The injury-enforced postponement of David Tua's next bout will severely test the appetite for boxing fans as the new date draws it uncomfortably close to the annual Fight For Life extravaganza.
Tua's strained left calf muscle means his August 31 clash with Belarusian Alexander Ustinov in Hamilton has been pushed back to November 16.
Promoters Duco Events would have liked it earlier but the availability of the Claudelands Arena and the need to avoid a Saturday night clash with major sporting events like the looming All Blacks tests, gave them no alternative.
Fight for Life is slated for December 14 in Auckland.
The two events are separated by a month and the length of the southern motorway.
But they will still draw on a common audience - for tickets in the bleachers as well as the lucrative corporate market and the all-important pay-per-view TV numbers.
Duco boss David Higgins has had to take this on the chin, saying their challenge is to come up with a Fight For Life lineup that will be compelling enough for punters to double-dip into their wallets in these demanding times. He reckons that's on track.
The task now is to get Tua back on track. The 40-year-old was making good progress with his fitness and ring work before his calf blew just over a week ago.
His handlers sought further medical opinions on Tuesday but were left with no option but to postpone.
Ustinov headed home last night to pick up his preparations there before returning to New Zealand closer to the new date and Tua will be reduced to aqua-jogging and light bike-riding until the calf is deemed ready for heavy work again.
"Obviously I'm very, very disappointed," Tua said at yesterday's announcement, adding an apology to Ustinov.
"It's one of those unfortunate things that happen in training. As the week progressed it got worse and worse. I have to honour my obligations to be at 100 per cent."
Tua's fitness trainer Lee Parore backed that up: "It's not something you can rush back into because if David re-injures it, he will be back to square one. We have to take these steps slowly and make sure we do everything 100 per cent right so that he is ready to go."
All going well, the new date should allow Tua to not only recover but also increase his overall readiness for his first foray into the ring in more than two years.
The postponement is a blow to New Zealand's other leading heavyweight Joseph Parker who is the main undercard fight in Hamilton.
Parker is in Las Vegas training with Kevin Barry and was right on track with with work. Higgins hinted that given his good progress, Parker may even be given a fight in the interim.
- © Fairfax NZ News