Kostya Tszyu vs. Vince Phillips

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Kostya Tszyu (left) vs. Vince Phillips

1997-05-31 : Vince Phillips 140 lbs beat Kostya Tszyu 140 lbs by TKO at 1:22 in round 10 of 12


  • Tszyu was a 3½ favorite.
  • Phillips' win was named 1997 Upset of the Year by The Ring.
  • Phillips needed nine stitches to close the cut over his right eye.

Underdog Snaps Champion's Plan in Bloody I.B.F. Bout
By Ron Dicker, The New York Times, June 2, 1997

ATLANTIC CITY, June 1— Kostya Tszyu had a big name on his mind before defending his International Boxing Federation junior welterweight title here Saturday night. But it was not his opponent, Vince Phillips.

So the 32-year-old Phillips, who is considered on the downside of his career, made a name for himself. He tormented Tszyu with a snapping right hand throughout the bout and stopped the champion in the 10th round.

It was a stunning reversal of fortunes. Phillips, a prohibitive underdog in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev., was just happy for the opportunity, knowing he had vanquished his toughest adversary four years ago: drug addiction.

The undefeated Tszyu had hoped Phillips would be a steppingstone to a lucrative fight against Oscar de la Hoya, but after midnight it was Phillips (36-3) who sported a triumphant grin and talked of fighting de la Hoya "or even King Kong." Tszyu (18-1-1) was left sobbing into his hands in the Trump Taj Mahal dressing room, wondering how to regain the momentum he had surrendered in a crushing defeat.

"I made one mistake, and that was I didn't fight well," said Tszyu, a 27-year-old Russian now living in Australia. "He fought a better fight than I did."

Phillips, a practicing Muslim who once held the 140-pound I.B.F. belt, said: "Through the grace of God, I'm going to the top. I'm going to hold onto this as long as I can."

The promoter, Bob Arum, was already talking about a rematch, but it will be difficult to surpass the drama of the original.

Tszyu, with a sneer and a braided ponytail, held a slim lead after the first four rounds. He scored with left-right-left combinations while Phillips occasionally landed right hands that stung Tszyu but would not make him back off. Phillips asserted himself more in the middle rounds, tagging Tszyu with increasing frequency.

In the seventh, after Phillips's right had sent Tszyu's mouthpiece flying and dropped the champion to a knee, the sneer disappeared. A cut emerged under Tszyu's left brow. Tszyu regained his senses later to open a more serious gash over Phillips's right eye, a gash that originated from an accidental head butt.

The combatants survived the eighth round while splattering blood over each other as the ballroom crowd roared its approval. In the ninth, the flow from Phillips's eye became so severe that the ringside doctor was called in.

It was then, Phillips said, that he felt the urgency to finish off Tszyu.

In the 10th, Phillips unleashed another leading right, supposedly a no-no against a technician like Tszyu. It landed flush against Tszyu's cheek, rocking him against the ropes.

Phillips then bombarded Tszyu with six more rights from several angles before the referee stopped the fight.

"I knew that when I started doubling and tripling my right hand, I'd stop him," Phillips said. "And I did." [1]