- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

On a ranch outside Las Vegas tonight, one very powerful man will be sitting in front of a television, watching the outcome of the 911 Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota brawl with more interest than most viewers.

After all, David Tua could be watching his future opponent providing Tua becomes the next heavyweight champion.

"I think it will come down to who bites who first," Tua said, laughing about the whole WWF atmosphere surrounding tonight's spectacle in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Tua laughs because he knows tonight's pay-per-view farce means very little. There is no title on the line, unless Vince McMahon is putting one up, and both clowns will still have a future as the side show acts they have become.

Tua can laugh because he is the one who is part of the real heavyweight battle worth something this year, the one for the heavyweight championship of the world when he meets World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champion Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas on Nov. 11.

"It's been a long time coming," said Tua, who has been ranked among the top 10 contenders for four years but has never received a title shot until now. "I kept the faith and believed in my ability. Sometimes things don't work out our way, but you still have to live life and push for what you are trying to accomplish."

Sounds just like a 911 Mike press conference, doesn't it?

What Tua is trying to accomplish now is a tall order literally. He is the underdog against Lewis, who, thanks to the training of Emanuel Steward, has turned into a pretty good, if not spectacular, heavyweight champion, improving with each fight and developing a strong jab.

At 6-foot-5, Lewis is more than a head taller than Tua (5-10), although Tua has a Don King style hairdo going that could make them even by fight night. With a longer reach and a good jab, Lewis is the favorite to keep Tua on the outside and pile up points on his way to a win.

That would make for a pretty boring fight. Tua is having none of that.

"I'll have to close the range between us and get inside," Tua said. "If I can get close, I can do some damage."

Yes, he can, and that is what could make Lewis-Tua a far more interesting fight than tonight's joke. Evander Holyfield couldn't get close to Lewis in two fights, but Tua has some things working in his favor that Holyfield didn't.

Holyfield was 37 when he fought Lewis the second time and still made it a close fight. Although it seems like Tua has been around forever (he turned pro after winning a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics for New Zealand), he is just 28 and in the prime of his career.

Holyfield was a good puncher. Tua is a great puncher, with the hardest left hook in the heavyweight division. John Ruiz just went 12 rounds with Holyfield for the vacant World Boxing Association championship. Holyfield won a close decision that many ringside observers believe Ruiz should have won.

Tua knocked out Ruiz in 19 seconds. He has that kind of power, with 32 knockout included in his record of 37-1. Remember when Lewis went down from an Oliver McCall right hand when he lost the WBC heavyweight title the first time he held it? Remember when Lewis was nearly knocked out by Shannon Briggs? Neither of those fighters come close to the power that Tua can generate with his left hook.

"Lewis will be fighting the guy with the heaviest hands in the division," said Kevin Barry, Tua's manager. "David has one-punch knockout power, in the first or the last round. Lewis knows that if he gets careless in any round, David has the ability to knock him out."

So does 911 Mike, some would argue, but there are a lot of differences from what Tua brings into the ring compared with 911 Mike. One, of course, is sanity. But another is the fact that for all of 911 Mike's psychotic bravado, he has been exposed as a bully whose heart can be taken away from him as well as his chin. Holyfield proved that.

Besides the strongest punch, Tua probably has the strongest chin in the division. He has faced some strong punchers such as Ike Ibeachuchi, who gave Tua his only loss in a close and controversial 10-round decision and has never appeared close to going down.

"He has never been hurt or dominated in a fight," Barry said. "We have a fighter who is very durable, powerful and not afraid."

If tonight's brawl results in a real winner, as opposed to a double disqualification and a riot, it will likely be 911 Mike only because Golota is afraid. He has the skill and power to take 911 Mike's heart and chin but not the courage. He froze in fear when he faced Lewis and was knocked out in one round. He quit in the 10th round against Michael Grant last year after taking a severe beating although he was well ahead on the scorecards and would have won the fight had he lasted two more rounds.

"I have to go with Tyson," Tua said. "He has the power, and comes to fight, regardless of the problems he has."

What 911 Mike won't have, even if he wins, is a heavyweight title or even the recognition that comes with being acknowledged as a champion instead of a circus act. For that, he eventually may have to come to Tua, a man who has the power, who comes to fight, and has no fear.

People have been talking all along about Lewis-Tyson. The fight they may wind up seeing is Tua-Tyson. That would be worth the money that the suckers who will be buying tonight's farce are paying.

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