OPINION: David Tua has a third opportunity on Saturday night to establish whether the sport of boxing can set him up for a comfortable life when the bell finally rings on his career.
Tua's career stretches back to 1992 and, as with many professional boxers, it has a touch of financial sadness to it.
As a guy who was one victory away from being crowned heavyweight champion of the world, he should be tucked away in a flash double-storey home with a fleet of expensive cars to parade around in.
Instead, he sleeps at his boxing gym in Onehunga, Auckland, and drives a black mini.
He's content with that but the 40-year-old probably deserves more, given what he has achieved in the ring over the years with his freakishly impressive talents.
His early success in America ended with an ugly bust-up with his former manager Kevin Barry.
Just what happened and whose fault it was differ depending on who you talk to but the upshot was a drawn-out court battle, with lawyers the only real winners.
Tua was left broke and scrambling. His time and money should have been spent mounting a second world-title shot but instead were poured into a battle with his management.
Then came a lifeline in 2009 from David Higgins, the director of Duco Events, who wanted to have a crack at putting on a boxing promotion.
Higgins stumped up with $1 million to get Shane Cameron and David Tua in the ring together, and that should have been Tua's flotation device to get his head above water once again.
Leading up to the Cameron fight in 2009, Higgins indicated that, if Tua was to win, they would like to put on a Tua-Hasim Rahman fight in New Zealand.
It would have been the third contest between the two after Tua won controversially in 1998 and fought out a draw in 2003 in Philadelphia.
It's understood that Tua and Rahman would have pocketed $800,000 each from the fight, with Tua verbally agreeing to that figure and Rahman certainly keen on it.
Tua's $500,000 payday from the Cameron fight and the $800,000 from a showdown with Rahman should have had the Kiwi back in the black financially and potentially chasing even bigger paydays with a fight against one of the Klitschko brothers.
Instead, Tua was again reduced to another financial battle on the back of some poor advice and bad decisions outside the ring.
After the commanding victory over Cameron, Tua's team, led by then wife and manager Robina, balked at Duco Event's plans to put on Tua-Rahman III.
Duco had done well out of the Cameron-Tua promotion and there was a feeling in the Tua camp that it could cut out the middle man. However, that backfired.
Tua signed a three-fight television deal with free-to-air Maori Television for what was understood to be worth only $50,000 a fight.
His career was yet again effectively stalled.
Without having a pay-per-view deal to bring in income for fights, Tua struggled to attract any opponents of note during that period.
To add to it all, he split with Robina, which affected him mentally as he tried to give boxing yet another go.
Tua himself has since said he was not in the right frame of mind when he lined up against Monte Barrett in his last fight in 2011, as the struggles outside the ring engulfed what he was trying to achieve inside it.
He suffered a points loss and most thought that should, and would, be it as far as David Tua the boxer went.
However, just over two years on, Tua will again step back in the ring, this time against Belarusian Alexander Ustinov.
On Saturday night, Tua will one last time try to revive his career and ensure life after boxing is more comfortable as a result of his skills in the ring.
He's understood to be in a much better mind-frame than when he last fought, and certainly is in better physical shape.
The only question to be answered now is, can Tua have his arm hoisted in victory for the 53rd time in his professional career, come Saturday night in Hamilton, and chase a world title shot again?
- Fairfax Media
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