Sports correspondent & historian
Last Sunday was 17 years to the day, since David Tua challenged Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas, for the World Heavyweight championship.
No New Zealand boxer has made more of an impression on the world boxing stage than David Tua. While small in stature for a heavyweight and always battling his weight, he had a dynamic left hand, which was showcased by 16 round one KO's.
Tua's statistics were an impressive 59 fights for 52 wins - 5 losses - 2 draws, with as the American ring announcers say "43 wins coming by way of the big KO".
Countless stories have been told and written which say that Tua froze on the big stage etc, etc. The reality is that Lennox Lewis used his height and massive reach advantage to keep David at bay and win the fight by way of an easy unanimous point’s decision.
There has been no bigger fight in New Zealand, than David Tua verses Shane Cameron at Mystery Creek in Hamilton in 2009, for a reputed million dollar purse shared between the two fighters.
A Tua camp insider told this writer, that David was hurt by a lot of the media stories and wanted to make an emphatic statement, about who was the best Kiwi heavyweight boxer of the time. Seven seconds into round two, the bout came to a dramatic end, with Cameron languishing on the canvas and Tua quietly smiling in triumph.
Before turning professional, David Tua wrote his name into the annuals of New Zealand sporting history, earning an Olympic Bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, at just nineteen years of age. He became just the third New Zealand boxer to win an Olympic medal, following Ted Morgan (Gold) in 1928 and Kevin Barry junior (Silver) at the 1984 Los Angeles games.
In 1991 he had showcased his prodigious talent by winning a bronze medallion at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Sydney, becoming the only Kiwi to win a world boxing championships medal.
Respect is a word one wouldn't usually associate with boxing. The media take great delight in headlining the trash-talk before big professional fights. The recent Joseph Parker weigh-in with Hughie Fury, showed Fury's coach going ballistic, with such scenes about antagonizing the opposition to give your fighter a (perceived) advantage.
However after most fights, the two fighters who were moments before trying to knock their opponent to the deck, embrace in genuine respect for each other's performance in the ring.
A classic display of mutual respect was witnessed on the recent Shane Cameron fight night televised on Sky. Both Cameron and David Tua were interviewed together and were fulsome in their praise of each other, both in the ring and in the intervening years since their big scrap in the Tron.
David and Shane both remain heavily involved in the sport running large boxing gyms. They both have a desire to give back to their communities through the sport that they love, mentoring the rising stars of the future who often come from the wrong side of the tracks.
Today boxing establishments have come a long way from the mainly dingy back- street operations of the 1960's, 70's and 80's. In today's world, most gyms have a focus on fitness training with the majority of their clients utilizing the rigours of boxing training to keep fit.
A by-product has been the unprecedented rise of Corporate Boxing where two equally matched opponents enter the ring for what is usually the first time in their life. Facing the fears of entering the ring and taking on an opponent in combat usually stays with the novice boxer forever.