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Aretha demanded, David Tua deserves.... RESPECT

Aretha Franklin demanded and David Tua deserves it....R.E.S.P.E.C.T!

By John Tulloch

The reaction to Tua's 51 second demolition of Obed Sullivan at the weekend was as predictable as it is annoying. Talk of Sullivan being yet another 'noddy' journeyman who one's granny could have put away inside one round abounded. Fight after fight David Tua gets verbal knocks as hard as those he physically dishes out in the ring.

But the facts don't lie and people, especially those with a scant knowledge of boxing and the heavyweight division in particular need to take note.

David Tua is the number one ranked contender by the IBF which has ordered champion Lennox Lewis to fight him no later than November. The kiwi is the 6th-ranked contender by the WBA and WBC. However in both those divisions the top contender is John Ruiz, a man Tua despatched in a mere 19 seconds in Atlantic City back in 1996.

A widely respected group of 37 boxing journalists in the US and UK rank the New Zealander the third contender behind Michael Grant and Evander Holyfield. Bottom line, however much people back here want to bag him, Tua is rated right up there by those in the know.

He has fashioned a reputation as the heaviest hitter in the heavyweight division and the comparisons to a young Mike Tyson continue. And unlike Iron Mike, the Terminator is a focused, sane individual with a charming demeanour outside the ring. In a sport blighted by corruption, drugs and sheer loopy behaviour, this clean-living kid from South Auckland could be just what the sport needs. 20

Manager Kevin Barry has copped plenty of flak for putting his boy up against so many slugs. Who can forget that farce in Auckland when an overweight, sloppy Cecil Coffee suddenly became 'Instant' Coffee as he crashed to the canvas with a strong suggestion of a dive.

But Barry's brief was this. To guide David Tua up the rankings and to get him a title shot. Barry, who's prone to hyperbole and typical boxing hype has been talking up his charge as a potential world champion for years. At times I admit I was incredulous but the rankings tell the story. It is one of the more remarkable New Zealand sporting achievements that we now have a fighter just one bout away from a crack at the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In managing that, Barry has been an outstanding success. David Tua has not dodged tough bouts, rather he has suffered from the murky world of promoters in the States making sure they kept him away from some of the better fighters about. It's been a slow, at times infuriating process to get Tua to where he is, but the man is about to arrive assuming the Lewis camp live up to their part of the bargain.

If there's a nagging doubt about Tua's ability to pull off the big one, it's ring rust. He's had just three bouts in the last two-and-a-half years which have lasted a total of less than four rounds (two first round knockouts and one in the second round). His previous true test was way back in December 1998 in Miami when he finally stopped Hasim Rahman in the 10th round.

Tua has one more scheduled bout next month before possibly the title shot in November. Lewis is a big, skilful man, and one would imagine if it went the distance it would be a convincing victory to the Englishman on points. But Tua, being dubbed the 'Throwin' Samoan' in the US has taken an average of just 3.9 rounds over his 37 pro bouts before bringing about a result. He would probably have to take a 'death or glory' approach and attack from the outset with the hope of achieving a quick decision.

It's been a long journey for this unassuming kiwi with the ultimate prize now within sight. For just getting to this point David Tua should finally be given the recognition he deserves.


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