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David Tua: A serious heavyweight contender again?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Heavyweight slugger David Tua (52-4-2, 43 KO) faces moderately high-ranked Alexander Ustinov (28-1, 21 KO) this Saturday in New Zealand. Although Tua hasn't fought in nearly two years, Tua vs Ustinov is being publicized as a heavyweight title eliminator between two fighters at a crossroads.

David Tua, now 40, took heavyweight boxing by storm in the mid to late 1990s and was, at one time, boxing's hottest prospect.

His menacing left hook was arguably the best punch in the heavyweight division and perhaps one of the most destructive in the entire history of the sport.

A couple of years after dropping a unanimous decision to then universally-recognized heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in 2000, trouble set in and his early success ended with an ugly parting-of-ways with his then-manager Kevin Barry.

Tua's career and life would go into a tailspin.

Saddled my managerial issues, marketable opponents and high-profile bouts eluded the fighter who was once boxing's fastest rising star.
After losing a decision to Hasim Rahman in March 2003, Tua fought more like a boxer in semi-retirement than a real heavyweight contender. Since then, 10 1/2 years ago, he's entered the ring a mere twelve times against run-in-the-mill opponents and journeymen. 

Although he earned millions from 1996 to 2003, including an estimated $12 million for his 2000 fight with Lewis, Tua and his family were literally homeless by 2011, living in a rental accommodation provided by a friend.

Ustinov, right, towers over the TuaMan


In fact, Australian media report Tua now sleeps at his boxing gym in Onehunga, Auckland and drives a black mini. His lifestyle is a far cry from what many of us would have projected in 1997.

But popular, crowd-pleasing heavyweights like Tua are always just one or two fights away from re-attaining the glory, fanfare and paydays they once enjoyed.

Moreover, David Tua, in the ring, is always a mere second from victory regardless of the opponent, situation or circumstance.

He has, or at least had, the punching power to end a bout with a glancing blow.

Is today's 40 year old version of David Tua still capable of whipping that monster left hook, quickly and with utter destruction? 

On Saturday, the 5'10" Tua faces his most formidable opponent in ten years in 6'7½" Alexander Ustinov (28-1, 21 KO). Hailing from Belarus, Ustinov is ranked No. 8, 12, and 15 by the IBF, WBA and WBO, respectively.

A Tua win would certainly thrust him back into the heavyweight picture.

Chris Martin, a former Tua trainer who has observed both combatants' training camps, told stuff.co.nz:

"... David's in great shape and if David's in great shape and in a good head space David's very dangerous"

"He's probably classically the better boxer, David would have more power and David would have the better chin too."

"... David looks really motivated and in great shape, that's why you have to lean David's way at being the favorite, for me anyway."

Will the TuaMan be a serious contender again come Saturday?


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