LAS VEGAS — Can Brian Mendoza catch lightning in a bottle again? He seems fueled by having the label underdog attached to his name, as it was the case in his fights against Jeison Rosario and Sebastian Furora. He knocked out Rosario in the 5th round, as well as ending the fight in round 7 when he faced Sebastian Furora in April. The stakes are a little higher as he travels to Australia to face Tim Tszyu. The WBO junior middleweight title will be up for grabs when he travels to the land down under, making it a home game for Tszyu. Mendoza could literally pull off two “Upset of the Year” candidates in the same year. Two of the best 154 pounders will collide on Showtime to interject some clarity in the division after Jermell Charlo’s failed attempt at super middleweight.
Mendoza talks to Zenger News about leveling up during this training camp, why he wasn’t apprehensive about going to Australia, and much more.
Zenger: You shocked the world once this year, I am sure you plan on doing the same thing again on Saturday night. Has your approach for Tim Tszyu been much different from your approach for Sebastian Fundora?
Mendoza: It’s different strategy and technique wise. He is another pressure fighter, so that cardio and conditioning has been super intense in training; just everything. We keep leveling up. I don’t really take time off in between fights. Even after this last fight, I think I took 2 weeks off before I was back working out. Within a month, I was basically back in a training camp. We have been going at it. It’s been an intense training camp. We have been getting at it, that way we don’t leave no stones unturned. I focus on our strengths and weaknesses and things we have to work on throughout camp. It’s been another hell of a camp.
Zenger: You said that a win over Tszyu could change your family’s life for generations. That’s a heavy burden to carry, but obviously obtainable. Has that been the fuel that has charged you throughout camp?
Mendoza: It’s all fuel. I’m using an entire country going against me on fight night as fuel. Nobody believes, man. Very few people actually believe that I can pull this off. Just like in my last fights. The comments don’t even get to me anymore. The last guy was supposed to kill me, and so was the guy before that. Fans are funny sometimes. I’m here to put on a great show and get that victory because the victory secures my family’s future. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m super motivated to accomplish that.
Zenger: Are you doing anything to replicate the crowd noise, or are you just expected to be booed and you will either deal with it, or blank it out?
Mendoza: A lot of fans have showed a lot of love out here, but on fight night they will be cheering for their man. It’s been the same thing. Just focused on what I gotta do. The gym is a super loud environment anyway, but we’re ready for it. The last fight was in Fundora’s backyard. We went to L.A. and he’s from close by. I didn’t care. They can’t save you. Nobody outside of the ring could step in and fight for you. I’m not concerned about the cheers or boos, and the thing about boxing fans is, they might boo you coming in, but you get a big victory and have an explosive fight, and they will cheer you on the way out.
Zenger: Has Tim Tszyu offered anything that you have watched either live or on tape that you haven’t seen, or do you feel like you’ve seen it all, and will adjust accordingly?
Mendoza: In some ways, he has some strengths, but I have seen everything. The last 5 years alone since being in Las Vegas, the sparring I’ve had, you wouldn’t believe the different looks I’ve had. I have sparred people from every corner of the world. Everybody comes through Vegas. You get work from all over and it’s usually high-level amateurs, former world champions, current world champions, Olympians, it doesn’t matter. You get it all out here. I don’t feel there is nothing he can bring to the table that I haven’t seen before, and nothing I can’t adjust to when we get in the ring.
Zenger: What type of fight are you expecting from Tim Tszyu?
Mendoza: I think he’s got a lot of pressure on his back. He has a whole country. They just elevated him after stripping [Jermell] Charlo. He’s gotta show out. He’s expected to take me out. He can’t go in there looking weak or sloppy. I do feel like it’s going to be more of a fire fight. If he tries to take me out right away, he will regret it because he’s going to run into something he doesn’t like.
Zenger: How did you acclimate to being in Australia?
Mendoza: Yes, the food has really been easy. They have a lot of healthy food out here. That’s how I eat back home anyway. It’s more basic stuff. I don’t have tricky recipes I was doing. Just healthy whole foods and things like that. It’s been easy to find. The time, I acclimated pretty quickly. I got out here very late. I slept through the whole fight and I’m tired by nighttime anyways. It took about two or three days to get used to the time. I’ve been here nearly two weeks. I think a total of 11 days or something like that. When I say we left no stone unturned, it’s not just the training, it’s the acclimation, the food, the team is out here. I’m basically in my comfort zone out here.
Zenger: How does it feel to be able to close the distance in the division immediately without having to wait and see Charlo’s next move, or anything like that?
Mendoza: It’s an honor. I’m able to be in the top of the division. I’m not just saying that I have been letting my performances speak for me. I’m not a big trash talker. It’s huge and an honor. We’re getting in there and doing the work. We didn’t call each other out. There wasn’t really even rumors for this fight. I got the call, and I was like, “Send me the contract. I’ll go to Australia, I don’t care. Let’s do it.” It’s that easy to make these fights. It shows how serious I take getting to the top of the division and staying there. This is that next big step. The top two guys in the division right now facing each other. After that we will look for unification, but this is our first step.
Zenger: What changed about you not just as a fighter, but as a man when you brought in Ismael Salas?
Mendoza: It’s been life changing. In so many ways, like you said, it’s not just boxing. In life and everything, I learn so many life lessons from boxing. The stuff I learn out here applies to my daily life. The way you carry yourself. I’ve matured as a person in general. A lot of wisdom from him. He’s been all over the world, he’s had world champions in multiple weight classes. He’s experienced so many different things. I call myself a sponge around all the knowledge I have in the gym and I’m soaking it all up. Him along with my strength coach Tony Brady who I brought along the last couple years has helped me a lot. It’s been a long road and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Zenger: How does the perfect night go for Brian Mendoza?
Mendoza: Whether it’s a knockout or decision, you can expect an explosive performance. At the end of the night, “And the new WBO super welterweight world champion, Brian “La Bala” Mendoza.”
(Additional reporting provided by Joseph Hammond)
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager