Tim Tszyu has warned Newcastle fight fans to get ready for something "spectacular".
That's his pledge ahead of his boxing debut in the city on Wednesday week [March 31] against Brisbane-based Irishman Dennis Hogan at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
Almost 23 years after his world champion father Kostya fought the last of his five fights in Newcastle, Tszyu will step into the ring just one win away from potentially getting his own shot at a World title.
Tszyu has his final spar in Sydney today in preparation for the super welterweight bout and will arrive in Newcastle on Thursday to spend almost a week in the city leading up to fight night.
He's not sure of his schedule yet but you can expect to see him pounding the pavement in the city most mornings, probably within sight of the beaches, as he keeps his body ticking over.
Asked about the significance of following in his dad's career footsteps by fighting here, Tszyu told us: "It's great to be going up there, especially with the history of my dad fighting up there in Newcastle and now it's my turn. I think there is going to be a lot of reconnection with all the fans.
"I was way too young [he was 3] to remember being up there with dad but I love the look of the beaches there and there is just a nice little buzz and vibe around the city. Plus Glen [Jennings] my manager lives there so he was pushing me to fight up there because he doesn't have to go far.
"But no, it's good. Newcastle hasn't had a big fight in such a long time and it's usually the real big cities that get these type of fights so I'm really looking forward to coming up there and giving the people something they deserve."
Tszyu talks like he fights- direct and straight to the point.
Ask him about the cockiness of Hogan during the build-up and he says matter-of-factly: "They all seem pretty cocky until they get punched in the face."
And his plan for Hogan?
"The plan is to punch him in the face, punch him in the guts until he can sustain no more. That's the plan."
That's not to say the 26-year-old won't have respect for his opponent.
"He's worthy - 100 percent he is," Tszyu said. "He's been there against the big boys and his only losses have been against the big boys so I've got to take this guy out in spectacular fashion to show that I'm not just here to compete, I'm here to take over.
"I want to take over the division but there's some work to be done up there before then."
Local fans have already shown there will be plenty of Tszyu support with almost 5000 tickets selling out within in week. The release of more between now and the fight will hinge on health restrictions being eased.
Knights' saviour Pearce
He's been a punching bag for the media, the NRL and many fans throughout his career, mainly due to some off-field decisions he no doubt would love to take back.
But Mitchell Pearce has a great ally in Knights boss Phil Gardner, who has lavished praise on the 31-year-old halfback ahead of his 300th NRL game milestone next Sunday.
In the latest edition of Toohey's News-The Podcast, our first for 2021, Gardner says Pearce did more to turn Newcastle's fortunes around following the disaster of the 2016 season than any coach or administrator at the club because his signing gave the Knights instant credibility.
"From my perspective, the club owes Mitch a tremendous amount," Gardner told us. "I remember sitting out at Browny's [ex-coach Nathan Brown] house when Mitch came up to see us about coming to Newcastle and he rang us on his way home to say he was going to come.
"That was the point when the club turned around. It turned around on Mitch's back, not anyone else. Not coaches, not administrators - Mitch turned this club around by believing in us and he will always have my support. He is a great guy who has made some poor decisions but we have all been guilty of that at some point in our lives. I honestly think he has been really poorly treated by the media and it's difficult to understand why that is.
"I'm certainly happy for people to understand just how important he has been for the change in this club.
"He needs credit for what a competitor he is and what a great player he is. He gets out there on the field and gives it his everything. I'm in awe of his physical ability."
Long wait for Fitz and Edrick
Veteran playmaker Blake Green may only be a fortnight away from a playing return and Kalyn Ponga a week or two later but the wait will go on for Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Edrick Lee.
Fitzgibbon is expected to be back on deck between rounds 8 and 10 after shoulder surgery while Lee is understood to have only just started light running again after breaking a bone in his foot back in January.
Given he has hardly trained this year after returning late to pre-season training after Christmas following his Origin experience, it could be a further 4-6 weeks before he is ready to resume.
Rallying the troops
Knights fans should get behind this.
The club and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service joined forces this week to launch the inaugural Knights Rescue Rally, a four-day car rally from May 5-8 to coincide with the Knights clash against the Raiders in Wagga on May 8. Chopper boss Richard Jones said the trip, sponsored by the likes of Ampcontrol, NSW Mining and BJ Howes, is not only about raising money for the service and the Knights but would also support the rural communities of the towns the rally will travel through.
Jones said those making the trip from Newcastle to Wagga will get to stop into wineries, country cafes and pubs along the way at towns such as Mudgee, Bathurst, Sofala, Blayney, Carcoar and Parkes before taking in the Raiders clash.
You can register at www.rescuehelicopter.com.au/events or call 49520000.
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