Through the first six rounds, New Mexico’s Brian Mendoza was right where he dreamed of being — the World Boxing Organization junior-middleweight title seemingly within his reach.
But six rounds and dozens of hard shots taken later, Mendoza, a 2012 Cleveland High School graduate, watched Tim Tszyu’s hand raised in victory.
Sunday in Gold Coast, Australia, Tszyu successfully defended his WBO title with a victory by unanimous decision. The judges’ scorecards read 116-111, 116-112 and 117-111.
Mendoza is now 22-3 with 16 knockouts. Tszyu remains undefeated at 24-0 with 17 KOs.
Through the first half of the bout, Mendoza appeared to be frustrating Tszyu with movement of the head and the feet while landing some solid shots. Boxing analyst Steve Farhood, scoring the fight on the Showtime telecast, had the bout even at 57 through six.
Starting in the seventh, Tszyu found another gear — or, perhaps, just figured Mendoza out.
Landing shots to the head and the body, sometimes from improbable angles, Tszyu kept Mendoza on the defensive for most of the final six rounds. The movement that Mendoza used so effectively in the early rounds appeared only sporadically from round seven on.
Mendoza appeared to be hurt in the seventh round. In the 10th, he suffered a cut above his eye that, after the 11th, required a doctor’s inspection.
Yet, Mendoza fought back in the 12th and final round, winning it on Farhood’s card.
It was too late.
After the bout, Tszyu had words of praise for Mendoza, a Cleveland High School graduate who now lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“He’s tough,” Tszyu said. “He’s crafty, he’s slick, he’s got power. He’s world class for a reason.
“He’s just behind me.”
The punching power Mendoza displayed in the two fights that got him in the ring with Tszyu, victories by knockout over Jeison Rosario and Sebastian Fundora, never materialized on Sunday. The Australian boxer, not known in the past for his defense, absorbed some solid punches from Mendoza while blocking or avoiding potential damaging ones.
Tszyu never appeared to be hurt, save for a 10th-round body shot that the champion believed had landed below the belt.
TROUT WINS: Saturday in Oberhausen, Germany, Las Cruces’ Austin Trout defeated Panama’s Omir Rodriguez by unanimous decision.
Trout, a former world junior-middleweight champion, improved his record to 37-5-1 with 18 KOs.
Rodriguez, a late replacement for a replacement, is 13-10-1 with six KOs. He has lost his last six fights.