SYDNEY, Australia -- With every blow Takeshi Inoue sustained in the centre of Qudos Bank Arena on Wednesday evening, the reputation and image of Tim Tszyu as a world class fighter only strengthened.
The son of boxing icon Kostya made light work of the world No. 6 from Japan, once again showing off his aggression, stamina and jaw-dropping precision. He toyed with Inoue from the outset, almost as if he was looking to make the point of how he was offended for not yet being granted a title fight.
Tszyu entered this bout as the mandatory challenger for Brian Castano's WBO light middleweight title and there was always the risk he could throw it away if he came up short against Inoue. But this statement win from the Australian just proves he is more than ready to battle one of the division's top talents and finally be given the opportunity to compete for a world championship.
"It's always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid watching boxing on the big screen," said Tszyu when asked about the possibility of his next fight being for a world title. "You boys finish your little honeymoons and get back in the gym and start training. I'm coming for all of you. Every single one of you. I'm ready."
Despite his undefeated professional record -- which now stands at 20-0 with 15 KOs -- and the dominant nature of his wins, many fight fans have refused to buy into Tszyu, arguing the caliber of his opponents hasn't exactly been world class.
Over the past two years, Tszyu has crushed everyone he has faced. His fourth round knockout of Jack Brubaker in December of 2019 saw him book a date with former welterweight champion Jeff Horn. He eased past the Queenslander before dropping Bowyn Morgan inside two minutes. Next up was Dennis Hogan, before Steve Spark was given his opportunity. Each fight was more one-sided than the one which preceded it.
Whether you agree or disagree about the credibility of Tszyu's resume, you can't deny Inoue's credentials. He had lost just once in his career before Wednesday night's rout, and that was back in 2019 when he fought undefeated Mexican Jaime Munguia for a world title.
This was a serious test for Tszyu and one he crushed. So what now?
The dominant win over Inoue keeps his mandatory challenger status intact and it's very possible the next time we see Tszyu in the ring he will be standing opposite Castano. Such a fight would likely take place in Las Vegas, with Castano's camp unwilling to make the trip Down Under.
The Argentine last fought Jermell Charlo in July in what was a unification bout which ended in a controversial draw. The pair did agree to a rematch clause prior to doing battle, but that is yet to be activated.
"We're really hopeful and excited at the prospect that it might be Brian Castano for the world title next," Glen Jennings, Tszyu's manager, said when asked who his man would likely take on next. "We're expecting the IBF to make Charlo fight [Bakhram] Murtazaliev in January. If that happens, the WBO will most likely follow suit and say Castano, you now have to fight Tim.
"That's what we're hoping for and that should be pretty soon. It could be any day that we get a decision. Right now, the team feels that Tim is ready for that. But if those boys sat and watched tonight, they're probably thinking it's an easier option to take the rematch."
If the rematch is enforced, Tszyu will have to wait longer for his title fight. But he won't be content to sit around and wait, and would likely be back in the ring around February next year.
"If they're not going to allow him that shot, he's just going to keep fighting his way to the top," said Tszyu's promoter, No Limit CEO George Rose. "That's a credit to Tim. There are a few options on the cards and if we do have to travel overseas, that's fine by us. He's ready to go. He's the next world champion."
Former light middleweight champion Tony Harrison has thrown his hat into the ring and proposed a bout with Tszyu in Australia. He believes Tszyu shouldn't even be considering taking on the likes of Castano or Charlo if he can't get past him.
There are "several other options," according to Rose, who was unwilling to reveal any other names at this stage. There's also the possibility of a fight taking place in Russia, something which has recently been flagged by Kostya.
Whatever happens, Wednesday night proved Tszyu is certainly ready for his moment and that he will be a handful for any opponent who stands across in the opposite corner.