2003-01-19 Kostya Tszyu w rtd 7 Jesse James Leija, Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Australia - WBA/WBC/IBF/The Ring
2003-01-19 Kostya Tszyu w rtd 7 Jesse James Leija, Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Australia - WBA/WBC/IBF/The Ring. Referee: Malcolm Bulner. There was little action in the opening three rounds as both fighters settled, but following a few flurries from Leija (139) the champion began to dictate matters with a controlled left jab paving the way. While Tszyu (139¾) was beginning to go up a few gears in the sixth he appeared not to be looking to finish matters, although he was getting much closer to Leija who was beginning to flounder. The contest came to an abrupt halt after the bell rang for round seven when Leija’s corner decided to retire their man, having realised that he had burst his right eardrum.
With Tszyu remaining inactive due to injury, after the WBC decided to give him an honorary ‘Emeritus’ status in order to free up the championship it was decided by the body towards the end of the year that Arturo Gatti and Gianluca Branco would contest the vacant title.
Following that, Sharmba Mitchell outscored Lovemore Ndou over 12 rounds at Bally’s Park Place Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA on 7 February 2004 to win the vacant IBF ‘interim’ title, prior to successfully defending it against Michael Stewart (w pts 12 at the MEN Arena, Manchester, England on 3 April 2004). Those two wins would eventually get Mitchell a crack at Tszyu for the IBF title and The Ring Championship Belt.
With it becoming difficult to satisfy all three bodies, when Tszyu forfeited the WBA title in June 2004, Vivian Harris, who had successfully defended the ‘second tier’ crown when beating Souleymane M'baye (w pts 12 at Orleans Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA on 12 July 2003) and Oktay Urkal (w pts 12 at the Max Schmeling Hall, Berlin, Germany on 17 April 2004), was declared champion.