Sharmba Mitchell has sought a rematch with Kostya Tszyu since a knee injury forced him to withdraw from their first fight two years ago. The Takoma Park native has not missed an opportunity to slam Tszyu in the press, and he has lined up any opponent who conceivably could help shorten the path back to Tszyu, the unified 140-pound champion.
Tszyu defended his belts with a sixth-round stoppage of Jesse James Leija on Saturday night in Melbourne, Australia. The victory sets off a scramble in what may be boxing's deepest division, as nearly everyone wants a shot at the Russian-born, Australia-based Tszyu, 33, before he retires.
There are several high-profile possibilities for Tszyu, who has a mandatory defense pending against little-known WBC No. 1 contender Gianluco Branco, a fight Showtime officials have said the network has little interest in airing.
But if he opts to forgo fighting Branco, Tszyu could surrender his WBC belt and fight any of a half-dozen well-known fighters, with Mitchell, Arturo Gatti, Micky Ward, Zab Judah and Washington's DeMarcus Corley hoping for a chance.
Tszyu (30-1-1) was evasive when asked about his plans after the fight, but he said last week he has little desire to fight Mitchell again, calling him "boring," and said that "people do not like to see him."
Mitchell, 32, remains undeterred.
"I know he doesn't want to fight me next," Mitchell said. "I'm putting him in a position where he has no other choice."
Mitchell (50-3) won a split decision in November over Vince Phillips, the one fighter to have beaten Tszyu, and takes on Carlos Vilches on Saturday in Atlantic City with the aim of becoming the IBF's No. 1 challenger.
Corley, the WBO champion, said yesterday he hopes he can work out a fight with Judah for sometime in April or May that would lead to a fight with Tszyu over the summer. Corley (28-1-1), who won a unanimous decision over Randall Bailey at D.C. Armory on Jan. 4, believes a win over Judah could shorten the line to Tszyu.
"Hopefully, we can get this fight with Zab," said Corley, 28. "I'll knock out Zab Judah. I'll bet my purse on that. Then they will demand to see me and Kostya Tszyu."