David Tua has been given the recipe for redemption and a second shot at sports’ greatest prize - boxing’s world heavyweight crown.
On the eve of Saturday’s Hydr8 ZERO David vs Goliath bout against the giant ‘Beast from the East’, Belarusian Alexander Ustinov, Tua has been told that a knock out win in the Sky Arena pay-per-view event will catapult him to a shot against one of the two Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir.
"If he wins and he is impressive, then will David Tua get a title shot? Yes. Definitely," said the Klitschko’s K2 Promotions CEO Alexander Krasyuk.
That will be all the motivation Tua needs as he counts down to the bout at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton.
Tua, who famously took on Lennox Lewis in 2000 for the world title, will battle the odds against the giant Russian who stands eight inches taller, is ranked inside the top ten of both the IBF and WBA and has just one career loss from his 29 professional bouts.
In contrast Tua (40) hasn’t fought for two years and hasn’t knocked out an opponent for an incredible 46 rounds stretching back to his destruction job on Shane Cameron in 2009’s Fight of the Century.
But the Tuamanator that fronted the Auckland media with Ustinov today is a different fighter to anything the boxing world has seen from him since the first of his elongated breaks from the sport in 2003.
He is free of the distractions of a long court case and multiple personal and financial issues which have combined to cloud his fight preparations for the last eight years.
That has allowed him to be totally focused on his craft and the results have been stunning.
Tua has literally been working harder than he has at any stage of his career.
In the last few months he has dropped an incredible 50kg and is expected to weigh in between 105kg and 108kgs - his prime weight for battle.
More importantly, his mental focus is stronger than ever.
Not even the death of long time friend - rugby legend Peter Fatialofa - has fazed him.
"I am very sad about it," Tua said. "But it hasn’t knocked me. People have been surprised to hear that I will go to his funeral. They think it will be too emotional for me and that it might put me in a negative space.
"But I will go to the funeral. It’s important that I go. And it won’t take away my focus on Saturday’s fight. Nothing can take away that focus. I am in the zone. My blinkers are on. All I see is the ring and all I think about is what I have to do when I get inside the ropes.
"I have put too much work in to be sidetracked now. I don’t know that I have ever been this focused; this intense. But I’m relaxed too. I am very calm. And I am this way because I know I am prepared. Ain’t nothing going to stop me now!"
Ustinov, of course, will have other ideas.
The delay to the fight - the Hydr8 ZERO David vs Goliath was originally slated for August - has been disruptive for the Belarusian and, given Tua’s weight loss, a positive for the throwin’ Samoan.
But Ustinov is adamant those frustrations are behind him.
"I haven’t come all this way to lose," he said.
"I know the job I have to do. David Tua is a dangerous fighter but so I am.
"I have no fear of him or anyone else.
"I am prepared to fight 12 of the toughest rounds of my career if that’s what it takes to defeat him.
"David Tua might want to be the next challenger for the world title. I am planning for the same thing."
Famed boxing commentator Colonel Bob Sheridan, who has called 945 world title fights over a career spanning 45 years and who will call the fight on Sky Arena, is confident Tua can win the Hydr8 ZERO David vs Goliath bout.
"Everyone will talk about the difference in size. But that’s a non-factor. David is used to being the smaller guy in the ring. He’s always been the smaller fighter in the ring," he said.
"The key to his fight is to get Ustinov to drop his hands and expose himself to David’s left hook. To do that David will need to hit him with some ferocious left hooks to the body.
"Ustinov will try and maul him but David can’t allow him to do that. He needs to be the General in the ring. The only way to do that is by burying a right hand in his gut then hitting him in the jaw with his left in the first round. That will set the tone for the war that will follow. But he’s got to get the Belarusian’s attention early..."
Meanwhile, in the best traditions of promoters Duco Events, the undercard is one of the best ever assembled here in New Zealand.
There’s the trans-Tasman trilogy bout between New Zealand’s Nicki Bigwood and the glamorous Australian Lauryn Eagle and the ‘son of ‘All Black great Inga Tuigamala - Bubba Tuigamala - will debut in the pro ranks. Undefeated Kiwi Light Middleweight Cairo George makes an appearance before two of the best Light Heavyweights go at it by-way of the bout between Nikolas Charalampous and Rico Nee. Sam ‘the Terror’ Rapira is back in action and, of course Robbie ‘the Butcher’ Berridge will face one of his toughest tests of his career when he gloves up against Daniel Mackinnon for the WBA-PABA and WBO Oriental light heavyweight belts.
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