Exactly one year ago this weekend, boxing fans shut the book on David Tua's career as a serious heavyweight contender. An embarrassing loss to Chris Byrd, the result of lousy conditioning, was the third strike. Having already walked through his shot at Lennox Lewis (strike one) and having barely escaped with a victory against Danell Nicholson (strike two), the iron-chinned left hooker looked finished. Flash forward 365 days and Tua is once again making serious waves in the heavyweight division. His blink-of-an-eye demolition of aging Michael Moorer may not be a victory to boast about, but in today's heavyweight division, a win is a win and a concussive knockout is a first class ticket to a title shot.
Michael Moorer's southpaw stance might have given David Tua trouble had the two-time heavyweight champion of the world not squared up on his opponent only seconds into their fight. As the men met at center ring, Tua threw a right to the body, and Moorer moved his right leg back to absorb the blow. Putting his hand on Tua's ducked head, Moorer guided the charging bull into the ropes as he landed two more rib-cracking body shots. Referee Rudy Battle was about to step in and call for a break when Moorer voluntarily spun off the ropes, catching part of a Tua left hook in the process.
Tua was on top of Moorer, following him straight back into his own corner. Moorer stopped when his back hit the ropes. Again, he meekly tried to tie up Tua by placing his left hand over Tua's draped neck. With his rear semi-resting on the middle rope, Moorer had to lazily lean forward to attempt the semi-clinch. He leaned right into a wild Tua roundhouse right. Fight over.
Tua's mammoth fist busted Moorer right on the mouth, and his legs melted underneath him. As he started slowly slumping in place, Tua clipped the top of his head with a follow-up hook and second right hand. Neither blow was flush, but each snapped Moorer's limp head to sideways. As Tua turned to retreat to a neutral corner, Moorer's unconscious body fell back over the bottom rope. Moorer's eyes were open, but were completely blank. For a few seconds, his upper torso hovered in air. He was motionless. Rudy Battle didn't even pretend to begin counting. Tua by KO in 30 seconds.
Before we all hop on the Tua bandwagon, let's remember a couple of key facts:
First: Michael Moorer was not a suitable challenge. The former champion was coming off a two year drinking binge, er, layoff. In his six return fights, Moorer had failed to look impressive against bottom-of-the-barrel competition. And let's not forget that Moorer, a natural light-heavyweight, had never faced anyone with the size or power of Tua.
Second: As good as Tua looked, this fight lasted only 30 seconds. After his fight with Chris Byrd, we wrote:
"The new, slim Tua looked a lot like the old, slim Tua... for about 30 seconds. In the opening moments of the first round, Tua effectively cut off the ring against the circling Byrd and caught the southpaw in a corner. Stepping in close enough to punch, Tua quickly unleashed a left and a right to the body and followed with a solid left hook that caught Byrd as he spun out to center ring."
Does that sound familiar? After his 30 seconds of glory against Byrd, Tua went on to do a whole lot of nothing for 12 rounds. Tua's weight for the Byrd fight: 233. Tua's weight for the Moorer fight: 243. If Moorer could have somehow lasted a round or two, it may have been a whole different fight. Which is not to take anything away from Tua's impressive knockout... but it is to say that the jury is still out on this late-career "comeback."
And even though Tua may not be fully revived in our book, we'd still pick him to repeat his 19-second kayo of John Ruiz. And that alone makes him a legitimate challenger... for at least one of the titles.
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