The enigmatic frustration that is David Tua

david tua15.03.07 - By David Bloch: From the early colonial wars, the trench warfare in World War I & II and any occasion the feared All Black’s step out on the rugby field, New Zealand has built itself a reputation of producing proud, courageous warriors capable of results far beyond the capabilities of similar sized nations. A nation of just four million people, Aoteroa has played proud parent to many successful, over achieving athletes in its day. However, not all New Zealanders reach their full potential.

A veteran, who through natural gifts alone climbed within view of the highest echelon of the sport, yet unlike Hillary, could not quite conquer his Everest due to poor management, lack of motivation and ultimately, a lack of professionalism. Mafaufau Tavita Lio Mafaufau Sanerivi Talimatasi, known to us simply as just David “The Terminator” Tua was born in 1972, on a small island in Samoa, moving to New Zealand at the age of ten, Tua began a promising amateur career which culminated with a bronze medal at the 1992 olympic games in Barcelona.

Turning professional soon after, Tua began to dominate the local boxing scene, quickly building himself a name due to his powerful stature, strong chin and ability to knock his opponents out with just one shot.

Tua’s first setback came at the hands of Ike Ibeabuchi in a fight that was unlucky not to be seen as Fight of the Year.

Setting the record for the most punches thrown in a heavyweight contest, Tua suffered a narrow loss to Ike Ibeabuchi in a bout that could’ve gone either way. Both athletes pounded one another through twelve tough rounds of boxing in a fight that would see both elevated in the eyes of boxing fans around the world as future world champions.

Leading into the Ibeabuchi fight, Tua had dominated future world champions John Ruiz and Oleg Maskaev, needing just 19 seconds to put “The Quiet Man” to sleep, however since that close loss to Ike Ibeabuchi can only be described as a disappointment.

Despite battering Hasim Rahman into submission on route to challenging Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight boxing crown, it was obvious that something had gone missing from Tua.

Usually, Tua dominated his opponents from the opening bell onwards, with a high workrate of punches, he either received an early knock out or a landslide decision victory yet after the Ibeabuchi fight, he became a head hunter.. a one hit wonder who scraped away with late technical knock outs to defeat opponents that he would’ve once mauled throughout the entire fight.

Tua, who had spent most of his career at a very comfortable 215-225lbs without much fluctuation, suddenly found himself jumping between 220 and 250 pounds after the Ibeabuchi fight, his workrate began to drop in the ring and ultimately, his ability to break his opponents down early and find the clubbing blows to put them to sleep dwindled away.

His natural gifts carried him through this period, his sturdy, reliable chin saw him weather any storm from any of his opponents and his power was always around the corner, awaiting to be unleashed, however all of that counted for nothing against Lennox Lewis.

Tua, coming into the fight at his second highest weight at that point, was not the machine he once was.

Attempting to knock Lewis’s head off with leaping shots proved fruitless, as Lewis walked all over Tua – the only positive being that Tua took the best shots Lewis could throw without once looking staggered or going to the canvas.

Not once did Tua attempt to work to the body and he was easily picked off by Lewis, even worse, Lewis had given a template to all other boxers on how to beat this version of Tua.

Only once more would Tua know what it felt to walk into the ring under 240lbs again, in his loss to Chris Byrd where Byrd followed the Lewis gameplan to a tee, keeping Tua at bay with stiff jabs, moving the entire fight and never allowing Tua to get close enough to land his powerful hooking shots.

With management issues stemming from his handlers Martin Pugh and Kevin Barry, the Tuaman faded into obscurity.

A drawn out court process saw Tua resolve most of the management problems and he began his comeback, yet he has not fought frequently enough nor done enough work in the gym to convince anyone but his biggest fans that he stands a shot at once more becoming a dominating fighter.

The frustration of David Tua is evident, many boxers without his natural talents have gone far farther than him through hard work, determination and bloody mindedness.

Tua needs to find one of these qualities, as he is still young enough to mount a serious challenge in the current heavyweight division.

The only way forward for Tua is to increase the amount of fights he has per year, to get his fitness back and hopefully with it, the workrate he once had.

If Tua is capable of getting himself back down to 220-225 pounds - where his body movement, handspeed and power brought about comparisons to Iron Mike Tyson, then he still has a chance at climbing that final peak on the way to boxing’s Mt Everest – the heavyweight title.

What the boxing world wouldn’t give for this version of Tua? I don’t know.

Article posted on 15.03.2007

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