By James Slater: As fans may or may not know, exciting heavyweight slugger David Tua, one of the biggest stars of the 1990s, announced his retirement at the weekend. Aged 39, Tua, one of the best heavyweights never to have won a world title, said he could no longer put what was needed into the sport for him to make it back to the top.
A fearsome puncher in his prime, with a rock of a chin to go with his lethal hands, the Samoan had some big, big fights (against Lennox Lewis, for one) but had things turned out differently, he could have had even more mega-fights. None would have been more epic than a fight between Tua and former heavyweight ruler Mike Tyson. Tyson was past his sizzling best at the time Tua was lighting up the division, yet this particular match-up was a possibility at one point (around the late ’90’s to early 2000s timeframe) – and one man who almost trained Tua for a time believes it would have been “The Tuaman’s” hand that got raised had this dream of a slugfest actually been served to the fans.
Freddie Roach, who worked with “Iron” Mike for a time, gave a most interesting interview with Auckland Now this week, and the ace-trainer said he feels Tua would have “outlasted Tyson” had the two bangers met way back when. Not only that, but Freddie said he thinks Tua had the stuff needed to become an “all-time great.”
“I was actually asked to train Tua one time and I was looking forward to working with him but he never showed up,” Roach told Aaron Lawton. “Tua, to me, was like….. well, I trained Mike Tyson and he and Tua both had good qualities – both were great punchers and were short, stocky, bob and weave type guys. But Tua had a better chin than Tyson and I thought he could have outlasted Tyson.
“But there was that point in his career where he had problems with his managers and his trainer and it seemed like he just fell apart. But Tua, I think, could have been all-time great.”
High praise indeed, coming from Roach. But is Freddie correct? On the Tyson thing, yes, I think he is. By the late 1990s, or even before, Tyson had been exposed as a great on top fighter, but one who crumbled when the going got tough – Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield (twice) proved this. Tyson was simply not that tough mentally. Tua, however, was.
For what it’s worth, I think a peak Tua – the man who went to war with the likes of Ike Ibeabuchi (oh, how great could an Ibeabuchi-Tyson fight have been!!), Hasim Rahman and John Ruiz – would have taken Tyson’s best in the early going, only to come back and take Mike’s heart; then either stopping him legit or making him quit. It would have been a great action fight, but Tua would simply have been too dangerous, too hungry and too strong mentally and physically for an admittedly past his best Tyson (had Tua met the 1986 to 1988 version of “Kid Dynamite” it would have been a different story).
Tua had problems with great boxers; guys who could move – such as Lewis and Chris Byrd, but against a Tyson, one in his early 30s, Tua would have been in his element. It would have been a case of puncher Vs. Puncher; tough guy Vs. tough guy. Tua was tougher!