BACK when Tim Tszyu started preparing for a fight on March 30 in Las Vegas, he had in mind a five-foot nine orthodox puncher whose best days many felt were behind him and whose inactivity had blighted recent progress. He trained with this exact opponent in mind, he imagined the things he would do to him, and he relished the opportunity to become the first fighter to stop him.

Then, however, Keith Thurman injured his arm in training and Tszyu was left with a void. No longer did he have a face to imagine punching and a scalp he imagined taking. Now, rather than Thurman, the WBO super-welterweight champion had only disappointment and the feeling of being let down.

Thankfully for Tszyu, these feelings didn’t last long. In fact, no sooner had it been announced that Thurman would be unable to fight than a replacement name and face arrived to soften the blow. Tszyu would still be fighting, and headlining, but would now do so against Sebastian Fundora, a man as far removed from Keith Thurman as humanly possible. Standing at six foot five, and a southpaw to boot, Fundora is unlike any super-welterweight in the world, in truth. He also boasts neither the name nor level of experience as Thurman and enters this fight having suffered defeat in his last. That said, he is arguably fresher than Thurman, arguably more ambitious than Thurman, and, best of all, had been due to box on the event’s undercard so will therefore be in shape and ready for action.

All things considered, this is about as good as anyone could hope for in terms of a replacement. Some will even say it is better – or at least more intriguing – than the original main event. Tszyu, after all, now has to answer questions he has previously never been asked. In Fundora, he will be fighting an anomaly, someone for whom he has had very little time to prepare, and someone whose style requires considerable preparation. He will be giving away height and reach and will have to almost erase from his memory the plans he would have made with Keith Thurman in mind to come up with something completely new, different.

That’s the challenge for Tszyu in this fight; and also the appeal of it for us. What appeals is the idea of an unbeaten champion now having to adjust at the last minute, think on his feet, and see what he can produce when not everything is to his liking or on his terms.

Chances are someone like Tszyu, a 29-year-old who leaves no stone unturned, will tackle this situation with gusto and make it look as though there was no pre-fight disaster at all. Yet until we see him do this there remains an element of mystery and intrigue to this headline fight which perhaps wasn’t there when Thurman was booked to be in the opposite corner.

That’s not to say Fundora, 26, is better than Thurman at this stage of their respective careers. The reality is, we don’t know. But Fundora is certainly different and different, moreover, in a way that suggests he will pose a problem for as long as he is upright and towering over Tszyu.

The big question when analysing Fundora, I suppose, is this: How much did his first pro loss take out of him? That the loss, a seventh-round stoppage defeat against Brian Mendoza, happened in his last fight should be cause for concern, both for Fundora and those expecting a competitive fight against Tszyu, 24-0 (17). It was almost a year ago, granted, but the way in which he crumbled against Mendoza when ahead on the cards is not something easy to shake or forget, particularly when there have been no fights since. In other words, it could stay with him, that defeat; the manner of it; the feelings attached to it. Indeed, it was something of a surprise that Fundora was planning on returning in a WBC title fight against Serhii Bohachuk – his original opponent for Saturday – rather than easing his way back gently. That fight seemed dangerous enough as it is, what with Bohachuk finishing all 23 of his pro wins before the final bell, but Tszyu, as an opponent, is still another level up from that.

Maybe Fundora, 20-1-1 (13), feels he needs tests like these in order to truly motivate himself and exorcise the demons from last April. Or perhaps, as an entertaining and fan-friendly fighter, he finds himself taking risky assignments because that is what is now expected of him. Either way, there is a sense that Tszyu, given all that is at stake, will have enough poise and composure to fiddle his way through some tricky early rounds before breaking Fundora down and overwhelming him late.

After a bit of a reshuffle on the undercard, Serhii Bohachuk, Fundora’s original opponent, will now fight Brian Mendoza, Fundora’s last opponent, over 12 rounds for the WBC interim super-welterweight title. Bohachuk, 23-1 (23), was initially going to fight Fundora for the vacant WBC belt, but, thanks to Thurman’s injury, that belt is set to be used in the main event instead. Which means Bohachuk must fight Mendoza, 22-3 (16), for an interim belt and hope that he remains in line for a shot at the real thing at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s Erislandy Lara, 29-3-3 (17), defends his WBA “regular” middleweight belt against Australian Michael Zerafa, 31-4 (19), and Rolando Romero, 15-1 (13), and Isaac Cruz, 25-2-1 (17), lock horns with Romero’s WBA “regular” super-lightweight belt on the line.