David Tua really was a force of nature, a power-punching force of nature. Blessed also, as we found out later in the Samoan’s career, with a rock for a chin, Tua looked for some time like a future world champ. Tua, at his best, vaporised or otherwise took out good fighters such as John Ruiz, David Izon, Oleg Maskaev, Hasim Rahman, Obed Sullivan, and Michael Moorer.
A granite block of dynamite that stood (and still stands) at just 5’10,” with Tua having a reach of just 70-inches, Tua for a while created a path of utter destruction. Fans still get shivers when watching the annihilation job Tua did on Ruiz, this in his breakthrough fight, while fans also still admire the job Tua did on guys like Moorer (another first round blowout), Sullivan, and Rahman (this a controversial stoppage win for “The Tuaman.)
Fans also continue to marvel over the all-out war Tua engaged in with Ike Ibeabuchi, this 12 round battle seeing Tua lose his unbeaten record but, along with the unfortunately crazy Ibeabuchi, seeing Tua set a heavyweight punch-stat record.
And on this day in 1996, in a heavyweight KO worth remembering, Tua wiped out an unbeaten Darrol Wilson. Wilson, hailing from Virginia, was 17-02, and he had beaten heavy favourite Shannon Briggs (Wilson’s third round KO win coming on the same card that saw Tua almost decapitate Ruiz). Tua, caring not one jot for any reputation Wilson might have had, was on a mission.
Another fight, another night on HBO.
Tua, 24-0, welcomed the way Wilson was willing to stay on the inside, the fight a close quarters, phone-booth affair. Wilson, unafraid, shoved Tua with his shoulder. Tua put his rival back in his place with the same move. For a while, this one looked like being a good fight, an interesting fight. Maybe a hard fight for both men.
But then, with the sound of the bell close, Tua landed a short, brutally-placed left hook to the jaw. Wilson went down instantly, his eyes shut. It was over. Tua had once again persuaded many fans, and experts, into believing he was not only the next heavyweight champ, but also a man who would be a long-reigning, all-devouring heavyweight champion.
Tua, at age 23, was looked at as unstoppable. As it turned out, Tua would score two more KO wins, over Izon and Maskaev, before he went to war with “The President,” who won the votes as far as the judges were concerned. Tua was far from done, with him roaring back to defeat the likes of Rahman and Sullivan. But then a less than ideally prepared Tua lost his one and only world title shot, this against a peak Lennox Lewis, who won a wide decision over Tua in 2000.
As for Wilson, he battled on but he never again threatened a shot at real significance, with him beating James Pritchard, losing to Izon and Tim Witherspoon, beating Bert Cooper, and then losing to Ray Mercer and Oliver McCall. No doubt, Wilson fought a number of great fighters.
Tua and Wilson both stepped into the ring as unbeaten fighters on this day in 1996. Tua’s devastating punching prowess saw to it that the two were never again on an even playing field.
Tua really does have to rank as one of the greatest, purest heavyweight punchers never to have won even a version of the world title.