It’s the crossover we by no means knew we needed till we obtained it.
A duo fairly excessive up on the record of ‘two folks you wouldn’t wish to begin a struggle with’ went toe-to-toe on Tuesday as Tim Tszyu and Rob Whittaker shared the ring.
It was the second time in two weeks that Australia’s No. 1 boxer, Tszyu, and the nation’s first-ever UFC champion, Whittaker, had educated collectively at Tszyu Boxing Academy in Rockdale.
And whereas there was a gaggle of reporters keen to seek out out precisely what occurred, for the 2 fighters, it was extra in regards to the work that occurred behind closed doorways.
“It’s obtained nothing to do with PR for me,” Tszyu stated after the session that was shut off to the media.
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Each males are getting ready for upcoming fights — Tszyu on the finish of this month in opposition to Dennis Hogan and Whittaker in April in opposition to the human fridge that’s Paulo Costa — and each are benefiting from working with each other.
“I do consider iron sharpens iron,” Whittaker advised reporters. “So, to get in there together with his pace, and his reactions, and his presence within the ring, it’s nice to work my eyes, and response speeds, and muscle reminiscence.”
The pair went 5 rounds, with each brawlers sporting a pair bumps and bruises afterwards; Whittaker joking that the trigger “might have been my spouse this morning”.
Nonetheless, Whittaker did higher than the poor bloke who adopted. Foxsports.com.au understands that Tszyu had one other sparring associate are available shortly after. He didn’t fare as effectively; dropping twice to physique pictures.
Whittaker represents an “unorthodox” puzzle for Tszyu; one that offers him precisely what he wants with a purpose to put together for his March 31 bout on Foremost Occasion.
“Aussie fighters [boxers] are like MMA fighters,” Tszyu advised foxsports.com.au. “There’s no boxing college right here.
“That’s why we type of want to seek out somebody who’s unorthodox and has obtained such a unique model to spar.
“These are the sorts of fighters I’ve been combating. Dennis Hogan is certainly one of them.”
In fact, for Whittaker, who makes use of boxing as only one weapon in his combined martial arts arsenal, Tszyu is a take a look at he hasn’t actually handled earlier than. One which regardless of the sizeable weight disparity — Whittaker about 15-20kgs heavier — pushes him to his limits.
“His pace and his presence, his capability to take up the area and at all times be in your face however out of punching vary is a trick in itself,” Whittaker, who labelled Tszyu’s management of area a “present”, advised foxsports.com.au.
“I get high quality rounds with him and I can solely get higher going up in opposition to him and placing in that work.”
The speculation is easy: if Whittaker can combine it with Tszyu’s pace and motion, then a a lot slower — albeit greater and scarier — Costa needs to be a neater job.
In line with Whittaker’s supervisor, Titus Day, the 30-year-old got here into the second session with a way more conventional boxing method; protecting his fingers up as he tried to depart his combined martial arts flavoured hanging outdoors the ring.
“The hanging dynamic in MMA is totally totally different to boxing,” Whittaker stated.
“You may’t struggle a boxer. I am going right into a session like this making an attempt to field. I depart my consolation zone, that’s for sure. However that’s the place folks begin to rise and excel.”
One of many UFC’s most dynamic strikers, Whittaker is coming off a profitable 2020 — with wins over Darren Until and Jared Cannonier — that has set him up with a “nightmare” problem in Costa, and the potential for an additional middleweight title shot on the opposite finish.
“He’s coming into my workplace, so it’s a bit totally different,” Tszyu, who was impressed with Whittaker’s motion, defined.
“If I used to be to step into his workplace, I’m positive I’d have gotten pumped.”
However at its core, Tszyu added: “If I’m in a position to put these boys below strain, think about what I’ll do to somebody my very own weight.”
The choice to work collectively was a mutual one. And for Tszyu, a chance that has solely additional clarified the necessity to head abroad quickly.
“[It’s] beginning to get arduous with sparring companions,” Tszyu stated.
Whereas there’s a “few boys” that take a look at the 26-year-old in Australia, he admitted he’d like to return to the US for a bit the place sparring companions — that may push him — are simpler to seek out.
For now, although, a 3rd session is within the works.
“So long as I can provide him good rounds, and he offers me nice rounds, that’s all that issues,” Tszyu stated.
“We’re each making an attempt to progress in our careers and it’s serving to each of us out.”