Tua ready to flex muscle, show Rahman his power

Heavyweight KO'd fighter from Baltimore in 1998

Boxing

March 27, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

A juggernaut, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, can be any large, overpowering, destructive force. There is also a mystically empowered comic book super villain by the same name whose forward motion can't be stopped.

David Tua, 30, can fit both descriptions in the boxing ring. That's where the stocky Samoan heavyweight has scored knockouts in all but five of his 42 victories, even as he has never been knocked down or out as an amateur or professional.

"I just keep coming," said Tua, 5 feet 9, 240-something pounds, who rarely takes a backward step. "My style is very simple: I come to fight. I'm going to be right in front of you from the first round to the final bell - if it goes the distance."

Tua (42-3) is looking to make short work of Baltimore's Hasim Rahman (35-4, 29 KOs) in their HBO-televised 12-rounder Saturday night at the First Union Spectrum in Philadelphia.

Taking place on the undercard of the record 16th title defense by undisputed middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins, who will face Mourade Hakkar of France, Tua-Rahman is a rematch of Tua's controversial knockout victory in 1998 in Miami.

Like Tua-Rahman I, the rematch is an International Boxing Federation eliminator bout, earning the winner a shot at champion Chris Byrd, who has beaten Tua by unanimous decision. Tua's victory over Rahman, 30, earned him a berth against Lennox Lewis, against whom he lost an equally lopsided 12-round decision.

And therein lies the one way slick fighters have defeated Tua: by not so much standing in with him, but by giving ground and out-boxing him.

"The tactical part of the sport is the toughest thing," said Tua. "Sometimes you don't get the guys to fight you, so therefore, they create problems. For me, you have guys that try to keep me at bay with the jab and try to beat me on points. But I impose an intimidating factor because I'm going to be right in front of you, regardless."

In preparation for Rahman, Tua said he broke two of the fiberglass body protectors - the equipment is two inches thick - worn by his trainer.

"I've been hitting very, very hard the last couple of times," said Tua, who has taken out his most recent rivals, former champ Michael Moorer and Russell Chasteen, in the first round. "That's what happens when I've sat down on my punches and concentrated on throwing hard shots."

Tua, whose full name is Mafaufau Tavita Lio Mafaufau Sanerivi Talimatasi, was born on Faleatiu, whose population of 296 makes it the smallest island in Western Somoa.

"The very first second I came out of my mother's womb, my dad said, `Throw the left hook, man,' " Tua said. "So I came out with the left hook."

At age 11, Tua moved with his family to Mangere Auckland, New Zealand. There, Tua's father, Tuavale, a former middleweight, randomly selected men off the street to spar with his son. If the men won, Tuavale would give them a loaf of bread from his family-run convenience store.

"I'm blessed with power," said Tua, who earned an Olympic bronze medal for New Zealand in 1992. "It's something that I need to capitalize on when I'm fighting."

That power snatched victory for Tua in his first bout with Rahman. The fight ended 35 seconds into the 10th round with a dazed Rahman on the ropes after Tua's brief burst of unanswered punches caused the referee to stop the fight.

"The referee was closest to the action and chose that moment to stop the fight, so therefore, he went forward and did it," said Tua, who trailed by seven points on two cards and by five on a third at the time of the stoppage. "I wanted to finish the fight the way I know how, and that's to lay him out. I was very disappointed with the outcome, because I didn't want it to end like that."

Moments earlier, having heard the round-ending bell, Rahman had dropped his guard along the ropes and gotten nailed on the jaw by Tua's powerful left hook. No foul was called, and Rahman was not given any recovery time. Tua cornered a still shaken Rahman early in the 10th.

"I wasn't planning to intentionally hit him after the bell, but I was throwing a combination and it ended with a left hook," Tua recently told USA Today. "When I did hit him, I didn't think anything of it. The referee was close to the action; it was his call."

Fight facts

Who:Hasim Rahman (35-4, 29 KOs) vs. David Tua (42-3, 37 KOs) in a 12-round International Boxing Federation heavyweight eliminator bout

Where:First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia

When:Saturday, 10 p.m.

TV:HBO

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