Dwight Ritchie to face Tim Tszyu in world title eliminator

By Anthony Cocks

MJA Platinum’s Dwight ‘The Fighting Cowboy’ Ritchie 19-1 (2) will be fighting for a top-five world rating when he squares off against Tim Tszyu 13-0 (10) in a 10-round junior middleweight contest at the ICC Exhibition Centre in Sydney, NSW on August 14 live on Main Event pay-per-view in Australia.

The 27-year-old Ritchie, who hails from Shepparton in regional Victoria, is currently ranked number 10 by the IBF at 154-pounds, while Tszyu is the IBF and WBA number 14 contender.  

The fight is a crossroads bout for the pair of emerging contenders.

"He's coming up, I'm coming up. There can only be one. It's a make or break fight for the both of us," Ritchie told reporters in Sydney at a press conference to announce the fight on Friday.

"He's a stepping stone on the way to a world title. If I can't beat Tim, how can I expect to perform on the world stage? I'm here to prove that I'm the best."

The 24-year-old Tszyu, who claimed the Australian title in his last fight with a 10-round unanimous decision win over Joel Camilleri at The Star Casino in Sydney on May 15, says Ritchie has long been on his radar.

"I've been chasing this fight for a long time," said Tszyu, who is the eldest son of former undisputed junior welterweight champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Kostya Tszyu.

"He's got the goods. I'm just here to prove everyone wrong. I don't think of losing, I only see winning as an option."

Tszyu flew into Sydney for the press conference from the Philippines where he has been in camp with Manny Pacquiao helping the Filipino superstar prepare for his world title tilt against WBA welterweight boss Keith Thurman in Las Vegas next month.

"It's a once a lifetime opportunity to not just spar against a world champion but to spar against an eight-division world champion who will be considered as the one of the greatest ever," Tszyu said.

"He sees me as the motivation as the younger fighter who is always running after him and whose pushing him to the next level. I help him, he's helping me to get some invaluable experience. It's working quite well."

Tszyu will fly out to the United States next week to continue his training camp with Pacquiao.

"To be there in the States it's where I can ultimately push myself to the next level," he said.

The fight promises to be a big step up for the ambitious Tszyu, who earlier this year laid out his wish list of opponents at the press conference to announce the Camilleri bout.

“I’ve got four fights on the horizon,” Tszyu explained at the presser in April. “First Camilleri for the Australian title, then (Dwight) Ritchie, (Michael) Zerafa and (Jeff) Horn.”

Tszyu was adamant that he needed to clean out his own backyard first before heading overseas.

"You've got to be number one in Australia, you've got to test yourself here," Tszyu told AAP earlier this year.

"It's like climbing a mountain, you can't go straight to the top, you've got to walk, run, whatever you've got to do, but you've got to slowly get up there, that's the plan."

Ritchie promises to be the mountain that Tszyu can’t climb.

"I don't think he's got the goods to beat me," he said.

"He's not going to change that much in three months when he fought Joel Camilleri.

"He can train with whoever he wants, he can speak to whoever he wants. But when we're in the eighth round and he's feeling a little bit tired and I'm still pushing on him he's not going to have all these people to rely on."

The undercard to the blockbuster main event is already taking shape with knockout artists Mateo Tapia 10-0 (6) and Renold Quinlan 12-4 (8) meeting in a 10-round super middleweight bout that is unlikely to go the distance.

In other action MJA Platinum’s entertaining welterweight ‘Gelignite’ Jack Brubaker 15-2-2 (7) returns against an opponent to be named in another 10-round bout, while Aussie Rules football star Tayla Harris 4-0-1 returns to the ring against debutant Renee Gartner over five two-minute rounds at middleweight.