Forgotten Classics: Kostya Tszyu vs Vince Phillips

By: Steve Gallegos

In 1996, HBO launched a new boxing series which was a spinoff from it’s World Championship Boxing program. It was called HBO’s Boxing After Dark. The bouts were televised later in the evening around 10 or 11 PM EST. It was a program for young, up and coming talent to be showcased and the main events were evenly matched bouts in which either fighter had a chance to win. 1997 was probably B.A.D.’s biggest year and probably the most exciting bout that year was a Jr. Welterweight championship bout between unbeaten champion Kostya Tzsyu and hard hitting “Cool” Vince Phillips.

Kostya Tszyu was one of the hottest young champions in the sport of boxing. He had power in either hand, knocking out 14 out his first 18 opponents. His Russian, Korean and Mongolian heritage gave him a rather unique look as he resembled somewhat of a kung-fu star, sporting a Mongolian style, braided tail. Vince Phillips was very exciting boxer-puncher who loved to mix it up. He had a major league right hand, which was probably the hardest right hand in boxing at that time. He was a seven year veteran who was 31-1 with 22 KO’s when he challenged Ike Quartey for his welterweight championship in April of 1996. He gave it his all and threw everything he could at Quartey for three rounds before being stopped.

Nine months later, he appeared on Boxing After Dark, losing a close split decision to 1988 olympic gold medalist Romallis Ellis in which Phillips was a late substitution for former world champion Christano Espana. After fighting those bouts at welterweight, Phillips decided he would move down to Jr. Welterweight. In the spring of 1997, Oscar De La Hoya vacated his WBC Super Lightweight title and fellow Mexican warriors Julio Cesar Chavez and Miguel Angel Gonzalez were scheduled to fight for the vacant title. Kostya Tszyu was hoping to meet the winner of that bout and unfify the 140 lb division as well as meet up with Oscar De La Hoya some time down the road. In order to do that, he first had to get past Vince Phillips.

They met on 05/31/97 at the ballroom at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ and it was for the IBF Jr. Welterweight championship. Phillips walked out of the dressing room to the song “I believe I can fly” by R. Kelly and he sported a welt underneath his right eye that he suffered during sparring. When Tszyu made it to the ring, he put both gloves on the top rope and jumped into the ring. In the first round, both fighters had their moments, getting in some good shots; however it was Kostya’s round. Tszyu was very relaxed and confident inside the ring as he stood back and picked his shots. Phillips showed a little more movement as he used his jab to setup his right hand.

Tszyu would dominate the second round as the left hook got going and he was able to land it at will. Although Phillips lost the round, he was still able to get in a right hand or two and it was getting Tszyu’s attention. The pace increased in the third round as both men exchanged hard shots, all with the intention of getting the other man out of there. There was also a battle in the stands as a portion of the crowd chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A” in support of Phillips and the Tszyu fans countered with there own chant of “Tszyu!!, Tszyu!!” The fourth round was more of the same as both men continued to trade hard shots. Phillips began to work the body very well and his right hand was finding its mark; however Tszyu was walking through Phillips‘ shots and countering with his own power shots.

The action continued in both the 5th and 6th rounds. In the seventh round, the tide began to turn as Phillips would land a 1-2, left, right combination that put Tszyu on the canvas. Tszyu was on his feet almost immediately; however it was a momentum boost for Phillips. The two men would stand in the center of the ring in the eighth round and trade hard shots. Both men looked tired, but they kept firing. Phillips‘ right hand was still finding its mark and Tszyu continued to counter with his own hard shots. In the ninth, Tszyu landed a left hook that opened up a bad cut over Phillips‘ right eye. Referee Benji Esteves called time and had the ringside doctor take a look at the cut. The doctor said the cut was ok and the fight resumed.

Phillips wasted no time as he began to go for the kill. He was getting the better of the exchanges and it looked like he was wearing Tszyu down. Larry Merchant, who was calling the fight ringside said, “Now we know what World War III would have looked like”. In the 10th, Phillips landed a hard right hand that buckled Tszyu. Seconds later, he would land another right hand that buckled Tszyu again and sent him reeling against the ropes. Phillips went in for the kill and landed five or six hard unanswered shots that had Tzsyu out on his feet and helplessly dazed, causing referee Benji Esteves to step in and stop the bout.

After 8 long years, Vince Phillips was finally a world champion. Jim Lampley and Roy Jones Jr. were ecstatic as they cried “Yes!!, Yes!!” It was 1997’s Upset of the year and Comeback of the year by Ring Magazine. Phillips would make his first defense just two months later against Lowell, Massachussetts’ “Irish” Micky Ward. Ward earned this title shot after a come from behind KO win over Mexican Alfonso Sanchez in which Ward lost every minute of every round before landing a hard body shot in the 7th which put Sanchez down and out. He would get a shot at Phillips‘ title which was an event that was omitted in the 2010 movie “The Fighter” starring Mark Whalberg.

Vince was successful in his first title defense by scoring a third round stoppage of Ward due to a cut caused by a right hand. Phillips would successfully defend his title twice more, both by KO before losing to Terron Millett in 1999. Phillips would continue fighting for the next 8 years, going 9-8-1 with 5 KO’s. His record as a professional stands at 48-12-1 with 34 KO’s.

Kostya Tzsyu rebounded well from this loss and would win another world title 18 months later when he stopped Cuban Diosbelys Hurtado. He would rack up 13 straight wins, unify all three major Jr. Welterweight title belts and would beat top notch opposition such as Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sharmba Mitchell, and Zab Judah. He ruled the 140 lb. division for seven years before losing to Ricky Hatton in 2005. He retired with a record of 34-2-1 with 25 KO’s. In 2011, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The 1997 clash between Kostya Tszyu and Vince Phillips was only a small bump in the road for Tszyu, who went on to have a hall of fame career. For Phillips it was his crowning achievement that he strived so hard to reach. He was a fighter that wasn’t going to be denied on that night. The word “can’t” just wasn’t in his vocabulary.



[ic_add_posts tag=’Forgotten-Classics’]

Dudchenko-Mohammedi Final Press Conference Quotes

Main Events’ CEO Kathy Duva – Welcome to the beautiful Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This is our first fight here. This spectacular destination has everything you could want: gaming, shopping and entertainment. We are blessed to be able to come here for the first of hopefully many, many great events. Last weekend, Chris Algieri became the second Fight Night veteran, after Sergey Kovalev, to win a world title in the two and a half years we have been on the air.

Many fighters either were introduced to the US public for the first time or renewed their careers on Fight Night. World title challengers: Curtis Stevens, Gabriel Rosado, Jesus Soto Karass, Zab Judah and Jerry Belmontes. Top ten heavyweight contenders: Czar Glazkov, Steve Cunningham, Tomasz Adamek, Tyson Fury, Amir Mansour, Bryant Jennings and Eddie Chambers. Top two cruiserweight contender Thabiso Mchunu was introduced. Top two light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba and former light heavyweight world champion Gabriel Campillo have appeared. That’s 17 shows and I just read 17 names.

Some were introduced here. Some were built here. Some had their careers revived here. Some, like Fury and Algieri, fought in many other places, but appeared one time on Fight Night because our matchmaking team of Jolene Mizzone and J. Russell Peltz have a great eye for the type of fighters our fans want to see. And so we reached out to their promoters. We promised a mix of developing talent, veteran “names” and simply great fights. On the last edition of Fight Night, Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour took part in one of the best heavyweight fights I have ever seen, while Curtis Stevens came up with a heart stopping 12th round KO to defeat another terrific young prospect, Tureano Johnson.

And so, continuing in that tradition, number 18.

I will give you four more names and on Saturday night, one of them will become the IBF’s #1 light heavyweight contender: Anatoliy “The Gladiator” Dudchenko and Nadjib Mohammedi are both top ten light heavyweights battling for the #1 position in the world. The winner will get a shot at Bernard Hopkins’ IBF World Title within the coming months.

And lightweight prospect Karl “Dynamite” Dargan will defend his USBA Atlantic Coast Region Lightweight Title vs. Anthony “Flawless” Flores in a fight to determine who moves up into the lightweight top ten rankings.

Sullivan Barrera is another fellow who is going to end up on that list of hot light heavyweight prospects. Wellington Romero is undefeated and his intention is to move up and be a world challenger. We are going to follow Romero’s career with great interest. Barrera is going to fight Lee Campbell who scored a big upset win on April 4 over Roberto Jose Acevedo. Wellington Romero is fighting Mack Babb of Brooklyn, NY.

Anatoliy “The Gladiator” Dudchenko -Thank you for this opportunity. I am not a real talking guy. I will make my statements in the ring on Saturday.

Nadjib Mohammedi – First I would like to thank Main Events for this opportunity. We promise a good show and a great fight. One of the best maybe. We are going to win and take the belt.

Karl “Dynamite” Dargan – I just had a great camp. We prepared very well. Anthony Flores is a great fighter. I am not looking passed him. I am ready and come Saturday I will show it.

Anthony “Flawless” Flores – I feel very happy for the opportunity. This is surreal and I would love to take advantage of it.

Sullivan Barrera – We are ready. The camp prepared very well. We are going to come out Saturday and get a “W” and put on a show for everyone. Thank you all for coming out. It is going to be Sullivan Barrera for a long, long time.

Wellington Romero – I am happy to be here. I am feeling real good and am going to put on a good show for everyone.

About June 21:

June 21 features Anatoliy “The Gladiator” Dudchenko and Nadjib Mohammedi in a twelve-round light heavyweight bout for the #1 position in the IBF live on NBCSN Fight Night from Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The co-feature includes a ten-round fight between Philly natives Karl “Dynamite” Dargan and Anthony Flores for the USBA Atlantic Coast Region Title. The Fight Night telecast will begin at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Doors will open at 5:00 PM. The card is presented by Main Events and Peltz Boxing, in association with Greg Cohen Promotions. The card is subject to change. Ticket are available at or at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs box office.

Iron Mike Productions ESPN FNF Results

VERONA, N.Y. (June 6, 2014) – In an ESPN Friday Night Fights main event on International Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend, featuring a pair of fighters celebrating their 33 rd birthdays tonight, 2004 Olympic silver medalist Yudel Jhonson (16-1, 9 KOs) captured the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) and North American Boxing Association (NABA) by winning a unanimous 10-round unanimous decision (97-91 X3) over former Mexican champion Norberto “Demonio” Gonzalez (20-4, 13 KOs).

The entertaining top-to-bottom show was presented by Iron Mike Productions (IMP) at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

Supporting promoter Mike Tyson at tonight’s fights were world champions Oscar de la Hoya, Andre Ward, Zab Judah, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Leona Brown and actress/boxing fan Rosie Perez.

“It was a great night, I’m very proud,” Tyson remarked. “This was better than our first show here and the next time will be even better. It’s all about consistency. We saw some great fighters tonight and the fans were great, too. These guys make me look good, I’m honored.

“Oscar and Andre saw some good fights. There’s nothing better than hearing that from my peers. I’m really proud of Sammy. He’s an entertainer. I’d like to bring him back to Pittsburgh to fight Paul Spadafora, who is a great fighter. That will be a big fight.”

Jhonson, a stylist Cuban southpaw living in Miami, boxed his way to victory, decking Gonzalez with a short left in the fifth, buckling him in the sixth, and dropping him with a left in the ninth round.

“At the moment with my team, my managers and promoters,” Jhonson said after the fight, “I’m here to fight the top junior middleweights in the world and I proved that tonight. I’m looking for my world title shot. I’d like a rematch with Willie Nelson, to fight Ishe Smith, or any of the world champions. I’m open to fighting quality fighters to get my world title.”

Red-hot welterweight Sammy “The Who Can Mexican” Vasquez, Jr. (15-0, 11 KOs) proved once again why he’s one of the most fan friendly fighters in boxing. In the ESPN co-feature, the aggressive southpaw from Monessen, PA attacked like the Iraq War veteran he is, dropping “Smokin'” Jay Krupp (17-7, 8 KOs) in each of the first three rounds, after which referee Benji Estevez halted the action at the 1:19 mark.

“For my fans out there, the soldiers and family, it was an honor fighting on ESPN,” Vasquez commented. “I want to thank IMP and my father for getting me here. I thought it was a B performance. I made a couple of errors but did what I needed to do.”

A star was born in the ESPN FNF opener as heavy-handed middleweight sensation Ievgin “The Ukrainian Lion” Khytrov (5-0, 5 KOs) stepped up in class against dangerous Chris Chatman (12-4-1, 5 KOs) and passed the test with flying colors. After a “feeling out” opening round, the 2012 Ukraine Olympian went to work, battering a game Chatman until a powerful, short left hook ended the fight in the third round.

Khytrov destoyed Chatman

Khytrov, now living in Brooklyn, recently signed a contract with IMP and is co-promoted by Fight Promotions, Inc. “The advice of my corner for the first round was to feel-out my opponent without showing much offense to see how things would go and let my opponent work.” Khytrov said after the fight. “I was the left hook was there from the first round but I waited a little until the left hook would be more effective. I had the straight right, left hook set-up from the first round.”

Detroit light heavyweight Isiah Thomas (13-0, 6 KOs) remained unbeaten, blanking (80-72 X 3) Pittsburgh veteran Rayco “War” Saunders (23-24-2, 10 KOs) for an eight-round decision.

Charlotte junior welterweight John Williams (12-3-1, 5 KOs) upset Johnny Garcia (19-2, 11 KOs) by way of an eighth-round split decision (77-75, 77-75, 76-76) for the vacant WBC Latino title.

IMP’s promising prospect Dennis Galarza (4-0-2 KOs), of Miami, kept his unbeaten record intact, consistently connecting with effective combinations for a six-round unanimous decision (60-54 X 3) over Chicago junior lightweight Gadiel Andaluz (4-7, 2 KOs)

Former standout amateur Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin (6-0, 3 KOs), who is promoted by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, outclassed Brooklyn lightweight Ian James (2-8-1, 1 KO) en route to a unanimous four-round decision (60-54 X 3).

Popular junior welterweight Sam Quinones, Jr. (7-2, 2 KOs), fighting out of York, PA, also pitched a complete shutout over Greg Coverson, Jr. (3-9-3, 2 KOs), winning six rounds by identical scores of 60-54 on all three

Detroit light heavyweight Leo Hall (2-0, 2 KOs) needed only 49-seconds to knockout Bob Wilder (2-4, 1 KO), dropping him with a vicious left kook.

Complete Results (winners listed first for each fight)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS Isiah Thomas (13-0, 6 KOs) Detroit, Michigan WDEC8 (80-72, 80-72, 80-72) Rayco Saunders (23-24-2, 10 KOs), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Leo Hall (2-0, 2 KOs), Detroit, Michigan WKO1 (0:49) Bob Wilder (2-43, 1 KO), Akron, Ohio

MIDDLEWEIGHTS Ievgin Khytrov (5-0, 5 KOs), Brooklyn, New York WTKO3 (2:18) Chris Chatman (12-4-1, 5 KOs), San Diego, California

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS Yudel Johnson (16-1, 9 KOs), Miami, FL WDEC10 (97-91, 97-91, 97-91) NORBERTO GONZALEZ (20-4, 13 KOs), Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico 154 LBS. (Jhonson won vacant WBC FECARBOX and NABA titles)

WELTERWEIGHTS Sammy Vasquez, Jr. (15-0, 11 KOs), Monessen, Pennsylvania WTKO3 (1:19) Jay Krupp (17-7, 8 KOs), Catskill, New York

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS John Williams (12-3-1, 5 KOs), Charlotte, North Carolina WDEC8 (77-75, 77-75. 76-76) Johnny Garcia (19-2, 11 KOs), Holland, Michigan (Williams won vacant WBC Latino title)

Sam Quinones, Jr. (7-2, 2 KOs), York, Pennsylvania WDEC6 (60-54, 60-54, 60-54) Greg Coverson, Jr. (3-9-3, 2 KOs), Detroit, Michigan

LIGHTWEIGHTS Ryan Martin (6-0, 3 KOs), Cleveland, Ohio WDEC4 (60-54, 60-54, 69-54) Ian James (2-8-1, 1 KO), Brooklyn, New York

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS Dennis Galarza (4-0, 2 KOs), Miami, FL WDEC6 (60-54, 60-54, 60-54) Gadiel Andaluz (4-7, 2 KOs), Chicago, Illinois