March 1992 at the Princes Park Football Stadium, Melbourne. In a fight that didn’t last long, the rugged and raw talent of Kostya Tszyu was readily apparent.

Raises the Quality of Opponent

What was evident if not from his fighting style, then from his choice of opponents was Kostya Tszyu really had no intention of ‘hanging about’ during his boxing career. In only his fourth professional fight, Tszyu met former WBC champion Juan Laporte winning by decision over 10 rounds. In only his sixth bout Kostya Tszyu would knockout the very accomplished and future world champion – Sammy Fuentes in just the first round. 

*Nb the following video of the fight is interesting not only because it confirms the calibre of the opponent Tszyu faced but also because it confirms Kostya Tszyu’s astonishing amateur record. 

Moreover, watching the fight gives an early insight into the phenomenally destructive punching power Kostya Tszyu possessed in both hands. One commentator was also heard amongst others stating ‘Tszyu was a better prospect than the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez’ – high praise indeed!

More come More fall (1993)

In 1993, Kostya Tszyu would fight four times: Steve Larrimore, Larry La Crousiere and Robert Rivera, would all come to Australia to fight Tszyu, yet none would last more than two rounds. Livingstone Bramble (a former World Lightweight Champion) the only man to pass the second round before going on to lose by a unanimous and heavy decision (99-90) (99-91) (99-90).

Much of the same (1994)

On the 2nd of June 1994, Kostya Tszyu would first defeat Héctor López by a  wide margined 10 round decision (99-92) (97-94) (97-93) at the Hyatt Regency, Tampa, Florida. Before knocking out Angel Hernandez in seven rounds. Hernandez, just fresh off a loss to Julio Cesar Chavez for the WBC belt. Pedro Chinito Sanchez from the Dominican Republic would follow in four rounds by KO, providing Kostya Tszyu with a win that would ensure he became the number one ranked fighter in the light welterweight division.

First World Title (1995)

Given Kostya Tszyu’s meteoric rise it was no surprise that in only his fourteenth professional fight he would fight for a world title. Jake Rodriguez and the IBF Light welterweight championship were the prize on offer at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on the 28th of January 1995 and Kostya Tsyyu saw no reason to change his ways, knocking out Rodriguez in the 6th round to become champion of the world.

Kostya Tszyu – Title Defences

Now a champion Kostya Tszyu would refrain from picking and choosing his opponents carefully as some champions have been known to do. Instead from the onset of his reign, Tszyu opted to fight some of the best and most experienced around. His first fight against former Super Featherweight and Light Welterweight champion Roger Mayweather an illustration of Tszyu doing both at the same time. Kostya Tszyu winning a wide unanimous decision but nevertheless having to go the distance in a twelve round bout against one of the wiliest boxers in the business.

Roughly six months later on the 20th of July 1996 and Hugo Pineda would be stopped by TKO in round 11. Cory Johnson following suit, knocked out in the fourth round on the 24th of May 1996, before the undefeated Jan Piet Bergman (32-0-0) by would be brutally dismantled in six. 


Boxing Reaction – Adulation before the fall.

By now and with such performances Tszyu was beginning to be mentioned in lofty circles, the boxing community convinced he was destined to beat ‘the greats’ on route to becoming a great himself. Various publications including the The Ring, KO Magazine and other largely mainstream boxing magazines choosing to feature him as their main article.

First ‘No Contest’

Kostaya Tszyu began 1997 in auspicious fashion when his defence against Leonardo Moro Mas was declared a ‘no contest’, due to the fact Mas’ camp protested the blow that finished their fighter (in the 1st round) was actually thrown after referee, Joe Cortez had called for a break. Undecided whether it was or was not after Cortez called for a break, the IBF and the Nevada Athletic Commission decided to declare it a no contest regardless. Taking a look at the incident as a whole it can be seen that Kostya Tszyu could definitely feel pretty harshly done by here.


First Professional Loss.

On the 31st of May, 1997, Tszyu would not be so fortunate during his next bout against Vince Phillips at the Trump Taj Mahal, Las Vegas. In an upset that shocked the boxing world Kostya Tszyu was defeated by TKO in round ten. More shocking than the loss was that Tszyu was basically ‘out slugged’ over ten brutal rounds and lost his IBF world championship in the process. Take a look


The Comeback Trail

The reputation Kostya Tszyu had already amassed coupled with KO victories over former world champions Calvin Grove in round one and Rafael Ruelas in round nine led to a swift chance for Kostya Tysyu to become world champion again with Oscar De La Hoya deciding to vacate the WBC belt and move up to Welterweight.

In an enthralling match against Diosbelys Hurtado (28-1-0), Hurtado would go down once in the first whilst Tszyu would go down twice! before recovering to win by knockout in five rounds and earn the WBC interim championship.

In 1999 Tszyu would become full champion of the WBC belt by knocking out Miguel Ángel González in ten rounds. Commenting later to Ray Wheatley in 2011 that he regarded that win ‘as his best ever performance’. Tszyu proceeding to defend and retain the belt twice in 2000 with victories over Ahmed Santos in eight rounds and an ageing but still legendary Julio Cesar Chavez (103-4-2) in six rounds at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on the 29th of July, 2000.

Undisputed Light Welterweight Champion

Momentum re-established Kostya Tszyu started to pursue his dream of unifying the belts of the light welterweight division. In 2001, Tszyu began by defeating Sharmba Mitchell (47-2-0) with a technical knockout in the 7th round. Mitchell in fairness was hampered by a knee injury he had suffered during training as well as in the bout itself.

A unanimous decision over the undefeated Oktay Urkal on the 23rd of June 2001 would set Kostya Tszyu up to recover his IBF belt in a unification bout against current lightening fast, undefeated champion (27-0-0), Zab Judah. 

The fight was notable for two reasons: Judahs ‘O’ would go inside of two rounds and it was all apparently the referees fault!!! Zab ‘thebadman’ Judah attacking the referee Jay Nady afterwards by throwing his corner’s seat at him for what he felt was a premature stoppage and also trying to choke Nady with his glove at one point!  Following is 3 minutes of entertainment you simply don’t want to miss

Comedy aside, Zab Judah was clearly in all kinds of trouble and Kostya Tszyu became the first man in 30 years to unify the light welterweight belts.

Final Fights

The belts unified Kostya Tszyu seemingly took his foot of the gas slightly, fighting only once in 2002/3/4 and 5.

  • In 2002: Kostya Tszyu would take on and defeat the number contender for all three of his belts, Ben Tackie of Ghana. The bout would take place on the 18th May at the Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas and Tszyu would win by comprehensive unanimous decision (119-109) (120-108) (120-108) on the judges scorecards. Kostya Tszyu losing only one round, on one of the judges scorecards.
  • In 2003: Kostya Tszyu would begin the year in style by defeating former world champion Jesse James Leija with a knockout in the sixth round. Kostya Tszyu announcing after the fight in Melbourne that it may be his last in Australia due to pressure from promoters to fight in the United States.
  • In 2004: Kostya Tszyu would suffer a series of injuries, in particular a shoulder injury that would require surgery and see his rematch with Sharmba Mitchell (initially set for the 7th of February in Moscow) postponed. Moreover, his extended absence from the ring coupled with his decision to fight Mitchell rather than the respective No1 contenders, saw the WBA and WBC both strip Kostya Tszyu of their titles. Kostya Tyszu however would finally fight Shamrba Mitchell on the 6th of November, ending the bout in the same manner as before, but this time in only three rounds.

For his efforts Kostya Tszyu was voted comeback fighter of the year by Ring magazine.

Final Fight – Ricky Hatton

In what was not expected to be his final fight at the time  Kostya Tszyu would fight the dangerous English ‘body puncher’ Ricky ‘the hitman’- Hatton (38-0, 30 KO’s) on the 4th of June 2005, in Manchester, England – on Hatton’s, ‘home turf’.

Electric highlights of an epic bout in an unbelievable atmosphere are viewable here

Additionally, following is an interesting article and insight from The Ring, into how the fight played out, which also includes the mindset of Ricky Hatton at the time.


Kostya Tszyu humbly declaring afterwards that ‘he was beaten by the better fighter’ whilst for Hatton it was a performance that is generally regarded as the peak of his career.

Retirement and Personal Life 

Kostya Tszyu fought his last match against Ricky Hatton in 2005, in a bout he lost. Initially he did not officially retire and indeed flirted with a comeback with several proposed ‘big named’ opponents. In 2008 however, Kostya Tszyu largely gave up on those ideas and packed up his bags and his family and returned to Moscow, though they would return to Sydney not long afterwards.

Presently since 2012, Kostya Tszyu has returned to Russia, is remarried with two children and now runs a restaurant in Moscow. 

Notable, Achievements, Facts and Accolades

Partly due to his conscription in the Soviet military, Kostya Tszyu was always a well conditioned and disciplined fighter, possessing lightening quick reflexes and howitzers in his hands. 

During his career, Kostya Tszyu won 31 out of 34 fights, 25 of which were won by knockout. His official record is available to view here. Additionally it is also worth remarking that:

  • Kostya Tszyu – became an Australian citizen in 1995
  • Kostya Tszyu became the first champion to unify the belts of the light welterweight division in over 30 years
  • Between his loss to Vince Phillips and his final fight with Ricky Hatton Kostya Tzsyu remained undefeated for 8 years.
  • Kostya Tszyu was ranked the number one junior welterweight of the decade (2000s) by Ring Magazine

Kostya Tszyu was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.

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