By PETER JESSUP
Mike Tyson is the man David Tua wants to meet in the ring now he is back in the heavyweight rankings.
It is not as unlikely as it sounds. The match is well on the cards if Tyson beats Lennox Lewis in Memphis, Tennessee, in June.
Tyson and Tua are signed with promoter America Presents.
Tyson has a deal with broadcaster Showtime, and Tua does not have a TV contract, but Showtime has been his preferred option so far.
After Sunday's win over Fres Oquendo, Tua is a top-five fighter, with the North American Boxing Federation title.
Tyson has said he has the measure of Tua.
It would be a great match-up. If you believe the saying "styles make fights," then look forward to a brawling slug-fest in the centre of the ring, the boxers toe to toe, little finesse and the hardest hitter to win.
Tyson turns 36 in June. He hasn't been the boxer he was since he lost his title to Buster Douglas in 1990.
Many people believe the biting and following brawl at the New York media conference held to announce the Tyson-Lewis bout was engineered by boxing's bad boy because he is scared of Lewis, does not want to be seen backing down, and was looking for an easy out - disqualification.
Like Tua, he's not in Lewis' class as a boxer, but has a good chance as a formidable fighter who needs to land properly only once.
And Tyson is short in heavyweight terms - 180cm (5ft 11in) to Tua's 178cm (5ft 10in), around 104kg to Tua's 108 or so kilos.
A Tyson fight had been "a dream through Dave's 10-year career - now it's a very strong possibility," said manager-cum-trainer Kevin Barry.
It would be worth US$10 million ($22.78 million) - maybe more. It's a fight the American public would love, knowing they would get a brutal contest, and that fact alone could "make" the match-up.
The big danger obvious to anyone who has watched the South Aucklander's recent fights will be Tua's slow start. On Sunday, Barry could be clearly heard calling for more action: "I need you to throw punches ... "
One judge had Fres Oquendo ahead in seven rounds, leading 70-63 on points up to the spectacular ending. The other two had him the winner in five rounds, 68-63 up on points, when Tua finished off the scoring and the Puerto Rican at 1m 54s in round nine.
Fres was a better boxer than Lewis, Tua said. He moved and punched more.
Oquendo reckoned Tua didn't hurt him at all.
"I took his punches well. He caught me and I got lazy on the ropes and he threw a barrage and the ref was there to save someone, which was me," was how Oquendo explained the loss.
There had been some subterfuge at the Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Resort before the fight, with the ring ropes being loosened.
Tua's camp insisted they be re-tensioned, threatening to withdraw the fighter.
"You can see how important that became in the end," said Barry of the finish, where Tua backed Oquendo into a corner.
The major boxing organisations will re-rank the heavyweight division this month.
Tua is expected to take the top-five positions Oquendo held in the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Organisation, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation.
Immediately after the fight promoters - Showtime and others - were beating a path to his door.
Tua and his team arrive home this week. He has done little other than sleep to celebrate winning the North American title from Oquendo.
"Dave's been emotional," Barry said. "He had everything taken away after the [Chris] Byrd loss.
"He knew there were doubters before this fight.
"There was sheer relief on his face in the dressing room afterwards."
By PETER JESSUP