Bitter family split behind Tsyzu’s absence

 

When Tim Tszyu walks to the ring in Townsville tonight against Jeff Horn his famous fighting father Kostya will be 13,000km away.

Tsyzu, 25, faces the biggest fight of his young career as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of his world champion father, but Kostya won't be in his corner.

Watch Horn vs Tszyu live on Main Event (available on Foxtel and Kayo), Wednesday 26 August, 7pm AEST. ORDER NOW >

Almost 30 years after moving to Sydney from Russia with his fiance, Natalia, to launch his professional career, Kostya now has a new wife, a new family and has left scars that may never heal.

This is the inside story of how the Tszyus transformed from the Australian dream to a distant, fractured family.

YOUNG LOVEBIRDS WHO FLEW THE COOP

Kostya Tszyu and Natalia after he won the world title in 1995.
Kostya Tszyu and Natalia after he won the world title in 1995.

Kostya Tszyu returned home to poverty-stricken Serov in central Russia from the 1991 boxing world championships in Sydney with a gold medal and a new dream.

With nothing left to prove as an amateur, Tszyu would pass up the Barcelona Games, turn professional and move Down Under.

But he didn't want to go alone.

Waiting for him in Serov was a truck driver's daughter named Natalia who he believed was the best looking girl in town.

She had to come with him, so a proposal was made and the Australian Immigration Department fast-tracked two visas.

Natalia left her job as a hairdresser earning a few roubles a week and joined Kostya on a

two-day train trip to Moscow before a 24-hour flight to Sydney.

Leaving temperatures of -30C they landed in the middle of the Australian summer. "It's a huge weight off my shoulders finally getting out here," Tsyzyu said after arriving at Sydney airport. "Life in Russia is hard at the moment and there is very little food to be found."

Two months later, Tsyzu debuted on the undercard of Jeff Fenech's famous first defeat against Azumah Nelson, knocking out his opponent in 70 seconds.

A star was born and Tsyzu's professional and personal life moved at a rapid pace.

By 1993 he'd made his debut in America and married Natalia. But it wasn't all smooth sailing.

"It was very hard at the start. I was a man of 22 but Natasha was just a shy girl of 19," Tszyu said in 2002.

"She was very homesick and lonely. We argued a lot and she cried many times. We could not speak English and it was hard even to shop. We didn't even know how to use a bank."

Kostya, Natalia, Nikita and Tim.
Kostya, Natalia, Nikita and Tim.

But it got better. In 1994 they welcomed a son, Tim, and three months later Kostya won his first world title.

"This won't change our life," Natalia said, tears welling in her eyes as she watched her husband's win in Las Vegas from home in Sydney. "It will be the same life and he will be the same person he was before the fight."

And Kostya was for most of the next two decades as the man known as the Thunder from Down Under with the gold tooth and ponytail rode a wave of fame to more titles and millions of dollars.

The Tszyu clan expanded to include another son Nikita and a daughter Anastasia and while they enjoyed their wealth by purchasing a three-storey waterfront palace and a $640,000 Bentley, Kostya showed no interest for the cheap thrills many boxers fall for and was the model family man.

"Family is the most important thing in my life. It's what I'm fighting for," he said in 1997. "What my family has given me, I have to give back."

NO FAIRYTALE ENDING FOR THIS FAMILY

Tsyzu's career ended in 2005 when Johnny Lewis stopped his fight against Ricky Hatton in the 11th round. Natalia, holding Tim in her arms, walked straight to the legendary trainer and thanked him for saving her husband from further damage.

Tszyu appeared restless after hanging up his gloves, toying with the idea of a comeback before packing up his family and moving them to Moscow in 2008.

But his wife and children missed Australia and the family quickly returned to Sydney.

In 2012, a year after Tszyu was inducted into boxing's hall of fame alongside Mike Tyson, it was revealed he'd left his family to return to Russia.

Natalia, who had been portrayed as the doting wife and was photographed waiting at the airport every time her husband returned from a fight overseas, was suddenly happy to see him go.

She sold their Carss Park mansion in Sydney's south and gave an extraordinary interview to the Sunday Telegraph where she said she wasn't fussed if her husband found a new wife.

"If my husband wants to stay in Russia, let him stay there. It is an important life for him. He is an important man there and he is where he belongs. Men should be men," she said.

"If he met someone else I can't do anything about it. If she could look after him in Russia, why not."

That's just what Kostya did.

THE MODEL AND TWO MORE KIDS

Kostya Tszyu with his second wife Tatiana Averina in Moscow.
Kostya Tszyu with his second wife Tatiana Averina in Moscow.

Kostya met his second wife, Tatiana Averina, around the same time his boxing career ended.

A model and PR executive 10 years his junior, Tatiana was first Tszyu's employee but he said in 2017 "you cannot work and love at the same time, so I sacked her".

Three years after leaving his family, Tsyzu proposed and married Tatiana on the same day. She was six months pregnant.

They now have two children, Aleksandr and Viktoria, and live in an unassuming apartment on the outskirts of Moscow while running a successful restaurant.

Again, Tsyzu is playing the model husband and father.

"I was so busy in my career as an athlete when the first ones were born, I can't remember. Right now I am enjoying everything. I don't want to miss anything," he said of his children in 2017.

"I am still busy. But I want to be home by 6, 7 o'clock every night. I want to be with the kids.''

The nature of his relationship with his three eldest children in Australia depends on who you ask.

Kostya told the Courier Mail ahead of Tim's fight with Horn they remained tight.

"Me going to Russia has never broken any bond or any relationship with Tim," Kostya said.

"I can't say we chat every single day, but we are father and son. We are on the phone and we communicate on WhatsApp. I love him. I am such a proud father and I will always be proud of Tim."

Natalia sees it differently.

'KOSTYA WAS NEVER IN THE KIDS' LIVES'

Nikita, Tim and Anastasia were left with Natalia.
Nikita, Tim and Anastasia were left with Natalia.

"Kostya was never in the kids' lives, Kostya disappeared from the kids' lives when he left them at a young age. The kids have built their lives without their father," she told the Daily Mail.

"I know that some people won't want to hear this, but this is the truth."

Natalia now talks about her "ex-partner" unemotionally.

"We came from Russia together in 1992 only for one reason - for him to become a world champion," Natalia said.

"It was marriage, but at the same time it was 99 per cent a business transaction.

"I still talk to him but not much. He has disappeared from Australia, he has set himself up in Moscow and he is remarried with two kids. He lives his own life."

Watch Horn vs Tszyu live on Main Event (available on Foxtel and Kayo), Wednesday 26 August, 7pm AEST. ORDER NOW >

Tim doesn't seem to be bothered by the situation. "My dad supports me no matter what, from where he is," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The fact he's not here doesn't bother me. He's only been to one of my fights anyway."

Originally published as Bitter family split behind Tsyzu's absence

Kostya Tszyu says goodbye to wife Natalia at Sydney Airport before heading off for a title defence in the US.
Kostya Tszyu says goodbye to wife Natalia at Sydney Airport before heading off for a title defence in the US.
Natalia, Tim and Kostya.
Natalia, Tim and Kostya.
Australian boxer Tim Tszyu and his mother Natalia. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Australian boxer Tim Tszyu and his mother Natalia. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Cancer stats reveal harrowing truth for South Burnett

Premium Content Cancer stats reveal harrowing truth for South Burnett

YOU‘RE 15 per cent more likely to die of cancer in the South Burnett. Holly Cormack...

CRIME WRAP: 9 to face court after busy week for Burnett cops

Premium Content CRIME WRAP: 9 to face court after busy week for Burnett cops

From drink driving to stealing, this is everything police from Murgon, Cherbourg...

South Burnett police raid three properties, find drugs

Premium Content South Burnett police raid three properties, find drugs

Three people have been charged with drug offences following a series of raids by...