The Disappointing Career of David Tua

21.10.05 – By Geoffrey Ciani: Once upon a time, David Tua was a promising young prospect with amazing potential. Sadly, however, his career has now descended into one of mediocrity and unfulfilled promise. When I think about the career of David Tua, one word comes to mind – “Disappointment”! – and that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.

In March of 1996, David Tua officially busted onto the heavyweight scene with his one round destruction of John Ruiz, on “HBO’s Night of the Young Heavyweights”. What he showed that night was an awesome display of raw power, having dispatched of Ruiz in a mere 19 seconds – that’s right, 19 seconds! Tua had already showed tremendous power prior to this fight, having stopped 19 of his first 22 opponents inside the distance, but beating Ruiz (his toughest test up until that point) in the manner he did was simply awesome.

Inevitably, comparisons to a young “Mike Tyson” were being made, and why not? After all, Tua’s ferocious power reminded people of when a young Tyson emerged on the scene, destroying every opponent in his path, en route to becoming the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in the history of boxing.

However, since that time, Tua hasn’t accomplished anything that would warrant comparisons to a prime Tyson.

After his bout with Ruiz, Tua would continue to impress with his power, knocking out everyone in his path. He scored impressive wins over David Izon and Oleg Maskaev in fights he had been losing, until his incredible power bailed him out late. It was becoming clear that Tua was a limited fighter at this time, but he had several key things going for him: [1] he had sick power, [2] he had an outstanding chin, and [3] he could carry his power into the later rounds of the fight, as was evidenced by his technical knockouts against Izon and Maskaev.

Power and chin are capable of taking a fighter a long way in this sport, and the fact that Tua had both assets in abundance led many to believe that he would someday become heavyweight champion. The fact that he could carry his power late into a fight made him even more dangerous. This suggested that he had good stamina and incredible heart.

What happened? Where did Tua go wrong?

In my view, Tua became unmotivated somewhere along the way. However, this certainly didn’t happen until after his fight with undefeated prospect, Ike Ibeabuchi. In his battle against Ibeabuchi, the two contestants broke a CompuBox heavyweight record for combining to throw 1,730 punches – an amazing figure for a fight in boxing’s most prestigious division. Tua wound up losing this fight via unanimous decision, and Ibeabuchi ultimately went insane. (Incidentally, I had Tua winning this fight, 115-113).

This was the last we’d see of Tua’s true promise. Rather ironic that his last great performance was in a losing effort, isn’t it?

That’s not to say that Tua would never have his moments again. He did beat Hasim Rahman in another come-from-behind victory, via KO (albeit, this one was controversial). He also went on to beat Fres Oquendo and Dannell Nicholson via KO after his embarrassing performance against Lennox Lewis. Additionally, he managed to score a draw against Rahman in their rematch (in a bout I feel Rahman won) and he scored a first round KO against former champion, Michael Moorer. But these wins pale in comparison to the potential that once was.

The difference between the Tua of “now” and the Tua of “then” is simply activity. Tua is the type of fighter who relies on his immense power and his granite chin as opposed to actual boxing skill. In order for him to be successful, it is essential that he throws a lot of punches. Once upon a time, he did throw a lot of punches, like in his bout against Ibeabuchi. (Unfortunately for Tua, Ike also had a chin of granite, but that’s neither here nor there). The point being, Tua does not give himself a chance to win, because he’s not throwing enough punches.

Tua has succumbed into one of the most one-dimensional fighters in the division, and he no longer even utilizes (or attempts to utilize) his best assets because he just doesn’t throw enough punches! The Tua of today can be summed up as follows: Plod, get hit with a jab, reset….plod, get hit with a jab, reset….plod, get hit with a jab, reset….plod, throw a left hook, get hit with a jab, reset….refrain. It’s a vicious cycle for poor Tua, and one he seems incapable (or unwilling) to escape.

So the question becomes, why doesn’t Tua throw enough punches? The answer is simple: he doesn’t train properly. Tua’s weight has acted as a bane upon his entire career, since the aftermath of the first Rahman bout. “I’m a heavyweight, not a lightweight”, joked Tua, leading up to his championship bout against Lennox Lewis. It just seems clear to me that sometime before fighting Lewis, Tua became lazy, and lost the desire to give himself a chance to be great. Tua came into his championship bout against Lewis weighing nearly 250 pounds, but sadly, his best fighting weight was somewhere around 220.

Now call me crazy, but I think there’s a direct correlation between Tua’s weight and his activity level. Tua actually looked quite good against Chris Byrd, when he managed to trim down to 235 pounds. Unfortunately, the elusive Byrd was a terrible style match-up for Tua, but this helps illustrate the link between his weight and his activity level. It seems the more he eats and the less he trains, the less likely he is to throw a lot of punches. By throwing less punches, he prevents himself from utilizing his power in an efficient manner. What are we left with?

Plod, get hit with a jab, reset…

That’s the only thing he can do these days.

Since his rematch with Rahman, back in March of 2003, Tua has fought just once, and that was back in March of this year. Tua is quickly approaching his 33rd birthday, and I’m afraid it may be too late for The Tuaman, even in this version of the heavyweight division. Power punchers of his stature typically peak young, and usually don’t have much left in the tank once they’re in their 30s. Think Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, and Mike Tyson, to name a few.

This Friday night, Tua will face the unheralded Cisse Salif, in the second fight of his “comeback”. Frankly, I don’t know how Tua expects to accomplish much in this comeback. He’s fought just once in the past 30 months or so, and that’s not going to help him. For Tua to succeed, he needs to stay active and train hard. Fighting twice a year against tomato cans is pointless at this stage. If he was smart, he’d follow the blue print laid out by “Big” George Foreman – if he starts fighting once every three or four weeks, he might actually give himself a chance to get into better shape, which in turn will afford him the opportunity to throw more punches, which in turn will give him the best chance he has at knocking his opponents out.

In order for this to work, however, he needs to become very active, and I’m not sure he has the desire.

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