Australian junior middleweight champion Joel ‘CamaKO’ Camilleri 17-5-1 (8) will be fighting for respect when he defends his national crown against Tim Tszyu 12-0 (10) at The Star in Sydney this Wednesday night.
The 28-year-old substitute teacher from Keilor Downs in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs will be entering the lion’s den when he takes on Tszyu in his backyard of Sydney live on Main Event Pay-Per-View, but Camilleri insists the fight is coming at the right time for him.
“It couldn’t come at a better time for me to be the actual main event. I’m comfortable and the nerves haven’t kicked in yet. They will on fight night, but I know what to expect,” Camilleri said on The Unofficial Scorecard Podcast last week.
“My boxing ability is there and I really believe in myself now. I’ve been through some hard fights. Most importantly, I’m mentally ready and that makes me physically ready.”
In his last outing in February, Camilleri stripped Billy Limov of his unbeaten record with a five-round beatdown to claim the vacant national crown at 154-pounds. The Sam Labruna-trained fighter came out aggressively, hurting Limov early and often before the fight was mercifully stopped at the end of the fifth round.
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Camilleri said he expected Limov’s corner to pull him out of the fight earlier, particularly as he gave the Queenslander zero chance of knocking him out.
“People don’t realise I’ve never been dropped in my life – in sparring or in a fight,” he said. “I’ve had 39 fights (amateur and pro), a few thousand sparring session and I’ve never been dropped, so you’re not going to pull out a one-hit punch against me too often.”
The classy boxer-puncher refused to be drawn on whether he would attack Tszyu from the opening bell or look to box from the outside in the early rounds, but he refused to rule out a firefight.
“It really depends on the night. I can box now, I can punch on, I can go in close, I can do whatever I need to do,” Camilleri said.
“I’m not going in there with just one gameplan, I’ll just going to take it as it is. But if he wants to throw down – and I’m pretty sure he won’t want to – I’m ready for it.”
In Tszyu’s last fight in February he knocked out former Commonwealth welterweight champion Denton Vassell in two rounds, but the British veteran appeared well past his best and, at times, a reluctant participant in the fight.
The performance failed to impress Camilleri.
“I would’ve ended him with my second punch,” he said. “No offense to him, he might’ve done some hard yards back in the day and wasn’t too bad, but he was never a world level fighter. I just saw an old man who looked half the size of his opponent and who didn’t throw a punch back.
“He stood in the middle against a guy who was lining him up, didn’t move his head and was just eating shot after shot… Tim looked good in front of him, but I think anyone with one-tenth of boxing ability would’ve looked good that night.”
The 24-year-old Tszyu – the son of International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Kostya Tszyu – is viewing the Camilleri fight as something of a coming out party. Undefeated in 12 contests with a knockout ratio of 83%, Tszyu 2.0 is looking to become a breakout star and continue the family legacy.
“More people start recognising you — there’s a bit of more pressure but you know what, it really doesn’t bother me because I’m representing my last name with honour,” Tszyu said in an interview with ABC News.
“My dad put it to that level where he’s considered as the greatest Aussie boxer of all time and you know I intend to back it up, that’s for sure.”
Tszyu issued an ominous warning to Camilleri, who sports a crooked nose obtained in a game of Aussie Rules football as a kid.
“He’s got the experience, he’s got the age, he’s got a bigger mouth, he’s got a broken nose. I intend to make the nose the other way around,” Tszyu said with a wry grin.
Much like his famous father, Tszyu sees success not as optional, but as destiny.
“I’ve always thought Australian boxing needs me and it’s my time to shine,” he said.
“At the moment all I’m thinking about is this Australian title and that’s all that’s on my mind.
“I’ve got the Australian public behind me and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”