Boxing: King David reigns supreme

By Paul Lewis

David Tua (L) crushed Shane Cameron in convincing fashion last night. Photo / Getty Images
David Tua (L) crushed Shane Cameron in convincing fashion last night. Photo / Getty Images

You've heard of The Thriller In Manila; the Rumble In The Jungle. This was the Peek At The Creek.

It should have ended in the first round when David Tua's power shots overwhelmed Shane Cameron - but the referee took so long to make a decision that the bell rang for the end of the round when the Mountain Warrior was clearly shaken and already at the end of his fight.

It should have been called off then. It didn't matter. In the end, the end was quick. Tua's powerful blows in the second round landed like the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

Tua was always the main focus at Mystery Creek. Tua was the mystery after his long lay-off. Would he end up in the proverbial creek?

He'd done the work, he still has the power and he always had the pedigree, even if many of his detractors before the fight were fast to call him a has-been; a never-was; still a wannabe at 37. Even Sir Bob Jones, albeit reluctantly and spurred by the old boxing maxim that "they never come back", went against the tide of favouritism for Tua and predicted a Cameron win.

It wasn't clear what history Sir Bob was referring to but plenty have come back: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard and many more. Sure, some were not what they were but Ali and Leonard cemented their legends with their comebacks.

Not that we are comparing Tua to them. Nor is that the reason we watched this fight with such anticipation.

With Tua came one of our base, age-old human instincts - the urge to watch someone fighting for their life; or at least for their pride and maybe their future. We like to be a part of a blood-and-guts drama without getting the claret on our shoes. It's the Colosseum syndrome, where the Romans watched the gladiators and fascinated in the lions taking on the Christians.

It's the same compulsion that drove rubbernecking souls to the beach to see if the supposed tsunami from Samoa hit New Zealand shores. We want to see when the big thing happens.

It came about 30 seconds into round one, with Cameron trying to use his jab and move - but the Tua tree-feller began chopping him down.

It answered some of the questions. We watched to see if the older man still had the stuff that took him close to boxing's top reaches; if the mind still drove those tree-trunk thighs and that iron chin. Seems he has - although a longer fight may be needed to make a full determination.

We stared at Cameron, at 31, younger and more highly ranked in two of boxing's interminable 'world' organisations, wondering if he had the boxing skill to keep Tua at bay while compiling the points to win the bout. He didn't.

We wondered if Tua would win, even if he won. A career stalled by legal action, his money tied up in legal fees, his fighting curve stalled at a peak on that day he fought Lennox Lewis, a much under-rated heavyweight world champion who had Tua figured out beautifully and who was a much better defensive fighter than he ever got credit for. We'll see.

We watched to see if Tua was really experiencing a bout of Old Champs' Disease - the urge to go on fighting, for one last payout, for one last shot at a title; an urge which can rip the threads off a fighter (even the proudest, even the best), leaving him naked and exposed on the stage of his own ego and financial desire.

Maybe the great US boxing writer Budd Schulberg put it best when he said: "There's always that night, if you must fight on into your late 30s and 40s, when suddenly the magic's gone and all that pretty fistic fight music becomes a terrible silence ..."

But it didn't seem like that.

There seems no danger yet of Tua shadowing the greatest of all, Ali, by hanging on to his boxing life too long - as when Ali was pounded by a skilful new champ, Larry Holmes.

He would go on to repeat the mistake years later, being soundly defeated by Evander Holyfield when Holmes was 43 and Holyfield, a considerable opponent, much younger. Holmes underscored the sadness of the evening by vomiting all over the ring at the end.

So let's not kid ourselves - that's why we were there; that horrible human fascination with the hurt-or-be-hurt nature of a sport like boxing. For one man it's a disaster, for the other it's a dawning. For all of us outside the ring, it's the danger and the physical threat - without the danger and the threat.

Tua was pilloried for not really firing a shot in that title bout with Lewis. But he has always had problems with big men like Lewis, who could use their height and reach advantage to rack up the points with the jab, piling on the pressure while remaining defensively intact - but who had the artillery to do serious damage if Tua dropped his hands and went for broke.

Cameron, taller and with a longer reach was set to cause Tua similar problems.

He tried ... but that was never going to happen last night.

- Herald on Sunday

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