Like all boxers, Tim Tszyu is on a mission.
After turning professional only three and a half years ago he has already had 16 fights for 16 wins, the last against former world champion Jeff Horn in Townsville this past August.
Now, only three months later, he has announced his next fight will be against New Zealand’s Bowyn Morgan at Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium on December 16 as he charts a course to a world title.
Tszyu was first a gymnast, then a footballer, but submitted to a deep call within to move into the boxing ring.
It is in his genes.
Tim is the son of Kostya Tszyu, once an undisputed champion of the world and now a Hall of Famer, but it is his grandfather, he says, that he is closest to.
When he defeated Horn by TKO his performance was enough for close observers of the sport to suggest he had emerged from his father’s shadow.
On all five world rankings, the Super Welterweight/Junior Middleweight is already inside the top 10, with the WBO ranking him number two.
Tszyu was happy with Horn defeat — but not satisfied
He says his drive comes from knowing he is capable of achieving his dreams.
“When you know something you’ve just got to do it,” Tszyu said.
“Everyone wakes up in the morning for a particular reason, some people decide to stay in bed, some people don’t.
“This is why I get up, because I know that I can be the best and each day is the sacrifice of becoming that.”
He admits to being hard on himself, constantly asking those closest to him what he needs to be better.
After defeating Horn by technical knockout some might have expected a celebration of sorts. There was not one.
“I was happy, I was not satisfied,” Tszyu said.
“Once you’re satisfied that means you’re done, you’re too nice on yourself.
“You’ve got to be cruel because you need to be able to wake up and feel that hunger.
“Hunger is the key to success.”
Same intensity in Tszyu’s eyes as in his father’s
Those who knew his father when he first came to Australia to compete at the 1991 World Amateur Championships recognise the same intensity in the younger Tszyu’s eyes.
Back then, after winning a world title, he said he would turn professional almost immediately.
He was asked at the time why not wait another year, as he was a certainty for an Olympic gold medal if he competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
“Medals don’t pay bills,” he told the ABC at the time.
When asked to describe what he sees as the similarities between him and his father, Tszyu said:
“But we’re different, we like different things.
“My dad was a real [hardcore] guy, very difficult to be around while I’m the opposite, I think … I’m easier, a bit easier going.
“I’m very caring, I think that’s one of the qualities my mum has given me.”
Tszyu does a casual thousand crunches every day to engage his core
Tszyu trains around four hours a day.
Anyone who has seen his fight preparation in the dressing room would have noticed the 150 or so crunches he does to engage his core before entering the ring.
On a regular training day he does “about a thousand” and credits his tightknit training group for keeping him focused and motivated.
“My trainer and my grandfather, they are two people that put me in line and make me think about reality,” he said.
Boris Tszyu has a watchful eye, never straying far from where his grandson is or what he is doing.
“For example, if it’s someone’s birthday and there’s a piece of chocolate cake he’ll be looking at me to make sure I’m not eating that chocolate cake, he puts me straight,” Tszyu laughs.
“My grandfather is a massive influence in my daily life.”
Asked whether his grandfather treated him the same as he treated his son, Tszyu said it was a bit different.
“A father and son relationship is much different to a grandfather,” he said.
“My dad hasn’t been here for 15 years so I can’t remember what those two were like.
“He’s always there for me no matter what, through the ups, through the downs.
“People only see the ups but let’s just say there’s a lot more downs than ups.
“There are days when you wake up and you’re sore, you’re tired, everything is hurting, you’ve got no energy, you’re hungry, there are days when you are just feeling down … Grandpa is always there.”
Why Tszyu flicks his emotions off in the ring
While there is a deep bond between grandfather and grandson Tszyu says there is no room for emotion inside the ring.
He has learned how to flick it on and off like a switch.
“Once the fight finishes, you’re a different person, you can go back to being a human.”
And will he allow himself to celebrate after his next victory?
“Once I am the best in the world then we can have a celebration and a bit of a relaxing time, focus on new goals and that, but there’s no point celebrating if you haven’t reached there yet.
“You’re climbing up the mountain, you only celebrate once you’re at the top.”
Asked whether his father was with him in that mental image of being on top of the mountain, Tszyu said: “I’m not competing with Dad.”
“If I can do 50 per cent of what my dad did in his career, I’ll be climbing three mountains,” he added.
“He’s the pinnacle of not just boxing but sport, in Australia, in Russia, in the world … he’s a Hall of Famer.”
There is another similarity between father and son, the love of two countries.
“Look, I’ve got a lot of Russian in me — my culture, my grandfather and everything around my house was always Russian, I was born and bred in Australia but on the inside I’m Russian so for me it’s got a special place in my heart.
“Culture is very important, tradition and all of that.
“I feel like I’ve got a responsibility for the Russian people as well because look, I am Russian, I’m just an Aussie-born Russian.”