The new Tszyu and next wave of fighting sons

IBHOF inductee Graham Houston looks at some of the fighting sons following in the footsteps of their famous boxing fathers, with Nikita Tszyu and Emiliano Vargas recently catching the eye.

It was quite a week for the sons. That is, sons of fighting fathers. Fernando Vargas’ three sons all won at Inglewood, California. Evan Holyfield got stopped on the same show — clearly he didn’t inherit dad Evander’s chin.

Three days earlier in Australia, Nikita Tszyu scored his second pro win in quite devastating fashion. Big brother Tim isn’t the only Tszyu to have dad Kostya’s stopping power.

In the UK, Jacob Robinson, southpaw son of former featherweight champion Steve, found Nathaniel Collins too slick and too cute and lost his unbeaten record in a Commonwealth 126lbs title bout in Glasgow.

Going back a little, on April 29, heavyweight sons of heavyweight champion fathers clashed in Las Vegas when JamesMcKenzie “Kenzie” Morrison overwhelmed Hasim Rahman Jr in the fifth round.

Shane Mosley Jr, who boxes in the super-middle division, is an improving fighter under the direction of trainer and ex-champ Bones Adams in Las Vegas. He had his biggest win last month when he outboxed veteran Gabriel Rosado.

Has there ever been a time in boxing history when so many sons of fighting fathers were giving boxing a try?

The big-name sons, of course, are Chris Eubank Jr, Conor Benn and Tim Tszyu. These are world-class fighters. Eubank has held a championship, Benn is on his way to a title bout, Tszyu is a mandatory challenger.

How about the others?

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Nikita Tszyu, for one, clearly has enormous potential. Tszyu, 24, was an Australian junior amateur champion. A southpaw, he’s shown poise and power in his two pro bouts. His first opponent went out in the second round. Last week Tszyu was in with a 5-0 opponent, Mason Smith, who seemed to have bags of confidence going into the bout. Smith stepped in front of Tszyu as the fighters flexed for the photographers at the weigh-in. Tszyu joined in the fun and stepped in front of Smith.

In the ring, there was no messing around. Smith came out slugging and Tszyu simply broke him up with educated shots, knocking Smith down and, it seemed, wobbling his opponent every time he hit him. The referee waved the finish after two minutes, 47 seconds.

Sure, Tszyu was expected to win. It was the manner of the victory that was so impressive. Tszyu looked like a polished pro. It’s early days, but so far, so very good.

Former 154lbs champion Fernando Vargas is rightly proud of his fighting sons, Fernando (6-0), Amado (3-0) and Emiliano, who won his pro debut with a first-round KO on last weekend’s Inglewood show.

Brothers Fernando and Amado say that Emiliano is the son that is destined for great things. Emiliano is only 18. He has an engaging personality and he’s fluent in Spanish and English. He’s a good-looking lightweight who can fight. His hand speed and combinations were impressive in his win over Mark Salgado, who had a 1-1 record (the loss by split decision). Salgado, a 23-year-old from Riverside, California, came to fight but Vargas scrambled him with a left hook. “Just wait till he gets his man strength” was the word from dad Fernando after his son’s demolition job.

Poor Evan Holyfield, however, lost for the first time in his 10th pro bout when Jurmain McDonald, a 32-year-old from Missouri, hit him on the chin with a right hand in the second of their bout in the 154lbs division.

This was a result that no one expected. McDonald had a modest 6-5 (3 KOs) record. He’d been stopped in three of his five defeats. He’d never beaten an opponent with a winning record. He was the smaller man. But McDonald could obviously punch a bit, and he landed a right hand that sent Holyfield face-first to the canvas. Holyfield protested when the referee waved the finish. He looked utterly crestfallen. Fernando Vargas told him not to give up on himself. “These things happen,” Vargas said. And so they do. But it was a shocking setback for the 24-year-old Evan, who was a 1/50 (yes, 50-1 on) favourite going into the contest.

So, of the up-and-coming sons, Nikita Tszyu and Emiliano Vargas seem to have the biggest upside. They have “it”.

But I think we can safely say that Hasim Rahman Jr doesn’t have it. He was winning the fight against Kenzie Morrison but ran out of gas after four rounds and Kenzie ran right over him inn the fifth. Kenzie doesn’t have dad Tommy’s talent but he’s game and willing, he can punch and he’s difficult to discourage. He’s a fun fighter.

Trey Lippe Morrison, Tommy’s other heavyweight boxer son,got stopped in the first round by the capable Mike Balogun last December in a step-up fight after 18 wins against carefully selected opponents. But Trey, 32, is sticking with it and has a bout scheduled for Oklahoma in July. But one fears that boxing really isn’t for him.

All of the sons know they have big shoes to fill. Critics might say that in some (certainly not all) cases, the son is just trying to cash in on his father’s name. I don’t look at it that way. I prefer to think that each son is, in his own way, chasing a dream. Unfortunately, not all dreams can be fulfilled.

Main image: Nikita (left) and Tim Tszyu. Photo: No Limit Boxing.