Boxing: Tua looks beyond the ring

By Paul Lewis

Heavyweight can reflect on career that included great fights and two comebacks.

His retirement freshly announced, David Tua opened his dressing room door to an expectant media and, with an air of relaxed melancholy and rueful smiles, began answering questions about his future.

Would he go into politics? It was an option but there was nothing definite going on yet. Later, it emerged that talk of him entering politics came up during a Tua visit to a school, in a Q&A session.

"I didn't go there to start a political party or anything," he grinned. "But the subject came up and some people got excited about it. There were a lot of Maori and Polynesian kids there - and a lot of Pakeha too - and I was interested enough to say that I would like to help. But we'll have to see what happens there; it could just be doing something in the community, you know?"

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Was he at peace now? He was, but in spite of the rather RIP dimensions of the question, it was plain that Tua's decision was the right one.

Halfway through the fight, it became obvious that Tua comeback Mark II was going the way of Tua comeback Mark I - only in a much shorter time frame and with a much fitter, superbly fit, Tua.

He said afterwards that his heart wasn't in it. He maintained that he wasn't thinking of quitting during the fight and that "I left it all in there - it just wasn't happening".

His surprised connections had no idea he was thinking of retirement - his media statements before the fight maintained that he would be boxing on regardless. Tua is no media manipulator, so that rather suggests he went into this fight thinking he would ride the wave if he beat giant Belarusian Alexander Ustinov but would give it away if he couldn't.

After all, he has genuinely twice been close to getting a world title fight with one of the world champion Klitschko brothers and also came close to a mouth-watering bout with Mike Tyson - plus that ill-fated world heavyweight tilt at Lennox Lewis in 2000 where Tua was criticised for not firing a shot.

But, in the end, no matter how fit and well-prepared he was, there is no way back mentally if the "R" word has intruded on a fighter's thought processes. It was obvious by round six that Tua was coming a distant second and that his power, at nearly 41, was not what it was.

Fighting either one of the Klitschkos was touted as a distinct possibility before the Ustinov bout and, in fight-fixing terms, it was - but Ustinov soon gave the lie to that. In spite of all Tua's hard work and preparation, he was outclassed and frustrated much of his fan base by not storming the larger man until it was too late.

Ustinov fought a simple fight. A jab, sometimes a double jab, a straight right and he quickly moved back beyond Tua's hitting circle. Ustinov was a better mover than expected, his jabs were heavy and earned respect and even when Tua caught him, the punches did not trouble him much.

Tua did not think losing 50kg had robbed him of any power and, if that is true, then it is genuinely time for him to retire. He hasn't knocked anyone out for a long time now.

Ustinov is no Klitschko but fought a very Klitschko fight - boring but effective. It was strongly reminiscent of the Lewis bout.

Once, Tua would have been a knockout threat even in the last round. But, as had happened with Monte Barrett in his last fight, it was Tua little, Tua late - with the larger men picking him off using height and reach.

What life will bring now for Tua is uncertain. He is thought to have earned about $300,000 for this, his last fight, but it is also understood he is still in considerable debt. He will also have to avoid the health problems that loomed when he ballooned out to 50kg heavier than his 107kg fighting weight - and he acknowledged that himself.

Tua still has his health, his family, a future, and, if he never quite made it to world champion level, he scared the hell out of a few who did.

- NZ Herald

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