It may be tough for his camp to admit, but Saturday night’s loss to Monte Barrett saw the end of David Tua’s heavyweight career.
Prior to the fight – which promised very little and delivered even less – Tua’s shot at the big time had well and truly disintegrated. His management team had settled for a spate of bouts with journeymen, walking punching bags and has-beens. Last year his “promoter” Cedric Kushner turned down an offer to fight Wlad Klitschko, because the money was apparently an insult. Well, as we discussed many years ago in this column, Kushner has about as much credibility as your average snake oil merchant.
To be fair, Monte Barrett is a gutsy fighter, and not without skill or talent – much like Friday Ahunanya, his record does not reflect how good he is. But he’s no contender, and the sad fact is that David Tua would have made mincemeat out of him 10 years ago.
In his prime Tua was devastating, with a left hook that could flatten a horse. Or indeed Cecil Coffey. But his prime was some years ago now, and the fact that he has only really risen to that level once in recent history (against Shane Cameron) speaks volume. For the Cameron fight, he looked like was in the best shape he had been in living memory. He looked brutal. In both fights against Barrett, David Tua looked like an out of shape plodder.
For someone who believed that the heavyweight title was his destiny, he sure didn’t look like he was willing to get into shape to make it happen.
Like a vast number of boxers, David Tua’s story is a sad one. He is a likeable guy, and made a ton of money over the years. Now that money has disappeared – thanks primarily to some shonky dealings, lawyer’s fees, and ruthless operators who can sniff blood from miles away. Tua was never one to flash diamond rings around, drive the latest Ferrari, or spend thousands on a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon. He maintained a relatively down to earth persona with an infectious grin, and has always remained a very hard character to dislike. You always feel like he deserved better.
Now, despite what his “promoter” would claim, the dream is over. He showed little until the last the two rounds to convince anyone otherwise. Just for a second, as Barrett crumpled to the canvas after a crisp array of punches, you could almost believe that the Tuamanitor (surely the most ridiculous moniker ever bestowed on a boxer – and there has been plenty) could almost foot it again at the top level. However, the previous ten rounds or so showed a boxer on the way out.
By his own admission, Tua was “stuck in second gear” for the bulk of the fight, and it showed. Apparently, according to old Ced baby, the real disappointment is that he was lining up a seven figure title bout with Wlad Klitschko should David Tua had won on Saturday night. Sure Ced – we believe you. Looks like the allegedly “insulting” money on offer last year for the same bout should have been taken after all.
Regardless of how Tua’s career pans out from here, he will always remain a special part of New Zealand’s boxing landscape. He brought genuine excitement to the ring, and at one stage was a genuine contender for the title.
Yet Saturday night proved that a reputation as a destructive puncher who could destroy an opponent in 19 seconds (just ask John Ruiz) simply isn’t enough anymore.