Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Opinion: Tua - Barrett

This Sunday (NZ time) we see heavyweight David "The Tuamanator" Tua take on former world title challenger Monte "Two Gunz" Barrett. Tua has been relatively active since October ’09 after a two year absence from the ring due to legal and managerial issues. This will be his third comeback bout which included a second round destruction of heavyweight countryman Shane Cameron and a decision win over the granite chinned Friday Ahunanya. A win for the WBO #2 ranked Tua would mean that he would inch closer to a title shot (David Haye also used Barrett as a springboard) however he would have to do so emphatically. A loss for either man would spell the end of their respective careers as both are inching closer to 40 and Monte Barrett, in particular, will be trying to halt a three fight skid.

We all know how David Tua rolls – left hooks to the dome. In fact, he seems to do so with such success that it seems to be his only major offense. And, hell, why not? If nobody can stand up to it then is there really any need to develop anything further? Of late, however, Tua’s offense seems a lot more well rounded as anything he threw put Cameron on the mat and he varied his attack in his last bout with Ahunanya. That left hand still has ‘kefe’ written all over it, as shown against Mexican Heavyweight Champion Saul Montana.

Tua also seems to have a lot more momentum going in. A draw with Hasim Rahman in March ’03 is the only blight on his ledger since he was outboxed by Chris Byrd way back in August of 2001. That’s almost nine years without a loss. Since his career “went to the Byrds” Tua has stopped the undefeated Fres Oquendo, former heavyweight titlist Michael Moorer, and contenders such as the aforementioned Cameron and Ahunanya. Sandwiched between these bouts, however, are some truly awful opponents and Barrett will be the most credible foe he has faced in a number of years.

"The Tuamanator's" chin and defense has always been completely underrated. He was knocked down after the bell at the end of his draw with Rahman but, being completely unprepared to take a punch, Tua was undoubtedly going to react. Before that incident, the last time Tua touched down was when he was stopped by three time Olympic champion Felix Savon at the 1991 World Amateur Championships. He has never been seriously hurt in a bout and hardly ever takes a backward step, which is also due to his head movement and parrying ability.

Tua's condition has been unreliable at best. For someone who first turned pro weighing 200 pounds, he has ballooned up to as much as 253 and not looking in the best condition. These fluctuations put a serious damper on Tua’s productivity and, at the worst of times, he has looked like a world class puncher who doesn’t want to throw a punch. To his credit, Tua has been under 240 for his last four bouts and, the last two in particular, have seen Tua put massive emphasis on his physical conditioning. This focus on conditioning seems to have drained Tua of some of his power and his shots are not landing with the same force we have come accustomed to but, if he is throwing more of them, then at least a proactive style will mean he is not in a position where he is behind on the cards and has to look for a stoppage late in the bout. It is exactly this position which has forced him into seeking desperate late knockouts over the likes of Oleg Maskaev, Hasim Rahman and Fres Oquendo.

As much people love to talk about Tua’s left hand, we must note he has been almost entirely reliant on it which has made him rather one-dimensional. Anyone with any semblance of a jab and the movement to stay out of the way of the left has a better than average chance of coming out on top. Barrett is a tall heavyweight and, if he can assert any kind of stick and move and control the distance, may just be all Tua can handle.

At 6’3’’, Barrett will be the tallest opponent Tua has faced in a long time. At (a billed height of) 5’10’’, Tua has massive problems with taller fighters who can establish the jab and control the distance. Hell, Tua only scraped by with a split decision over the 6’4’’ Cisse Salif in October of ’05 as he had difficulties trying to get inside and when he could, he just couldn’t dent him. However, to date, of Salif’s 17 losses only one has come via the short route and Barrett’s chin is certainly not of that calibre.

Barrett also has the edge in competition faced of late in facing a bevy of the heavyweight elite. True, most of these were in losing efforts however has notable wins on his ledger including stoppages of the then undefeated Owen Beck, overhyped challenger Tye Fields and a decision win over former contender Dominic Guinn. His notable losses have been against Odlanier Solis, David Haye, Nikoly Valuev, Hasim Rahman and Wladimir Klitschko. The 2008 first round stop of Tye Fields is his best win of late.

Although not a legitmate show-stopper, Barrett has a pretty hard uppercut. If Tua does manage to get inside of him then there will be plenty to think about before letting his hands go. This tool may be vital in controlling distance with Tua, which is the time-tested method to beat him.

The most glaring of all Barrett’s weaknesses is his obvious lack of punch resistance. Five of his nine losses are by stoppage with two of his last three ending with him on his back. Albeit these were to two big punchers in the form of Solis and Haye however Valuev, who has only moderate power, stopped in 11 rounds in defending his WBA strap in ’06 and the 25-12-2 Cliff Couser decked him in 2 rounds in the very next fight. Against a world class power puncher like Tua, Barrett has no chance of withstanding the heavy exchanges and would hope to keep himself at a distance.

Although against decent opposition, Barrett is 3-5 in his last 8 bouts and 4 of those 5 losses have ended with Barrett unable to make it back to his feet. At 39 years old, Barrett is a shadow of the second tier contender that he was in his prime. True, Tua is 38 also but there is relatively little wear on Tua in comparison and he certainly hasn’t been knocked out four times in the last four years.

Even with a solid game plan, there just doesn’t seem to be a way for Barrett to win. He simply isn’t physically able to withstand what he is undoubtedly going to eat. Failing sudden cardiac death, spontaneous combustion and alien abduction, Tua should walk through Barrett with relative ease. Doing so impressively should help further thrust him into the heavyweight title picture.

Tua KO

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