OPINION: David Tua is the heavyweight boxer who will die wondering.
Tua rolled back the years on Saturday night when he was comprehensively outboxed by Alexander Ustinov. It was a carbon copy of his most famous fight, a 2000 loss on points to Lennox Lewis.
In both cases much of the country watched on television, imploring Tua to throw a punch, to have a go. He must regret not being prepared to take punches, to throw them, particularly on Saturday night because Ustinov's artillery is certainly not in the class Lewis had. But that's always been Tua's problem.
His decision to quit at the end of the night was a major surprise, and perhaps an indication the fire he spoke of was never burning hot enough for this contest.
Yet the fact he could go the distance with Ustinov underlined his potential to box on for a couple more years, if only for the money.
Tua looked fit, his hand speed was good and he kept out of trouble. But Tua knows where his mind is at and, as he said, he can still spell his name. This industry is littered with tragic cases of top fighters who have paid the heaviest of prices for their fame in the ring.
As Lewis did 13 years ago, Ustinov on Saturday showed him great respect and simply stayed out of range while winning round after round. Tua couldn't work out the puzzle.
Sam Rapira's performance was outstanding, but Saturday's fight card was one of the weakest put together on New Zealand pay per view - I think some corporate bashes would have provided better entertainment than some of the bouts staged - and Duco sports were relying on Tua to deliver. The fans got 12 rounds, but it was painful to watch.
So Tua goes out the way he stayed in for so long, leaving his fans wondering what might have been.
As with Jonah Lomu when he made his comeback, it's likely Tua will not get anything like the credit he deserves for carving out a fantastic career.
Cast your mind back to the early 1990s when we were fed a regular diet of free heavyweight fights featuring the likes of Tyson and Holyfield. A few years later Tua was ranked among them. Yet he was kept away from the bigger names, like Larry Holmes and Shannon Briggs, when it appeared he was ready to step up. Lewis had disposed of the likes of Holyfield, Botha, Golota, Mercer, Briggs, McCall and Morrison when he took on Tua. Most of Tua's victims were third rate by comparison.
Various trainers tried to get the best out of Tua. He was regularly reinvented, and with each comeback we were told the new Tua was hungrier and in a better place. In truth, it was hype. Tua was a one trick pony in the ring, and no trainer could change that.
The point was, it was one hell of a trick.
And when the obituaries are written, we should remember that he really was O for awesome.
Tua has been affable, funny and a bloody nice guy. He entertained us while spending 21 years as a walking advertisement for New Zealand and Samoa.
We should also remember that.
Tuamanated? I wonder.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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