Tim Tszyu has revealed he was more troubled by being bitten by a dog before his victory over Carlos Ocampo than he was when he learned Keith Thurman’s injury meant Thurman was being replaced by Sebastian Fundora.

Tszyu, 29, and Fundora on Saturday at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena fight for the the WBO and WBC light-middleweight titles, and do so little over a week after the Australian had been scheduled to fight Thurman in a non-title contest. 

For the highest-profile fight of Tszyu’s career Fundora, at 36 nine years younger than Thurman, represents a considerably different opponent and one the WBO champion has had little time to prepare for, but after overcoming a dog bite on his right arm – one that required surgery and 26 stitches – shortly before his victory over Ocampo in June 2023 he has become conditioned to significant setbacks. On that occasion on the Gold Coast he responded by stopping Ocampo in the opening round. 

“Last time I got bitten by a dog two weeks out,” he said. “I was in hospital, under full anaesthetic. Now I’m sweet. It’s just a change of opponent. It’s a completely different opponent, but to be great, you’ve got to do things that no one else does, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“‘Thurman’s out. Bicep tear.’ ‘Alright. So what now?’ ‘Fundora or [Erislandy] Lara. But most likely Fundora.’ ‘Let’s get it on. Simple.’ What else can we do?

“The first 12 hours [after Thurman’s withdrawal] was a whirlpool. Once everything settled – focus shifted – it’s a good learning curve. The past is the past. Only growth happens from experiences like this.

“I was [in a rented property in Las Vegas when I found out]. My manager [Glen Jennings] came along – I saw [in his face] there was a bit of depression. I was like, ‘What’s wrong with you guys?’, and then I got told the news and I was like, ‘F*** – mother-‘. You know what? I had a feeling about it. ‘Imagine if something happens to [Keith] Thurman – I got a feeling that he’s not going to make it for some reason.’ There you go. Just a little intuition I felt. 

“The dog bite was more of a worry. This one made me pissed – like a wake-up call. Completely zoned in – I’m glad this happened, because I was getting a bit relaxed with Thurman. I love this feeling.

“This is not a setback. I’m focused; zoned in; healthy. I got another two spars against tall southpaws. Fight night I just adapt to whoever they put in front of me.”

A further setback is the fact that as a consequence he will be paid less by promoters Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). The promotion is PBC’s first with their new broadcasters Amazon Prime.

“You’re focusing on one person for the whole time,” Tszyu continued. “Massive build-up; talking about it; prepping for 10 weeks to a certain style, and then it just completely changes and it’s like the unknown. The next target’s completely the opposite to the previous target, so now it’s shifting your mind. [My] mind shifted like that. I give it 12 hours – I slept it off, and then I was like, ‘That’s it’. Simple. 

“I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes – I heard it was a mess – but my manager did a good job by eliminating all of the distractions. “The next target is this guy.” This is the first Amazon Prime card and we saved it. We’re getting pay cuts – it is what it is – but we saved it. The dream remains the same. I’m still doing it. I’m still living my life.”