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Tszyu and Leija pose for a photo.    

Tszyu Defends Undisputed Titles in Australia

January 16, 2003

Melbourne, Australia (Showtime) - One of only three undisputed world champions in boxing, Kostya Tszyu, will make the first start in his adopted homeland of Australia in nearly five years when he defends his World Boxing Council/World Boxing Association/International Boxing Federation (WBC/WBA/IBF) 140-pound titles against former WBC super featherweight titleholder and current WBC No. 4 contender "Jesse" James Leija live on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Saturday, Jan. 18, 2003, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. In a second 12-round fight, undefeated contender and 2000 Uzbekistan Olympic Gold Medallist, Muhammad Abdullaev, will make his third SHOWTIME appearance when he faces former IBF lightweight titleholder Philip Holiday for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Intercontinental junior welterweight title. Millennium Events P/L, in association with Talentworks, Pty. Ltd, will promote both matches from the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, Australia.

Tszyu (29-1-1, 23 KOs), of Sydney, by way of Serov, Russia, stamped himself as the world's premier 140-pound boxer, and added the IBF belt to his already-glitzy wardrobe with a scintillating second-round TKO over previously undefeated Zab Judah Nov. 3, 2001, on SHOWTIME. In a sensational performance in which he became the first undisputed junior welterweight champion since Paul Fujii in 1968, Tszyu finished Judah off with a single, devastating right hand in the second round. In his last start, Tszyu retained his titles with an impressive, one-sided 12-round decision over IBF No. 1 contender Ben Tackie May 18, 2002, on SHOWTIME. Tszyu utilized a persistent two-fisted attack to batter the hard-hitting Tackie and triumph by the near-shutout scores of 120-108 twice and 119-109. Tszyu captured the WBA belt on SHOWTIME with a seventh-round TKO over Sharmba Mitchell on Feb. 3, 2001. Nearly one-and-one-half years earlier, Tszyu won the WBC 140-pound title by knocking out Miguel Angel Gonzalez in the 10th round on Aug. 21, 1999. A winner of 11 consecutive bouts, including nine by knockout, Tszyu will be making his 16th world title appearance. Tszyu, who turned pro on March 1, 1992, made his initial six starts in Australia, and 17 out of his first 22. In his last effort Down Under, he knocked out Calvin Grove in the first round on April 5, 1998, in Newcastle. Tszyu went 259-11 in the amateurs.

Leija (43-5-2, 1 NC, 17 KOs), of San Antonio, Texas, has fought the world's most talented fighters in four weight divisions during a superlative 14-plus-year career. The crowd-pleasing Leija, who defeated Azumah Nelson on May 7, 1994, to capture the WBC 130-pound crown, went 2-1-1 against the future Hall of Famer. Leija has met five other current or former world champions, including Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Gabriel Ruelas, Louie Espinoza and Troy Dorsey. In a highly controversial bout, Leija fought to a no contest against Hector Camacho Jr. on July 7, 2001, when the then-unbeaten Camacho appeared to quit. In his lone 2002 outing, the talented veteran recorded a fifth-round technical decision over Mickey Ward on Jan. 5 in San Antonio.

Abdullaev (10-0, 8 KOs), of Uzbekistan, has won his last two outings by first-round technical knockout as he continues to serve notice that he is one of the junior welterweight division's top prospects. In his most recent start, Abdullaev scored a sensational first-round TKO over Juan Antonio Lopez Oct. 5, 2002, on SHOWTIME. The hard-hitting youngster scored his first of three knockdowns approximately three seconds into the scheduled 10-round match, prior to finishing Lopez off at 2:36 of the round. Abdullaev also scored three knockdowns in his SHOWTIME debut when he registered a third-round TKO over Juan Rivera May 11, 2002, on "ShoBox: The New Generation" from Biloxi, Miss. The hard-hitting Uzbekistanian captured the gold medal in the 139-pound division by outpointing Ricardo Williams, 27-20, at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Abdullaev also whipped Williams during the second round of the 1999 United States World Championships, prior to capturing a gold medal at the competition. During a stellar amateur career, in which he also defeated highly regarded pro, Miguel Cotto, Abdullaev won more than 270 bouts.

Holiday (38-5-1, 22 KOs) of Benoni, South Africa, will make his first SHOWTIME appearance since losing a six-round technical decision to the then-unbeaten Camacho Jr. in a bout stopped due to cuts on July 29, 2000, from Phoenix. Holiday, who won both of his 2002 starts in Australia, will make his third consecutive appearance Down Under when he steps into the ring against Abdullaev. Before switching locales, Holiday had gone winless in four starts (0-3-1). The native South African captured the IBF lightweight title with a 10th-round TKO over Miguel Julio on Aug. 19, 1995, in Sun City, South Africa. Holiday went on to make six successful defenses prior to losing a 12-round decision to Shane Mosley on Aug. 2, 1997, in Uncasville, Conn.

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING's Steve Albert and former world champion Bobby Czyz will call the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast is Jay Larkin, with David Dinkins, Jr. producing and Bob Dunphy directing.


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