Australia’s Nikita Tszyu Stands Poised to Escape the Long Shadow of His Brother


By Arne K. Lang

They held a confab for the boxing media last week at the spacious Las Vegas gym where WBO super welterweight champion Tim Tszyu has been training for his forthcoming match with Sebastian Fundora. Tim was there, of course, as were many of the fighters in the supporting bouts plus Tim’s younger brother Nikita who was inconspicuous in this gathering.

Nikita Tszyu isn’t on Saturday’s card and so was never spotlighted, but it’s likely that most of the media-types there knew nothing about him. Had they been Aussies, he wouldn't have been able to blend into the scenery as the Sydneysider is already a major sports personality in the Land Down Under. More than that, he is seemingly on pace to become as big a star as his older brother who has been called the face of boxing in Australia.

In his last start, Nikita wrested the Australian 154-pound title from previously undefeated (10-0) Dylan Biggs. Their bout in the Australian harbor city of Newcastle headlined a pay-per-view telecast.

Nikita was down in the first 45 seconds of the contest and was buzzed in the third, but had Biggs in dire straits in the fourth and ended matters in the next frame with a wicked left hook to the liver. Biggs somehow made it to his feet, but the bout was waived off seconds later as Biggs’ corner was throwing in the towel.

It improved Nikita’s record to 8-0 (7 KOs) and burnished the reputation of the Tszyu dynasty. Collectively, the three Tszyu’s – his Hall of Fame father Kostya, his bother Tim and Nikita – are 48-0 in Australian rings.

Outside the squared circle, Nikita Tszyu, who is 26 years old and looks younger, comes across as thoroughly unspoiled. Talking with him, what started as a formal interview quickly became a relaxed chat between two old souls (as Nikita described himself) enjoying each others company. And as prizefighters go, he sure is different. A college grad, Nikita cited gardening, of all things, when we inquired if he had any hobbies.

As amateurs, Nikita had a deeper background and was more decorated than Tim. But in 2017, he turned his back on boxing to pursue a degree in architecture. He was away from boxing for five years before deciding to give the sport another fling.

“I wanted to be the first person in my family to be smart,” he says tongue-in-cheek when asked how he could abandon a sport that was seemingly in his blood. “My mom wanted one of us to get a college degree,” he says, elaborating. “When it wasn’t going to work out for Tim, it fell on my shoulders.”

As is well known, Nikita’s parents divorced (Nikita was then just starting high school) and his dad then returned to his native Russia and started a new family. But the brothers and their father remain on cordial terms – they speak on the phone periodically – and they are close to Kostya’s parents (their paternal grandparents) who live near Nikita in the Sydney area and are currently watching Nikita’s three dogs, a husky, a French Bulldog, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. “I can’t imagine a life without them,” says Nikita who, unlike his brother, has no special lady living under his roof.

The family tie extends to the brothers’ trainer Igor Goloubev who is married to their aunt (Kostya’ sister). Uncle Igor, a training partner of Kostya Tszyu in the old days, came to Sydney in 1997 with a touring Russian amateur team and, unlike the famous boxer, never left.

During the lull between the two generations of fighting Tszyus, Igor Goloubev founded a construction company that he still owns. While working for an architectural firm (working remotely because of Covid), Nikita was able to work part-time for his uncle which was good hands-on experience for a future architect.

When Goloubev counsels one of the brothers between rounds, the old becomes new again and this blast from the past doesn’t stop there. The brothers are managed by Newcastle NSW businessman Glen Jennings who formerly managed Kostya, widely considered one of the two or three best junior welterweights of all time. (Jennings says that as a boxer Nikita is more like his dad whereas Tim is more of a pressure fighter.)

[caption id="attachment_80483" align="alignnone" width="300"]
Glen Jennings Flanked by Tim and Nikita
Glen Jennings flanked by Tim and Nikita[/caption]
This is Nikita Tszyu’s second trip to Las Vegas. He was here last year when Tim was preparing for a match with Jermell Charlo. When that match fell out, Nikita used the occasion for a little holiday, the highlight of which was a hike through Northern California’s Redwood Forest, home to the world’s tallest trees.

“Your national parks are the coolest things about America,” he says. As for the food? ”Too much fat,” he says, wrinkling his nose, but that’s a moot point as Team Tszyu now travels with its own chef.

Nikita Tszyu will defend his Australian title on April 24th. At this writing, the opponent is uncertain. Three leading candidates fell by the wayside, two because they lost a fight they were supposed to win, ruining their credibility, and another because he got injured. Finding good opponents may prove to be a recurrent hassle in part because Nikita, unlike his brother, is a southpaw.

Coming up the ladder, Tim Tszyu looked forward to fighting at the MGM Grand where his father won his first title (TKO 6 over Jake Rodriguez in 1995) and had one of his most memorable fights, a second-round stoppage of Zab Judah in 2001. The T-Mobile Arena didn’t exist back then, but sits on MGM Grand property, so Saturday’s fight is a dream come true for the older Tszyu brother.

Looking down the road, it’s easy to envision Nikita becoming a headline attraction here too.