Sharkies Week In Boxing: Tua vs Oquendo - The Tortoise And The Hare
From Rags Tua Riches
15.04 - By Frank Gonzalez: This Saturday night at The Harv, also known as the Mountaineer Casino Resort in West Virginia, David TuaMan Tua (39-3-0-34 KOs) would face the fork in the road of his career against rising star, Fres The Big O Oquendo (22-0-0-13 KOs). At stake was the Oquendos NABF Heavyweight Title. It is always said that styles make fights and this was a perfect example of opposite styles clashing. Tua is short and stocky. His arms are too short to effectively work the jab against usually taller, long-range opponents. Tua relies on his power to win fights. Oquendo is tall, has an 80-inch reach and uses his jab and his legs to win. This is a match up of speed versus power.
Tua suffered much criticism and question after poor performances in title shots against Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis, where he looked to be one-dimensional and lacking stamina, style or ability. Last December, Tua fought against tomato can Garing Lane (20wins-27 losses), who drops easily to accommodate fighters coming off a loss and in need of a boost of confidence. After blowing two opportunities for a championship belt, Tua, who is only 29, is considered old and demoted to the ranks of a high echelon tomato cans. Appearing to be a safe enough fight for Fres Oquendo, Tua got a shot at the NABFs version of a title belt.
Since being trained by Felix Trinidad Sr. Fres has looked much improved and ready to face the bigger boys of the division. Hes had a good run lately, beating three journeyman contenders in a row. His critics say he has a weak chin and has no power, while his supporters insist he has the best working jab in the division and a quality overhand right. Fres lately has enjoyed generous rankings from the usually suspect Sanctioning Bodies, WBO #1, IBF # 3, WBC # 4 and ranked 5th by the WBA. In an era where there seems only one legitimate Star in the Heavyweight division in Lennox Lewis, who will probably retire soon, Oquendos dreams of being a World Champion is not too unrealistic.
The fight started exactly as I imagined it would, with Tua coming on fast and furious to trying and KO Fres right away. Oquendo was able to survive the onslaught and even got to pepper Tua with his famous jab quite a few times. The second round was a little less energetic for Tua, with the same results. By the third round, Tua was doing the same things that helped him lose to Lewis and Byrd, chasing his opponent and appearing too winded to launch successful attacks against a mobile target.
As the fight passed the sixth round, Tua was huffing and puffing and missing his target. Oquendo had mastered the tempo of the contest and kept Tua far enough away to throw his jabs and move. On occasion, Tua would cut the ring off and throw the bombs, but Oquendo was crafty enough to escape. Fres began to taunt a bit, making faces after a Tua miss. By the end of the eighth round, Don Felix was yelling at Fres, warning him to be careful and to act like a professional. In other words, ease off on the taunting and taking stupid chances. Using Chris Byrds technique, Fres was handling Tua by sticking him with the jab and moving, always avoiding the power of Tuas left hook. Athletic opponents easily frustrate the TuaMan and all Fres had to do was keep up the good work for another three rounds and his reputation as a legitimate contender would soar. After eight rounds, Oquendo looked certain of blowout decision victory.
Midway into the ninth round, Fres got cocky and let his guard down and Tua came to life with a burst of supernatural energy usually reserved for desperate moments, like rescuing a family member from a fire. He charged into Fres with body shots and a solid overhand right to the temple. He followed up, noticing Oquendos legs wobble for a second. Tua saw the sign and drove into Fres with a barrage of punches, rendering Fres out on his feet and causing referee Dave Johnson to call a halt to the bout. In Oquendos package of strategy he must have forgotten about the option of taking a knee, which might have given him an opportunity to finish the fine work hed done for the previous eight rounds. Instead, Tua won by TKO, to the cheers of the crowd and the surprise of his critics, who said the Samoan warrior was washed up.
Tua was the victor, and Fres got his first professional loss. Tua won the NABF Heavyweight title and a chance to reestablish himself in the heavyweight picture. Fres got to show the world that he has some credible skills as a boxer, while learning an important lesson about discipline. Had he not started getting over confident, and dropping his hands low, he might have won over the slower, yet heavier handed David Tua.
When it was over, both fighters did something I rarely see enough of these days in sports, they showed each other sincere respect, gracious on both sides. It was a beautiful thing to see. When asked by Showtimes Dave Bontempo how he felt about his victory, Tua took a moment to thank God and to say hello to Oquendos kids in Puerto Rico. Both fighters embraced and Tua told Fres, You fought well, you will be Champion one day.
Fres was humble in defeat, saying he made a mistake, but is young and would be back. Interestingly Tua, at 29, is considered old in Boxing, while Oquendo, also 29, is considered young. In Boxing, age is decided more by your ring record than your birth certificate. Tua has been in with a much better class of fighters than Oquendo and that makes Fres young by comparison.
To Fres credit, he showed that he could win rounds with ring generalship and a consistent jab. His athleticism enabled him to avoid the big punching Tua throughout most of the fight and in spite of criticism that he has a weak chin; he did take a few good shots without crumbling. Even when Tua punished him with hooks and body shots before the fight was stopped, Fres never went down. He should have taken a knee, but perhaps in his youth and inexperience, he overlooked that option.
To David Tuas credit, he stuck to his game plan, which was to close the distance and go for the body during clinches. Like the tortoise that beat the hare, Tua slowly but surely got to deliver his power and win the fight. I am thrilled to have him confidently back in the picture as the Heavyweight division is currently rather dull. Tua proved that the human spirit is more powerful than the best left-hook in the sport. I take off my hat to Tua and thank both guys for an exciting fight.
The Replacements And A GOOFi Decision
Lance GOOFi Whitaker Vs. Ray The Rain Man Austin
(24-2-1-20 KOs) (16-3-1-12 KOs)
Once again, Showtime showed disregard for professionalism when it comes to their Boxing programs. At the beginning of the scheduled fight between GOOFi and Ray Austin, it was discovered that one of the three Judges, Bruce Foster, was missing. The referee Tim Wheeler delayed the fight until the Judge was either found or replaced. After a couple of minutes delay, Steve Allred was named as the replacement Judge. This situation would end up affecting the outcome of this fight.
Ray Austin was also a replacement, fighting on a weeks notice in place of David Izon, who pulled out of the fight more than a week ago. Austin is tall too, six feet and five inches with a 243-pound frame. GOOFi weighted in at a career high of 281-pounds, although he didnt look fat. He is very tall at six feet, seven inches.
Once the fight finally started, GOOFi came on fairly strong, winning the first two rounds with cleaner punches. Austin was no push over, he gave GOOFi a hard time in the third round and ended up reversing the tempo of the fight by being the more effective aggressor for several rounds as GOOFi slowed to a grind as the fight wore on. It was a comical affair, with GOOFi throwing feather punches and Austins trunks falling down his waist and his protector, well above his belly button.
As a funny man who loves children, I bet GOOFis just great. But as a professional prizefighter, he leaves much to be desired. The thing about GOOFi is that he really seems more like a cartoon character than a professional boxer. His punches rarely have bad intentions. The look on his face is that of a childish spirit that wants to giggle and not hurt anyone. How can you look at him and not like GOOFi? Hes a lovable cartoon character with a silly smile, reincarnated as a 6 foot 7 inch, 281-pound muscle man with Boxing gloves on. At any second, you might expect Mickey Mouse to be the replacement referee.
I mean, if you can imagine what a fight between the cartoon characters, Goofy and his sidekick Pluto the Dog might look like
this is the type of fight youd probably see. When GOOFi had opportunities to blast an overhand right or a big left hook, he slapped softly instead, as though a fly had landed on his opponent. And though he moves his head a lot, and shows flashes of good Boxing skills, he still gets tagged often.
Ray Austin wasnt laughing. He came to fight and win. I though he did win. At the end of ten rounds, I had Austin ahead, 96-94 with Austin rallying in the final round. He hit hard and often and out worked the sluggish and non-intense GOOFi, who looked exactly as he did when he lost to Jameel McCline in his last fight. The fans booed throughout the fight.
At the end, it was announced that actually two of the three Judges had been replaced. The other was Jim Pouchnik, who replaced Paul Artist.
The Judges scorecards read as follows:
Steve Allred Jim Pouchnik Gary Wolfe
97-93 for GOOFi 97-93 for Austin 95-95 Even
Somewhere among the inept, perhaps even dishonest scorecards, Ray Austin lost a fight he won. It sure smelled like the fix was in to protect GOOFi, who clearly did not win the fight. Even the casual fan has to question the judging ability of two guys who watch the same fight and have exactly opposite results as in Allred and Pouchniks cases. GOOFi escapes a loss with a draw.
During the post fight interviews, Showtimes Dave Bontempo asked GOOFi how he would access his performance. GOOFi admitted that his performance was not good. He mumbled about working on his jab while hiding his eyes beneath the visor of a Budweiser hat that both fighters wore immediately after the fight, probably in the lieu of being able to wear temporary tattoos to promote Whomever.com. It seems the Networks won the case of free advertising during their telecasts. If Casinos want to advertise, they now have to pay the Networks, not the fighters. But thats a whole other can of worms.
Bontempo asked Austin what his feelings were about the fight and he said that he clearly felt he had won the fight, and he knew it was going to be called a draw. He looked disgusted. I didnt blame him, he was robbed.
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DAVID TUA BRINGS THE PAIN
By Alisa Callaway
13.04 - Tonight the fans in Chester, West Virginia were probably about two punches away from seeing Fres Oquendo meet his maker. In the fight for the NABF heavyweight title, David Tua looked like he was going to lose by decision to the Puerto Rican Fres Oquendo,that is until round nine. With all due respect to Oquendo, after his almost absolutely devastating loss to Tua, Oquendo stated that he was still young and hungry. Well folks, for tonight at least, the slugger was hungrier.
Oquendo entered tonight's fight as the WBO's number one ranked contender. David Tua entered as a man with everything to lose and everything to gain. It was obvious by the end of round one that Tua was going to play "follow the leader" until the chance arose for him to unleash his brutal hook combinations. Well, that is exactly what he did. With the announcers at ringside constantly praising Oquendo for being patient and using his jab to keep Tua at bay, it looked like Tua was going to be out boxed, and he was. Tua was effectively out boxed. But Tua was not beaten; Tua wasjust out boxed and as of now being out boxed is notsaying much.
Tua came out in round one as the aggressor, but until round five he failed to produce any effective combinations. Round five proved to be Tua's only winning round, after four rounds lost to wild punches. Oquendo very rarely threw his right, but did sustain good movement. His footwork was impeccable, and his hand speed was worth watching. But in the end, and I literally mean the end, Tua did what people everywhere were hoping to see: he gave Oquendo a new perspective on life. Oquendo will never look at things the same way again. His jab did accomplish what a good jab
should, but it did not accomplish what Papa Tito thought it would: it did not affect the Tuaman. at a minute, fifty-four seconds in the ninth round, Tua unleashed his wrath, and completely demolished the glimmer of the rising star, Oquendo. What can we expect from Tua in the future? Hopefully more of the same. Of course it would always be better to see it happen before the ninth round, but it happened, and that is all that matters. Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime
David Tua vs Fres Oquendo: A Match of Class
By Steve Trellert
02.04 - When I first heard about the impending Heavyweight battle between David Tua and Fres Oquendo my initial reaction was 'wha??? What on earth are they thinking? Do they not realize that they are both taking too large of a risk in taking this fight and that it is not in their self-interest to proceed with it? Then it suddenly dawned on me that I had been automatically swept up in that ever-present mode of 'Boxing thought': cynicism. In a sport filled with bogus belt organizations, mercurial judging, insidious promoters, and frequently innocuous opponents, we now find before us two fighters displaying atavism. Yes, the old warrior trait of just wanting to prove oneself, to gain respect irrespective of cost or blatant self interest. Incredulous of their motivation? Let us take a look at each in turn and you will see what I mean.
Fres 'the Big O' Oquendo has much on the line in this fight, even more so than David Tua. After successfully navigating the journeyman asteroid belt, Oquendo definitively exploded onto the scene by virtually decapitating the 'Black Rhino' Clifford Etienne. Etienne had just signed a contract with 'Showtime' and the 'Big O' played the unsuspecting spoiler by crashing that party worse than the Beastie Boys ever could. Last December Oquendo accepted, on short notice, a fight with veteran David Izon whom he proceeded to overwhelm. With that victory Fres inherited what was essentially the number two ranking in the IBF. With the number one challenger Chris Byrd lined up as a mandatory to the winner of the impending Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight, it seemed all Oquendo would have to do is wait for Byrd to get his shot in the fall while coasting against 'safe' opposition until 2003 when he would likely get his turn. Is Fres taking this easy route? No. Why?
Perhaps Oquendo realizes that it is not all about attaining one of the three major belts, but about gaining respect and legitimacy. Think this naive? Ask a hard core boxing fan if John Ruiz is the Heavyweight Champion and you will get a groan. In fact, ask a casual fan the same question and you will likely get the same reaction. But what about Oquendo's comments after the Izon fight about wanting to fight Ruiz? Does this not imply his desire to attain the WBA belt? Not likely. His motivation seems to be more in tune with Puerto Rican Heavyweight bragging rights. A win over Ruiz would likely turn the 'Big O' into the 'Puerto Rican Dream.' In taking on the dangerous David Tua, Oquendo is willing to risk his comfortable position in the rankings and the accompanying shot at the top to gain our respect. Few fighters would take such a risk and the fact that he has done so should already garner him much of what he deserves.
David Tua on the other hand had already gained our respect. His devastating path to the echelons of the division witnessed highly regarded fighters such as John Ruiz, David Izon, Oleg Maskaev and Hasim Rahman tossed to the side. After startling success the Tua train lost some steam though when he became the mandatory challenger to Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. While being forced to wait an exorbitantly long time to get his title shot he made the mistake of playing it safe by taking on tomato can Shane Sutcliffe and an intimidated Obed Sullivan. Both fights were so easy that instead of keeping his skills sharp they caused them to regress. By the time Lennox Lewis stood before him Tua had not only to overcome the gap in physical height but in psychological height as well. The talent adjustment was too large to overcome, it was like training to climb Mount Everest by walking up a small hill, it just did not work. Philosopher Sun Tzu stated that 'every battle is won before it is fought' and in this case it was particularly true as Tua appeared both helpless and impotent. After such grand expectations the bubble burst in the later rounds where many suspected he had simply quit by going through the motions. Anyone who witnessed David Tua's past fights though knew that if Tua was anything he was most certainly not a quitter. Frustrated and slightly demoralized perhaps but not a quitter. Nonetheless that fight did cause him to lose some respect but immediately afterwards he gained some of that back.
In being interviewed after that fight his management tried to explain away the loss by referring to an injury that occurred in training. David could have taken that and ran with it but instead downplayed it and gave the credit to Lennox Lewis. Class Act #1. Afterwards he entered a 4-man tournament for a shot at the IBF title. After disposing of Dannel Nicholson he had to fight the elusive Chris Byrd whom most fighters avoid like the plague. Did David Tua choose to wimp out instead of taking on the Byrdman as many a contender does? No. Class Act #2. Even before that fight many commented that Byrd's style was all wrong for him. They were right. Despite trimming up and coming out swinging Byrd's style was just too awkward for him and he just fell short. Now David Tua has committed Class Act #3 in a row by choosing to take on Fres Oquendo. Why you ask is this a class act? As once again he has chosen to fight another top contender who really does not match up well with his style. Fres in many ways is a cross between Rahman's style (who gave him difficulty as Lewis did with his powerful and stiff jab) and Chris Byrd's elusive and awkward defensive style. Fres Oquendo is basically 60% Rahman and 40% Byrd and will be no easy task for the Tuaman. The danger sign is flashing loud and clear but like most warriors he takes no heed, this is what it is all about.
With all of the attention focused on Lewis and Tyson of late this fight has been largely overshadowed. That is unfortunate as what we have before us are two top ten Heavyweight contenders in a classic boxer versus puncher match-up. Will Oquendo be able to keep Tua at bay with his strong jab and overhand right? Can Tua get inside and take Fres out with his explosive one punch power? It is tough to call. While the result remains uncertain the class of these two guys is not. Most fighters like these would avoid each other to no end and either rest on their laurels or take the route of least resistance to the top. What we have April 13th on Showtime is simply two guys doing what the public wants, demonstrating courage and taking gutsy chances not only inside the ring but outside as well. These types of combatant's are not only fighters but a beacon to the sport as well. Let us hope others pick up the same torch as Boxing will be better for it. For Tua and Oquendo I tip my hat. Perhaps all of us should.
Interviews: David Tua - Fres Oquendo
National Conference Call Transcript: Fres Oquendo - David Tua - Kushner
12.04 - Oquendo and Tua will square off for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) heavyweight title on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Saturday, April 13, at 10 p.m. ET/PT from the Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, W. Va. In the main event, Oquendo (22-0, 13 KOs), of Chicago, will make the first defense of his NABF crown when he takes on Tua (39-3, 34 KOs), of Samoa. In the co-feature, WBO No. 8 heavyweight contender Lance GOOFi Whitaker (24-2, 20 KOs), of Granada Hills, Calif., will take on Ray Austin (16-3, 12 KOs), of Cleveland, Ohio, in a 10-round bout. SHOWTIME will televise the Cedric Kushner Promotions card.
Question: Fres, why risk a title shot to take this fight?
Oquendo: I am a true warrior. I am from the islands, like Tua. I take on all comers. Throughout my career, I fight boxers with winning records. People have doubted me in the past, but now I have made believers of them by taking all these challenges. This is another chapter in my career I have to fulfill. By giving this opportunity to Tua, who is a known heavyweight contender and notoriously strong puncher, it will make this fight very electrifying. This is a great opportunity for me to shine. This is another fight that is very important in my career. I need to win to get to the next level.
Question: David, are you surprised you are getting this shot against Oquendo?
Tua: I am not shocked at all because of the character of the man I am fighting. Oquendo is a very tough fighter. He is very strong, and a very beautiful boxer as well. He has a very good amateur background in the United States. I am very grateful for this opportunity. Oquendo could have waited for his title shot, but, like I said, he is a tough guy, a warrior and is willing to prove that to the boxing fans. I am very lucky to have this opportunity and very thankful for it.
Question: Do you fell like you are fighting another opponent (in Oquendo) who could put you into a frustrating situation with his boxing style?
Tua: I do not think I will get frustrated at all. With all of the fights I have had, I have tried to learn from them and minimize my mistakes. So far, everything has been going well. I am sticking to the basics and doing the simple things.
Question: Do you believe you are going to look for the knockout against
Tua: I have been training hard for this fight. I am really looking forward to it. This is a win-at-all-costs situation. I am willing to do whatever it takes.
Question: Fres and David, has the change in promoters been a distraction to either of you?
Tua: All that I have been doing is staying focused on the fight. On the business side of things, I am very lucky to have a great brother, manager and trainer like Kevin Barry to watch over me and take care of things. It really has not been a distraction for me.
Oquendo: It has been normal for me. Cedric Kushner has treated with great respect. America Presents treated me well, and supported my family and I throughout my career. Both promoters have been very helpful, and I have nothing negative to say.
Question: Cedric, how do you feel promoting these two fighters?
Kushner: I am truly delighted to be involved with the caliber of fighters like Tua and Oquendo. I wish there could be two winners in Saturdays fight.
Question: Fres, what has training with Felix Trinidad Sr. meant to you?
Oquendo: Training with Trinidad Sr. has brought tremendous change to my career and my personal life. Coming from the mean streets of Chicago, there are a lot of distractions. Training has been going superbly. Training next to a grand champion like Tito Trinidad is great. He has been a very good friend of mine. My training methods have been superb. I have never had anything like this in my life. I have been in a lot of training camps and none compare to this one. Trinidad Sr. is a genius of the sport. He has other great fighters. He is very good for me. He has helped me develop my career and my fundamentals. There is not much more I can ask of him, except to just be in my corner.
Question: David, what are you doing now that puts you where you want to be right now in your career?
Tua: I think I am keeping things as simple as possible and sticking to the basics. It has been a very tough, great camp for me. That is what it comes down to. I feel good. I am mentally and physically prepared for this fight.
Question: Cedric, what do you see for the winner of this fight over the next 12 months?
Kushner: I do not have a game plan. They (Oquendo and Tua) have to take care of business on Saturday. After the fight, I will sit down with their management and see if they want me involved, and if I fit into their game plan. I do not want to be presumptuous at this time.
Question: David, do you feel like your window of opportunity is closing in boxing?
Tua: I look at this as a crucial fight. It is a must-win situation for me. That is my approach. The most important thing is to go out and fight. There is nothing I can do at this point in my training to make a difference. I have prepared well for this fight