Tua busy shaping up for biggest challenge
David Tua's backers have created a big problem for the New Zealand heavyweight boxer but an even bigger one for themselves.
Lining up 2.03-metre Russian Alexander Ustinov takes Tua right outside his comfort zone for the August 31 showdown in Hamilton.
Historically, he has struggled against tall opponents, highlighted by his world title defeat at the hands of Lennox Lewis in 2000, when Tua hardly landed a meaningful punch.
Fine-tuning Tua for this comeback - his first fight in two years - will be just as difficult.
Where will Duco Promotions find a stable of sparring partners to get him used to cutting down tall timber? Certainly not in New Zealand - and that will add to the costs of the promotion.
There's also the crucial appointment of the man who will be in Tua's corner. He has had some heavyweight coaches in the past, including Americans Lou Duva and Roger Bloodworth, who bookended Tua's long association with Kevin Barry.
For his last two fights, Tua had Auckland's Chris Martin for guidance, but they split acrimoniously after Tua's controversial loss to Monte Barrett in August 2011.
Duco boss David Higgins knows that having Tua prepared properly will be vital to the 41-year-old's chances of success against Ustinov. It's also part of the investment - make that a gamble - with Tua capable of moving back up the heavyweight ranks quickly if he can impress.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out the sparring partners need to be 6'8" giants, and that's what they are going to be," Higgins told Sunday News.
"We are just working through a trainer with David at the moment. Once that is in place, we will bring in good sparring partners internationally, with very similar dimensions and style to Ustinov."
Higgins paid respect to Tua for not shirking the challenge of Ustinov. But he felt the Russian deserved credit, too, after several top contenders, including American Chris Arreola and Cuban Louis Ortiz, dodged the Kiwi with the infamous left hook.
"We offered big six-figure sums to all sorts of names . . . but they look at David Tua and say, ‘That's a risky fight - he has never been knocked out and he has a massive punch'. Ustinov was the first big-name, highly-ranked boxer who took the fight."
Tua won't start sparring for another couple of weeks. In the meantime, he will continue to work on his fitness with Lee Parore, the trainer who knocked him into such good physical condition for his 2009 demolition of Shane Cameron.
When Tua was paraded in front of the media last week, it was obvious that there's still plenty of work to be done. Parore admits that it is a bigger job than last time, but he's pleased with their work over the past six months. He likes Tua's attitude, and believes the polish will come in the countdown to fight night.
Higgins added some perspective. "David won't look like a bodybuilder. But he is fit from the inside out . . . his heart and lungs are strong right now."
Tua, who not so long ago was talking retirement, said his world title dream was "still alive".
"I'm not just doing this for the sake of a payday; it's from the fire within."
Having handled his own promotion for his last bout against Barrett, Tua said it was good not to have that distraction, given the importance of his career-defining fight against Ustinov.
"I have massive clarity with regards to what I have to do and what my job is.
"I'm in a great place at the moment, and the real David Tua will turn up to fight."