Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Time for Tua to hang up the gloves

David Tua. Photo / Dean Purcell
David Tua. Photo / Dean Purcell

A David Tua fight once halted the nation, but now the object in danger of being stopped is the Tuaminator himself.

That world title fight against Lennox Lewis seemed a world away as Tua tired towards a sloppy draw against Monte Barrett in Atlantic City on Sunday.

But perhaps it wasn't all that far removed from his disappointing peak in 2000, when Tua, hampered by injury, was out-punched three-to-one by Lewis. Can we seriously believe that Tua remains a legitimate title prospect - the reason for extending his career, we are told - a decade later?

Whether Tua or Barrett won Sunday's fight, or whether it was a draw, is irrelevant.

Tua gets horribly tired, not only over 12 rounds, but as each round progresses. He would be a delicious target for a decent champion with a long reach - in other words one of the Klitschko brothers or the Englishman David Haye.

If Tua's mission is to win the world title, it will be mission not accomplished. He is unlikely to even get a shot. The time has come, without a doubt, for Tua to protect his brain cells and body, and hang up the gloves. That will also spare the rest of us from the sad sight of watching a potentially brutal decline of a sporting figure loved or admired by many.

Tua won't quit, of course, as is his right in a free world.

But what is left of the 37-year-old's career is unlikely to be pretty to watch.

Nothing could be sadder than the words of his promoter, Cedric Kushner, who claimed that the disappointing draw against Barrett would help Tua's chances of getting a title fight.

Kushner is in danger of dispelling the concept that promoters have a decent line for every occasion. The game is up when one can barely raise a verbal jab in a sport of extravagant claims. He appears to have little regard for Tua's real welfare.

Tua isn't entirely a spent force. Barrett said the Aucklander hurt him a couple of times, although adding that the stocky Tua had little strength in the clinches.

Where was the devastating fighter who bludgeoned Shane Cameron into inevitable oblivion via a lower weight division?

The answer is easy: force Tua past the early rounds and he gets tired, his guns silenced.

Money may not be the only thing driving Tua on. This engaging man - two interviews with him at his Onehunga gym have been among the most enjoyable I have experienced - is trying to right the past, and says he still loves that magical walk towards the ring.

But those around him will smell dollars, and this will also play a big part in Tua's thinking.

Few boxers ever get the retirement timing right.

Muhammad Ali went way past his prime, and is paying for it.

There is an excellent DVD, called Facing Ali, which features the Louisville Lip's opponents talking, with affection, about the great man and their own lives.

Some of those opponents, men who know what damage a life in the ring can cause, believe that Ali's awful health problems have been caused, or at least exacerbated, by taking too many punches, and not by Parkinson's disease alone.

The most famous Ali rival was Joe Frazier, whom I have interviewed in Auckland. Frazier was a fascinating and warm man, but with a rambling speech pattern that was only understandable some of the time. His view of Ali - who taunted him disgracefully - seems to change, but is often described as hatred.

At the very moment he was going to recount what Ali whispered in his ear the last time they met, the words became garbled. Frazier suffered a terrible car accident in 2002 but he also got hit by men who could punch like a runaway truck.

Frazier apparently lives alone above his Philadelphia gym, a fortune from his fight days having vanished. His is an extraordinary life of fame, achievement and body blows.

You never know which punch is going to do the damage.

Tua has now hit the canvas once, thanks to Barrett - a shot that by normal heavyweight boxing standards ranked as a friendly warning.

At Tua's age, and with no prospect of being the champion of the world, is it really worth hitting the floor again?

*Ricky Stuart has finally quit the Cronulla Sharks, and not beforetime.

The remarkable thing is that it has taken this long for the Sharks and Stuart to part company. Having already announced that he was jumping from this sinking ship come the end of the season, he has been little more than in charge of the lifeboats.

Cronulla's attack is among the most laboured ever in league at this level.

The Sharks might get a new lease of life under replacement coach Shane Flanagan, which won't help the Warriors' cause.

Coaching changes often bring about a quick form reversal, even it doesn't last.

A big turnaround is needed though, considering Cronulla's awful effort against Manly.

The Warriors play the Sharks in Sydney in two rounds' time. Some Cronulla fans are questioning the wisdom of Stuart quitting now. But the Sharks may get a new lease of life, and will probably be harder to beat with Stuart having departed.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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