David Tua. Photo Getty
His retirement freshly announced, David Tua opened his
dressing room door to an expectant media and, with an air of
relaxed melancholy and rueful smiles, began answering questions
about his future.
Would he go into politics? It was an option but there was
nothing definite going on yet. Later, it emerged that talk of
him entering politics came up during a Tua visit to a school,
in a Q&A session.
"I didn't go there to start a political party or anything,"
"But the subject came up and some people got excited about
it. There were a lot of Maori and Polynesian kids there - and
a lot of Pakeha too - and I was interested enough to say that
I would like to help. But we'll have to see what happens
there; it could just be doing something in the community, you
Was he at peace now? He was, but in spite of the rather RIP
dimensions of the question, it was plain that Tua's decision
was the right one.
Halfway through the fight, it became obvious that Tua
comeback Mark II was going the way of Tua comeback Mark I -
only in a much shorter time frame and with a much fitter,
superbly fit, Tua.
He said afterwards that his heart wasn't in it. He maintained
that he wasn't thinking of quitting during the fight and that
"I left it all in there - it just wasn't happening".
His surprised connections had no idea he was thinking of
retirement - his media statements before the fight maintained
that he would be boxing on regardless. Tua is no media
manipulator, so that rather suggests he went into this fight
thinking he would ride the wave if he beat giant Belarusian
Alexander Ustinov but would give it away if he couldn't.
After all, he has genuinely twice been close to getting a
world title fight with one of the world champion Klitschko
brothers and also came close to a mouth-watering bout with
Mike Tyson - plus that ill-fated world heavyweight tilt at
Lennox Lewis in 2000 where Tua was criticised for not firing
But, in the end, no matter how fit and well-prepared he was,
there is no way back mentally if the "R" word has intruded on
a fighter's thought processes. It was obvious by round six
that Tua was coming a distant second and that his power, at
nearly 41, was not what it was.
Fighting either one of the Klitschkos was touted as a
distinct possibility before the Ustinov bout and, in
fight-fixing terms, it was - but Ustinov soon gave the lie to
that. In spite of all Tua's hard work and preparation, he was
outclassed and frustrated much of his fan base by not
storming the larger man until it was too late.
Ustinov fought a simple fight. A jab, sometimes a double jab,
a straight right and he quickly moved back beyond Tua's
hitting circle. Ustinov was a better mover than expected, his
jabs were heavy and earned respect and even when Tua caught
him, the punches did not trouble him much.
Tua did not think losing 50kg had robbed him of any power
and, if that is true, then it is genuinely time for him to
retire. He hasn't knocked anyone out for a long time now.
Ustinov is no Klitschko but fought a very Klitschko fight -
boring but effective. It was strongly reminiscent of the
Once, Tua would have been a knockout threat even in the last
round. But, as had happened with Monte Barrett in his last
fight, it was Tua little, Tua late - with the larger men
picking him off using height and reach.
What life will bring now for Tua is uncertain. He is thought
to have earned about $300,000 for this, his last fight, but
it is also understood he is still in considerable debt. He
will also have to avoid the health problems that loomed when
he ballooned out to 50kg heavier than his 107kg fighting
weight - and he acknowledged that himself.
Tua still has his health, his family, a future, and, if he
never quite made it to world champion level, he scared the
hell out of a few who did.
- Paul Lewis of the Herald on Sunday