David Tua shows his dejection after losing to Alexander
Ustinov. Photo Getty Images
In the end Goliath was just too big for David - and David
Tua ended his heavyweight boxing career in retirement last
With the words: "It's time for me to do something else, I
think", Tua is gone from the ranks of the heavyweights and
retired as New Zealand's leading modern boxer.
Alexander Ustinov might be 2.03m and 132kg and not the
fastest boxer ever seen in the ring - but for Tua, it was
like fighting a tree with a 2m jab.
Ranked 8th, 12th and 15th in the world respectively in three
of boxing's four world bodies, Ustinov looked a formidable
opponent as the two faced each other in the ring, the height
and weight advantage crystal clear; Ustinov's waistband came
up to Tua's chest.
He won a comfortable victory in the end, a unanimous points
decision, in spite of a barnstorming Tua finish in the 12th
round. By that time, Tua needed a knockout to win and was
taking a punch from the big Belarusian to give on.
There was once another Ustinov - actor, writer and raconteur
Peter Ustinov who said: "I imagine hell like this: Italian
punctuality, German humour and English wine." David Tua might
add another element to that - the 2m jab of Alexander
Ustinov, the enormous 2.03m, 132kg heavyweight.
For those who watched the Tua fight with world heavyweight
champion Lennox Lewis in 2000, the fight seemed disturbingly
similar - Tua unable to breach the forbidding ramparts of the
much bigger man, falling victim to a points lead and unable
to connect with the fight-finishing punch.
It may be that, at 40, the Tua power has diminished. Or maybe
he lost so much weight that it affected his power. Either
way, the bombs never quite dropped - and when they did,
Ustinov survived them.
A win would have meant Tua had a future at the top level -
and the way he has prepared for this fight and the way he
turned out for the bout was admirable.
This was no soft comeback. Ustinov is an awkward fighter for
anyone and is the sort of boxer Tua has had problems with the
past. His height makes him hard to tag on the chin and he is
well used to shorter boxers banging away at the body; he has
a well-developed guard. He is also a champion kickboxer and a
decorated war hero in Russia's ill-fated Chechen campaign.
He is a better mover than might be expected for such a big
man; no Michael Jackson, perhaps, but his ring movement is
good and hand speed is enough to make that massive 2m jab and
straight right difficult to slip and counter.
There was no secret about his tactics in this fight. Bear
down on Tua, using his height and extended reach. The jab was
ever-present, sometimes pawing but mostly faster than
expected - and he hit and retreated, mostly circling away
from the trademark Tua left.
In the first two rounds, probably won by Ustinov, the big man
scored more with jabs while a patient Tua partially landed a
looping left hook in the first and continued trying to find
his range in the second. Tua did better in the third, upping
the ante with a right to the body and one left-right
combination that had the crowd on their feet and Ustinov
The fourth and fifth round re-established the early pattern -
the big Belarusian jabbing and double-jabbing to score
points; sometimes a double jab, sometimes the straight right.
The punches were not hurting Tua, though they brought
respect, his face marked by the heavy hands; Tua continued
looking for an opening without landing much.
Ustinov was building up a big points lead and Tua's face was
showing evidence of the impact of the Belarussian's jab and
one right hand in the fifth round. At round six, the halfway
mark, Ustinov probably had five rounds. Tua was busier in the
seventh and eighth, hunting his man and moving forward - but
was still facing a points deficit.
In the ninth, things began to change. Tua landed two lefts to
the head - not the bone-crunchers of the past and, though
Ustinov's head snapped back a little, he seemed to wear them
well. The 10th saw Ustinov beginning to miss more and Tua
finding his range better - but it was still Ustinov's fight
Tua stormed at him in the 12th, landing two good lefts - but
it wasn't enough.
Tua had been absent from the ring for two years and hasn't
knocked anyone out for four. However, his last four fights
were missing two things - Lee Parore as his trainer and Duco
Events as his promoters and de facto managers.
In his slow decline from his 2009 comeback and triumphant
return over Shane Cameron, Tua split from long-time promoter
Cedric Kushner, managing himself and doing his own
promotional work directly with Sky TV.
As is so often the case when boxers try to mix
self-management and promotion with staying in the ring, it
didn't work. Tua suffered a reverse when he drew with recent
nemesis Monte Barrett in their first fight in the US,
suffering the first knockdown in his career. He then turned
up under-prepared and overweight for the return bout - which
he lost even though he cracked Barrett's jaw and had him down
right at the end of the fight.
The contrast between that period of Tua's boxing life and his
fight with Ustinov last night was stark. Tua looked even
slimmer than when he took on Cameron - even exciting comment
that he might have lost too much weight and affected his
Whatever the truth of that, the sad fact is that the career
of David Tua as a heavyweight boxer is now over.
In the other main attraction, light-heavyweight Robbie
Berridge earned a TKO over Daniel McKinnon in a brawling,
bloodied bout for the WBA-PABA and the WBO Oriental
In other bouts, Bubba Tuigamala, son of Inga, beat
Wellington's Clint Foai by a TKO in round two, Australia's
Lauryn Eagle won a unanimous points decision over Tauranga's
Nicki Bigwood, Hamilton's light middleweight Cairo George won
a unanimous decision over game Aucklander Ricky Campbell, Sam
Rapira stopped Isaia Maku in the first round of their
light-heavyweight bout and interesting 20-year-old
light-heavy Nikolas Charalampous wore down Rico Chong Nee
with a concentrated assault.