Tua's power on display on Teamsters Hall card Unbeaten heavyweight got his start in New Zealand

July 20, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

David Tua vividly recalls the painful lessons he endured as a youth in New Zealand, learning to box under the tough discipline of his father, Tuavale, a former middleweight.

"At first, I hated boxing," said Tua, a highly promising, unbeaten (23-0, 19 KOs) heavyweight whose power will be on display against Anthony Cooks tomorrow night at Teamsters Hall.

"When I was 7 or 8, my father had me wearing those big pillow gloves that I could hardly lift. By my early teens, after I learned the rudiments, I got more interested in fighting."

But his father grew more demanding. He would pick men off the streets to spar against his son in front of the family-owned convenience store in Auckland.

"If they whipped me, he'd reward them with sweets," said Tua. "Eventually, I tried to avoid those afternoon confrontations."

In time, however, the ruggedly built youth won all those impromptu battles and realized he had a natural gift for boxing.

"The Lord gives everyone God-given talents, and mine was for fighting," said Tua, now 23 and a solid 225 pounds. "It was only a matter of time for me to realize it and, with my father's encouragement, learn to fight to the best of my ability."

By the time he was 14, Tua had blossomed to 175 pounds and was winning national titles against boys two and three years older.

In 1990, the native of Western Samoa set his sights on the Commonwealth Games in his adopted hometown of Auckland.

"I planned to fight in the nationals as a light heavyweight, but the night before I was scheduled to fight, I ate a lot of fatty foods and couldn't make the weight."

Instead, Tua competed as a heavyweight and won his weight class. But then the politicians ruled he was too young to represent New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games.

"I couldn't accept this in my heart, and it became a real controversy back home," said Tua, who now spends most of his time in the United States.

"Everyone thought I was being robbed of my opportunity. But, eventually, I won the Oceanic Games, and they couldn't keep me off the 1992 Olympic team.

"People kept saying I wasn't ready for that tough competition in Barcelona," he added. "But I believed in myself, my father and friends who supported me. I knew I could do it."

Tua returned to New Zealand with a bronze medal and a pro contract from Lou Duva, the veteran trainer, whose late son, Dan, was president and promoter of Main Events Inc.

"I loved this kid's potential," said Duva. "I followed him all over Barcelona until I got his name on paper."

Since turning pro in 1992, Tua has been refining his boxing skills under the tutelage of Ronnie Shields. But it is his raw power that has boxing aficionados comparing him to a young Rocky Marciano or Mike Tyson, both similar in build and style.

Tua's succession of quick knockouts has come against a procession of obscure opponents. He received his biggest exposure last March on an HBO card called "Night of the Young Heavyweights" that also featured then-undefeated Andrew Golota and Shannon Briggs.

Tua stole the show. In 19 seconds, he flattened John Ruiz, who came in with a 25-2 record.

"Everyone talks about Mike Tyson," said Duva. "Maybe now they'll start talking about David Tua."

Fight facts

Who: David Tua (23-0), Auckland, New Zealand, vs. Anthony Cooks (11-4), Oklahoma City, heavyweights, 10 rounds. Michael Grant (19-0), Paterson, N.J., vs. Ross Puritty (16-8), El Paso, Texas, heavyweights, 10 rounds; Ivan Robinson (23-0), Philadelphia, vs. Emanuel Burton (10-5), Baton Rouge, La., lightweights, 10 rounds.

When: Sunday, first preliminary, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Teamsters Hall, 6000 block of Erdman Avenue.

TV: ESPN, 9 p.m..

Tickets: $40, $30, $25. Call (410) 528-1932.

Pub Date: 7/20/96

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