Easy to forget just how popular and formidable heavyweight David Tua was a decade ago and how eager fans were for the trunk-like Samoan to tackle the leading fighters in the division; to oust the ageing trinity of Tyson, Holyfield and Lewis. In truth, to replace the menace and thrills Mike Tyson had ceased to deliver.
Ten years on from a two year purple patch when Tua faced and beat John Ruiz, David Izon, Oleg Maskaev and Hasim Rahman the squat contender is once again returning to a level of activity better matched to his need to stay in shape. His Samoan blood makes inactivity dangerous to his professional career, hefty weight gain – from his optimum 215-220, he was 224 for Rahman in 1998 to 252 in 2002 – suffocated his style, hampered his speed and essentially poured a two stone overcoat over his effectiveness.
Of course, weight isn’t the only issue at play. Tua’s career has been blighted by the legal case pertaining to a messy divorce from former managers Kevin Barry and Martin Pugh. The outcome complex. One clear reality is much of the $20million Tua has earned during his career has been jeopardised, lost or syphoned into businesses of which he doesn’t have control. Those wranglings essentially kept Tua out of the ring for two years and distracted for nearer three, taking him from his prime into his mid-thirties.
Crucially, he was never forgotten.
Is this why he’s back in the ring? It would be a shame if money was his only motivation, one would hope the quest to shed the tag of best modern day heavyweight never to win a title would be of equivalent value to him. Considering he has knocked out Maskaev, current WBC champion, John Ruiz – in one of the most viewed online clips – and Hasim Rahman, it is astonishing that the dynamite puncher hasn’t won a belt in these fractured times.
His latest run to the title is addressing the problems inactivity cause, by staying busy, fighting regularly, Tua is building momentum and managing his weight far more effectively. Down to 237 for his destruction of Saul Montana, Tua showed he’s lost little of his power, if he can stay busy he may yet find enough life in his legs to deliver on his undoubted ability.
Tua faces an as yet unknown opponent on October 18th Michigan, it will be his third fight in eight weeks and barring a significant step up in class, will be his 50th professional victory.
In the current heavyweight division, nostalgia is an ever present aroma. From Evander Holyfield’s unlikely title shot at the age of 44, to Vitaly Klitschko’s delayed return fans are forced to reminisce rather than extol the virtues of new, fresh, hungry young puncher.
On that landscape, Tua could still be a force. One potentiality would be a challenge to Wladimir Klitschko, the consensus king of the heavyweights, in 2008. Cedric Kushner, Tua’s promoter, is willing to drop a legal case against Klitschko and promoter Shelly Finkel, to the tune of $5million, if the Ukrainian offers Tua a title shot.