- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

LAS VEGAS. If David Tua had beaten Lennox Lewis, he was booked to be on Conan O'Brien's show tomorrow night.

Instead, he's booked on an Air New Zealand flight today.

Goodbye, Tuaman. It was fun until you had to fight.

The Tuaman show one of the greatest products of hype seen recently in boxing closed Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas when Lewis began throwing his stiff and powerful left jab in the first round. He threw it and threw it and threw it until, when the bell rang to end the final round, he had thrown 527 jabs.

According to CompuBox numbers, Lewis landed 213 of them, though it seemed to be a lot more. That was all the 6-foot-5 Lewis, with a 15-inch reach advantage, needed to easily defeat the 5-10 Tua, who couldn't or wouldn't get inside to land his power shots.

Though Lewis won easily judge Jerry Roth scored the fight 117-111, the same score I had, while Dave Moretti called it 119-109 and Chuck Giampa 118-110 he didn't do what his trainer, Emanuel Steward, had hoped he would.

Before the fight, Steward talked about how important it was for Lewis (38-1-1, 29 knockouts) not just to win but win impressively, to deliver the kind of devastating knockout that gets the attention of the public the kind of knockout a 6-5, 250-pound fighter with power in either hand should have.

"If he wins impressively like he has been, with a knockout, people will respond to that," Steward said. "That's what the public wants in a heavyweight champion. That's why people still want to watch Mike Tyson."

And Lewis could have won impressively. Tua (37-2, 32 knockouts) was done by the seventh round, too tired to drag his 245 pounds around the ring to chase Lewis. In the later rounds, Lewis could have been more aggressive and done what no other fighter has been able to do knock out Tua. It would have been target practice.

Instead, he was content just to keep Tua away with his jab. He won the fight but lost the sellout crowd of 12,500, which booed for much of the second half of the fight. One British writer (Lewis is the first British heavyweight champion in 100 years) was disgusted by the champion's performance. "He is a chess player in the ring," the writer said. "He fights without any passion."

Lewis confirmed that with his own post-fight analysis. "I felt the amount of punches I threw was sufficient," he said.

That seemed the best way to describe Lewis' performance. "He was winning the fight sufficiently with his left jab," said Steward, who never mentioned the word sufficiently when he was talking before the fight about the need for Lewis, coming off two-round knockouts of Michael Grant and Frans Botha, to continue his show of power.

This fight was sufficiently boring, and Steward is to blame. It was he who convinced Lewis to use his jab. Earlier in his career, Lewis was far more susceptible to making a mistake, with his awkward style that relied strictly on his right-hand power. That's why he was knocked out in two round by Oliver McCall six years ago and nearly knocked out in the first round by Shannon Briggs a year later.

Lewis began relying on the jab much more in his two fights with Evander Holyfield, and that gave him the confidence, unfortunately, to win with it and it alone. It is a good, and particularly punishing, jab, and Tua never got past it Saturday night.

Early in the fight, it appeared that Tua might have a shot. Lewis was backing up, which seemed perfect for Tua, who kept pressing the action and bringing the fight to Lewis. At the end of the second round, Tua landed a left hook that shook Lewis and landed another in the third round. But he never went to the body after that, content to try to go for the left hook to the head.

When Joe Frazier, the shorter fighter, defeated Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971, it was because Frazier pounded away on Ali's body for most of the fight, giving him the chance to land those key left hooks in the 11th that nearly put Ali down and in the 15th that did put Ali on the canvas.

David Tua is no Joe Frazier. He is no Marvis Frazier either and may not even be Jackie Lyde-Frazier, either.

Tua's promoter, America Presents president Dan Goossen, tried to make excuses for his fighter, saying that Tua hurt his ribs during training and that prevented him from moving like he would have liked to. He was booed off the stage, and Lewis pointed out that all fighters usually step in the ring with some kind of injury.

"I have a knee injury, a nose injury … I wonder if he was aware of that," Lewis said sarcastically.

Tua, to his credit, was more candid. "No excuses whatsoever," he said. "Lennox was a better fighter tonight."

Lennox would be a better fighter any night just a boring one.

I kept thinking back to one particular night in March 1998, at the Pikesville Armory just outside Baltimore, when I saw Tua have problems getting inside the jab of a journeyman named Jeff Wooden. Tua won a close 10-round decision that some believe Wooden should have won.

Lennox Lewis was Jeff Wooden, with a better jab. And since he chooses to fight like Jeff Wooden, he is nearly as well known.

Everyone will now clamor for Lewis to fight 911 Mike Tyson, who, according to his last bizarre proclamation before stopping Andrew Golota in two rounds last month, has retired. Lewis would jab 911 Mike to death as well, and win easily.

But making that fight is problematic, since 911 Mike is a Showtime fighter and Lewis a Home Box Office fighter, and neither network is about to let the other fight on the rival channel for such a huge pay-per-view fight.

Speaking of HBO, a company official passed out a news release after the fight Saturday night that said it will show a Lewis-Tua replay at 10:30 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

They might want to reconsider showing it twice. Once will be more than sufficiently enough.

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