Fire still burns from within for ageing warrior
New Zealand heavyweight boxer David Tua was in Christchurch for just two hours to promote his comeback fight against Russian Alexander Ustinov in Hamilton next month. Sam Sherwood sat down with the Tuaman to talk about the ‘David v Goliath' bout, his career and his comeback.
What do you think about those people who say you are over the hill?
TUA: I love them, I actually thank them. I really appreciate their opinions and thoughts on things. I have a job to do and I can't be sidetracked by their thoughts and opinions, I've just got to be a complete professional about the whole thing and admire their thoughts.
You have won both of your comeback fights after two-year breaks, what's the secret?
TUA: It's hard for me to explain but it's a fire that burns from within. It allows me to push beyond pain barriers in the gym, it allows me to push beyond anything I have ever encountered in as far as the tough times in training. It's a fire that burns because I love boxing.
What happens if you do lose?
TUA: I am a dreamer but I'm also a realist, there is always an if and there is always the downfall of anything you do in life. But for me it's about staying positive no matter what the situation is. If it doesn't work out then yeah, of course, I will be disappointed because I don't go into this fight or any other fight to lose. I will be disappointed but I will sit down and I will watch the fight again and then I will make a smart decision. It's not about just fighting in the ring any more, it's about life. Living life is a fight, every day is a fight.
You've had only six fights in New Zealand, what's it like to fight at home?
TUA: It's a great honour to fight here in New Zealand. It's a place that I call home and to be blessed with such honour to fight here is a very overwhelming feeling.
What do you think of the state of boxing in New Zealand?
TUA: It's quite sad and it's quite disappointing really because I believe there is a lot of raw talent, I believe we have the ability to develop some good boxers. Last Olympics we didn't quite get the opportunity to display that and sadly sometimes it depends on the draw at the Oceania Games because you have to win the gold to go to the Olympics Games.
What do you think of Sonny Bill Williams as a boxer?
TUA: I think it's exciting. I hope he does take boxing seriously but I think right now he's not taking it seriously because he's not sure enough of himself yet to fight out of New Zealand and fight some big names, but good on him for trying.
Is a fight with Williams on the cards for you?
TUA: I don't want to fight Sonny Bill, he's too quick, he's too powerful. (We think he was joking.)
How do you look back at the world heavyweight title fight with Lennox Lewis in 2000?
TUA: When I first went over to the States it was a massive dream to just be there and be given that opportunity to challenge one of the greatest champions of that era. So even though I didn't win, and things didn't quite work out for me, one of the things on my mind was, "don't get knocked out, mate, stay on your feet, keep trying and keep fighting". As a young kid I had a dream and it kind of started as a way for me to get my parents a house but then the love, the passion and everything else kicked in and this dream became a reality.
What's the difference between when you fought Lennox Lewis and now?
TUA: I'm 41 and I believe I'm at my best, I am stronger mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yeah, Ustinov is a giant of a man but have respect for me, I am a giant myself and I see it as a great test.
Obviously you have a strong left that everyone knows about. Do you use the fact that they expect the left to your advantage?
TUA: I'm not a one-handed fighter that I have always been documented as. It just happens that I have knocked people out with the left hook and suddenly I have kind of been documented as a one-handed fighter but there's a lot more to me than that. I can't concentrate on just the left hook, there has got to be more.
Who is the biggest smack talker you have gone up against?
TUA: I believe respectfully that it is an American thing, the Americans that I have fought in the past love to talk. Maybe they weren't given the opportunity to speak when they were young or something or maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something. Whoever comes to fight me knows what he is in for and what I am capable of and I believe the rest takes care of itself.
What is your goal weight heading into the fight with Ustinov?
TUA: If I get close to how much I weighed when I fought Shane [Cameron] then it would be fantastic but at the same time if I come in at maybe one or two [kilograms] heavier but feel good, it's about that feeling and I would be happy with it. God willing everything goes great and I stay healthy for this fight.
Who do you think you will fight after Ustinov?
TUA: Honestly, I don't really know, just got to take care of this guy here and if all goes well then I'm sure the next thing will take care of itself. I really believe I just got to do this.
What sort of music do you listen to leading up to a fight?
TUA: It's all about the peace and music that can relate to that is either a bit of Andrea Bocelli and part-Samoan, part-Tongan singer Ben Makisi as well. I don't want to have to listen to certain music to hype myself up. All I have to continue to do is to get myself in the best possible shape so that when the fight comes I can give it my all.
What is the best piece of advice you would give a young boxer?
TUA: Not to be like me but be better than me. And sometimes you have got to go where there is no path and make your own and don't ever be afraid of trying, don't be afraid of failure.
How do you want to be remembered when you hang up the gloves?
TUA: I have been fortunate to do some decent things with boxing and fight some decent fighters but for me at the end of the day I am just a humble servant and I have been given the opportunity to box. I hope that people can remember that I tried to stand up for what's right, do what I believe is right and maybe I was a decent guy. Boxing has changed my life in every way and it has saved my life as well.