Ok, people, this is not going to be another Dscribe epic. As befits the tightness of the struggle, I have for you only a short subject...
The story of Lewis-Tua: too much poi; too little pow.
The old bromide in the boxing game is that "styles make fights," and every once in a while, a contest comes along that lets the old-timers say "I told ya so," that makes all the old adages ring true. I told everyone who would listen around my office water cooler that this had the makings of an easy night for the vastly-underrated Sir Lennox (who has grown into his championship belt in a way that even his most ardent early 90s supporters must find hard to fathom). Sticking a short-armed, stocky, vertically-challenged guy in the ring with a powerful, rangy boxer like Lewis is like asking the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli to charge so many machine gun nests. Suicide. And we all should have seen it.
There isn't much to say about the bout itself. No matter how much of a Don King David Tua managed to grow before the opening bell, he still gave away a whole lot of inches and the sight of him lumbering around the ring, short-arming those tipsy nightclub-bouncer haymakers at Lewis' far-distant chin was bewildering. Although Tua occasionally planted a thudding body shot, or an impressive-looking left-hook to the Lewis right glove, it seemed that the number of meaningful Tua shots could have been counted on two hands. Lewis, being in one of his "economical" moods, did little more than he needed to win, pawing out a lazy left jab that, all alone, seemed enough to keep Tua at bay. Every now and again, almost out of boredom, as if to simply see if he still remembered how, Lewis would erupt in a flurry, unsheathing his formidable right cross and bouncing body shots of his own off Tua's ample midsection. He did just enough to win, but did it easily, and left no doubt that there were many more bombs in the armory.
I didn't take the time to score this fight, but a shutout for Lewis was not beyond question (although the grumpy Anglophobes who resent Lewis' bouts of safety-first-ism surely gave some of the sleepy early rounds to the Samoan challenger).
As has become the fashion, the loser's corner instantly weighed in with the physical disabilities that prevented their fighter from performing at his peak(remember Andrej Golota and his novocaine shots?). Supposedly, an injured rib cartilage affected Tua's ability to fight, but -- let's be honest -- the last rib that gave a guy that much trouble was borrowed from Adam. Tua could have had a better rack of ribs than Chili's; it would not have mattered unless a healed cartilage could have added six inches of reach, shrunk the size of Tua's head to offer a harder target for Lewis' jab, trimmed twenty pounds from the challenger's torso and miraculously enabled the challenger to cut off the ring, which he was unable to do all night long.
And yet, David Tua was undoubtedly the consensus #1 challenger. Which raises the question of who was to blame for this unnecessary drain of $49.95 from the wallets of America's workers? Is the heavyweight division really so devoid of meaningful challengers for a much-maligned champion who has quietly mopped up top contender after top contender in this new, supremely confident and masterful autumn of his career? Or was Lewis-Tua a mismatch all along, a case of a distinctive, charismatic young fighter rushed too soon into a high-dollar "event" that used loincloths and conch-blowing heralds and Polynesian drummers and Samoan war chants to mask the obviously divergent skill levels of the fighters? What? Boxing dress up a Jetta as a Jaguar to fake out the PPV-buying public? The devil you say!
I'm afraid it's not that simple. David Tua was the real deal, the best guy out there for Lewis to fight (unless you happen to be one of the delusional Tysonians holding on to yesterday). The division is simply low on talent these days and -- even more heretical -- people have consistently failed to give the champion his due.
Whether it's the silly, glassy-eyed Holyfield Posse who insist that fight #1 was a draw and fight #2 was a robbery, the Tyson nostalgists who yearn for the thirty-second demolitions of the mid-80s, or any of a number of angry old purists who find Lewis' flawless diction, ready wit, gentrified art-collecting lifestyle and refusal to pander to the "action" crowd's bloodlust unbecoming in a heavyweight champ, a big segment of fans has failed to embrace the undisputed king. Lewis has demonstrated time and again that he is the master of his craft. No heavy in recent memory has had a more thorough understanding of what he needed to do, the tools available to him and how to deploy them. And he has shown, much to his financial detriment, that he doesn't give a rat's rump roast about public expectations. He comes to win, and win he does.
In the end this may work for him, as he becomes boxing's own Gorgeous George, a second Ali in the sense that people on this side of the Atlantic will begin to tune in just to see him be beaten. But even at age 35, Lewis may make those naysayers wait a long, long time. (As for the obscenely rich lucrefest that is an impending Lewis-Tyson fight -- the 800 pound gorilla of boxing match-ups that can name its own price -- could there be any reasonable doubt that the Fighter Formerly Known As The Baddest Man on the Planet will be just an older, angrier, dirtier David Tua, head-bobbing at the end of the Lewis jab, shaking off right hand after right hand on the way to a lopsided loss and a post-fight interview complaining that "he wouldn't fight me"? Granted, the foul-filled circus ending that this fight promises could be grotesquely amusing, but, just the same, that's fitty bucks I'm going to save in the bank.)
As for Tua, he can survive this fight (which may go down in history not as the Royal Rampage, but as the Poly Folly), as long as he understands that to crack the very highest level in the division, he doesn't simply need to bring the boxing fans of Auckland to his next title contest to yell and scream; he needs to bring Samoa.
In fact, LOTS mo'a...
With profuse apologies to the prelim fighters, whose bouts I also didn't score, one last observation: when was the last time you saw a PPV bout with such a balanced, competitive, entertaining undercard? Sincere congratulations to John-John Molina (whose career has new life after a masterclass display), Ben Tackie, Jesse "James" Leija, Ivan Robinson, Clifford Etienne (the next heavy hope?) and Lawrence Clay-Bey for giving the fans something they haven't seen in ages, a full nights' entertainment.
These days, the sun may set on the British Empire, but it could be years before it sets on Lennox Lewis. Lewis may not be your cup o' Earl Grey, but if tonight was any indication, he's going to be the guy dispensing the lumps for the foreseeable future...