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David Tua RETURNS – Alexander Ustinov in New Zealand on Saturday – BOXING NEWS

By Geno McGahee

This Saturday, the “Tua Man”, David Tua, 52-4-2, 43 KO’s, returns to the ring in New Zealand against Alexander Ustinov, 28-1, 21 KO’s, in a 12 round bout for the WBA Pan African heavyweight title, whatever that is worth.

There are certain heavyweights that seemed to be destined for greatness. If not greatness, they would most likely pick up one of the heavyweight titles at one point with relative ease. David Tua, coming in at the end of the career of Mike Tyson, was the guy that was going to fill the gap and rule boxing, but a lack of discipline led to an up and down career where his potential was never truly realized.

A 225 pound Tua stepped into the ring in 1996, against future 2-Time WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz. This is the same Ruiz that gave the division hell with his puzzling style and grit, but on that night in March of 1996, Ruiz was out cold in just 19 seconds of the very first round. Tua would then knock out Darroll Wilson, an undefeated fighter that had just stopped Shannon Briggs, in one round as well. He would knock out other future champions in Oleg Maskaev (TKO-11) and Hasim Rahman (TKO-10), only losing to the best heavyweight that never was, Ike Ibeabuchi, who was sent away for a long time for a rape conviction.

Things may have come too easily to Tua. He would follow up the great Rahman win by coming in at 237 pounds, a good 20 pounds over his best fighting weight, and knocked out Gary Bell in one round. He would destroy other journey men with ease with knockouts over Shane Sutcliffe (TKO-2) and Obed Sullivan (KO-1). Against Sullivan, we saw a 253 pound Tua. Granted, he won, but bigger was not better. He would have one more fight against Robert Daniels and land the title fight against Lennox Lewis.

The much bigger Lewis may have had trouble with a 220 pound, aggressive and quick Tua, but he had no problem controlling the 245 pound pudgy challenger. Tua was banking on landing the left hook but it wasn’t to be. He wasn’t fast enough and got tired relatively quickly. Lewis would have knocked him out had he pressed the fight, but elected to play it safe and cruise to a wide unanimous decision.

It was a major disappointment for those that had invested so much hope in Tua, and when he came back, he vowed to be the old in-shape fighter that he once was. A lighter Tua would still be too heavy at 233 to keep up with the quick and elusive Chris Byrd, leading to another defeat, but he would rebound with back to back wins over top contenders Fres Oquendo (TKO-9) and Michael Moorer (KO-1), leading to a rematch with Hasim Rahman. Once again, it was the same problem.

At 245 ½ pounds, Tua couldn’t pull the trigger and should have lost clearly to Rahman, but the fight would end in a highly controversial draw. Rahman would move on to other title opportunities and Tua would be forgotten. In his last 12 fights, he has compiled a record of 10-1-1, 6 KO’s. The draw and defeat were to the same fighter in Monte Barrett, a fighter that had seen better days himself, but the weight and age have caught up with the once promising beast.

The opponent is not highly regarded, but he is enormous at 6 feet, 7 ½ inches and weighs over 300 pounds. This means one of too things. One, he’s too big for the older and slow Tua and will control him from the outside, en route to a decision or late stoppage, or he will just present a huge target and will be chopped down quickly. To say Ustinov has fought nobody would be an understatement. The only name on his record is Kubrat Pulev, and he was knocked out in that fight, his only loss. Tua, for Team Ustinov, is a gamble that is well worth it. The size alone of Ustinov should be enough to cruise to a victory, but Tua does look in good shape for this fight. Perhaps he is taking this final run as a serious one.

This Saturday, we may see the final chapter play out in the long career of David Tua, or we may see a new beginning. If Tua should stop Ustinov, who is ranked #8 in the IBF and #15 in the WBO, he will find himself back in contention for a title shot. With the punch of Tua and the vulnerability of the majority of the current top heavyweights, he could possibly give some of them a few scares or even pull some upsets. This Saturday should tell us a lot.

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