David Tua's heavyweight career has taken another small but significant step after a unanimous points decision over journeyman American Demetrice King in Manukau last night.
Tua was the clear winner in south Auckland but failed to knock out, or even knock down, the 26-year-old – who has been KO'd only twice in 19 losses.
King's languid style just wasn't enough to match a nimble Tua, whose trademark left hook and an improved right under new Auckland coach Chris Martin were too classy for his opponent.
In a night dripping with Tua's trademark Pacific style, the local man came to put on a show in the Backyard Brawl – his sixth fight in New Zealand and his first professional bout in hometown south Auckland.
It ended his three-fight contract with Maori TV and now he is set to enjoy bigger paydays.
After unimpressive performances against Friday Ahunanya and Monte Barrett – the drawn New Jersey fight eight months ago which saw Tua floored for the first time in his career – the Tuamanator not only needed a win but something much more convincing than the unanimous points decision which saw him squeeze past Friday almost a year ago to the day.
He needed something to silence the critics, even though no belts were on the line – and he went some way to achieving that.
The crossroads Tua's career stood at last night was clear to see, with roughly 1000 fans all the hype could muster.
Tua's gameplan unfolded with a pile of body combinations, punctuated with the occassional jab.
Halfway through the first round came first glimpse of Tua's famous left hook, which was partially blocked by King.
Early in round two King landed a shot square on Tua's chin but he reacted with an angry flurry of head shots.
A thudding left hook slammed into King's ribs in the third. Tua continued to pick away through King's guard and then two meaty head shots thrust the American's head back in the fourth.
Tua smelt blood but was happy to carry on with a slow and steady gameplan, the left hook regularly released and regularly connecting.
In the sixth round, four left shots slammed King's face, his eyes and cheeks puffing immediately.
Coaxing the man from Michigan into the corner and onto the ropes, Tua unleashed an impressive round of full-blooded blows which visibly rocked King, who did his best to shrug it off with a lazy shake of the head.
But by now King was being regularly boxed into the corners as Tua looked to engineer an opportunity for the killer blow.
Going into the fight King's trash talk suggested Tua was "average, nothing really super or frightening". And without delivering the ultimate shot, some would argue was right.
But, on paper, King wasn't bringing much special either, having lost four of his last five fights.
With King standing at 188cm and weighing 124.6kg, Tua went into the fight giving away the unusual luxury of just 10cm in height but almost 12kg in weight.
What the crowd favourite did have on his side was experience, with King having only boxed 163 rounds campared to Tua's 278 – and he wasn't afraid to engage the bigger man at close quarters.
Had it been 12 rounds, not 10, Tua may well have put King away.
The final 30 seconds saw Tua rain shots in as King flooundered on the ropes but ultimately the small but fanatic crowd didn't get what it had come to see.
Tua's record now stands at 52 wins. Of those, an impressive 43 have been by KO. He has suffered just three losses and drawn twice.
- © Fairfax NZ News