Nov 8, 2000
Like the Gore v. Bush election, the Lennox Lewis v. David Tua heavyweight championship fight on Saturday November 11 is one fight that the media should not call over until it is over. I call David Tua the 'enigma' because he has one of the strangest styles I have ever seen. At one moment he seems to do nothing, exhibiting almost freaky patience, allowing his opponents to completely outbox him for most of the fight, and then suddenly he explodes with power, knocking them out. That is both his downfall in terms of points, but also his strength in terms of surprising his opponents.
Lewis is the superior boxer and anyone with good boxing skills has always given Tua trouble. Tua struggled against David Izon, Oleg Maskaev, and Hasim Rachman, being outpointed by each until landing vicious punches in the late rounds to knock them out. Tua eeked out a decision win over Jeff Wooden. None of those fighters had the skill or physical talents of a Lennox Lewis. However, because David has managed to land big ones on virtually everyone he has fought, both early and late in bouts, this fight will have an aura of excitement, even if it is a mismatch.
In his toughest fight, Tua lost a decision to Ike Ibeabuchi. However, there is no shame in that loss. Ibeabuchi is strong, throws a lot of punches, and has an excellent jaw. To his credit, Tua threw many punches and would have won a decision if Ibeabuchi had not thrown and landed even more. Tua landed vicious shots on him late, but Ike weathered the storm. Ibeabuchi both takes them better and has a much higher punch output than Lennox. In absorbing hard blows, Tua also demonstrated that he can take it.
Like Emanuel Steward's former protégé Tommy Hearns, Lennox Lewis is a big one-two type fighter who keeps his opponents off him with height, reach, a bit of footwork, and quick stinging blows, not with punch volume. Because of his style, Lewis will not be able to outpoint Tua by throwing a lot of punches the way Ibeabuchi did. However, Lewis's power may limit Tua's punch output as well. Lennox is bigger and stronger than Ibeabuchi and has cracking one punch power that Tua has never experienced. Tua has shown a good jaw, and no matter how many punches that hit him, he has always managed to get inside on his opponents. However, it is unclear how he will react to Lewis's brand of power, which will probably inhibit Tua from opening up too much.
This fight reminds me of Rocky Marciano v. Jersey Joe Walcott. Walcott was outpointing Marciano, having knocked him down, but the determined bomber wore his man down and found his mark in the thirteenth round. Like Marciano, Tua constantly pressures his opponents, maintains his power and conditioning late in fights and manages to find openings even when being outboxed. The only problem with predicting this fight is that Tua will find a spot somewhere to land a bomb. Lewis does not have the greatest chin. McCall stopped him with a beautiful counter punch, and Tucker, Bruno, Akinwande, Briggs, and Holyfield all stunned him. None of those fighters have David Tua's power. Also, at 6'5" and around 250 pounds, Lewis tires pretty well towards the conclusion of fights. He looked winded against Mavrovic, and Holyfield barely pressured him in their second fight and Lennox was dead tired at the end. These deficiencies lend themselves well to Tua's strengths. Lewis must use some footwork, but should not become excessive with it or he is likely to tire.
This fight also conjures up in my mind the Larry Holmes v. Earnie Shavers fights. Holmes used speed and footwork to easily outbox Shavers in their first fight. However, in their championship rematch, Holmes fought Earnie a bit more and got caught with a big right hand that dropped him in the seventh. Holmes weathered the storm with his fighting spirit and survival tactics and won via an eleventh round stoppage. If Lewis is cautious like Holmes in the first Shavers fight, he takes an easy decision. However, if he tries to knock out Tua without careful attention to defense, allows Tua to work on the inside too much and/or doesn't stay focussed late, the Tuaman may become the next Rocky Marciano.
Because of his defense when hurt, Lewis is more likely to be a Larry Holmes than a Jersey Joe Walcott. When hurt, he has demonstrated good survival tactics with his pushing down behind the head and holding, as well as using footwork, height, reach and straight power punches. To his credit, with the help of Emanuel Steward, who coached McCall to the knockout win over Lewis, Lennox has made his punches more compact and no longer flagrantly overextends the way he did against McCall. This is a natural tendency against which he must discipline himself or Tua may catch him. The fight that indicates Lewis will probably beat Tua is the Ray Mercer fight, where Lewis proved he can suck it up and take it in a grueling war.
How can David Tua become the next Rocky Marciano? First of all, he needs to punch more or he'll wait himself out of the fight and into some big punches. Second, it will be necessary for Tua to go to the body to break Lewis down for the later rounds. However, Lewis makes this very difficult given how high he wears his huge foul protector. Not only does this make blows appear low when they are not, but more importantly, immensely diminish the impact of what should be legally landed body blows. This is an unfair advantage. It is embarrassing for a heavyweight champion to admit he cannot take body blows by purchasing a foul protector that is too large or wearing it way too high.
The Tua camp should make a huge stink about this to the commission and with the media prior to the fight - perhaps at the weigh-in. A trick that would catch the media's attention and embarrass Lewis would be for David to wear a big chest protector that trainers wear and/or a headgear to the weigh-in and announce that he is going to wear his body armor to the fight to even the score if Lennox is too cowardly to place his foul protector at the legal position - an imaginary line from the hip bones through the navel.
Perhaps bringing a huge poster board with a blown up copy of the rule as to where the trunks are supposed to be positioned would also be helpful. If Lewis's protector is still too high at the fight, I would place the chest protector on Tua at the fight/and or refuse to fight until it is lowered. This strategy could also throw off the usually confident Lewis because it questions his courage and will embarrass him. .
Finally, Lennox both prevents opponents from working on the inside and also prevents them from capitalizing when they hurt him by grabbing them around the neck and pushing their heads down. If David hurts Lennox, expect him to do this and prevent David from finishing him. This is an illegal strategy which prevents a fighter from punching and also wears down his neck, which leaves him weaker and susceptible to being knocked down. Ali used this same illegal tactic upon George Foreman, which limited his effectiveness and wore down his neck. What makes Lewis dirtier than Ali is that he will also flagrantly foul his opponents by hitting them with uppercuts as he holds their heads down. Lewis never lost a point for doing this to Grant, nor was Grant afforded a recuperation period.
The commission and the media should be made aware of this illegal tactic, and David should probably be told to either weave around it and/or to hit Lennox low when his head is being pulled down. The argument which he and the corner should then give to the referee if warned for the low blow is that the blow would have been legal but for Lewis pulling him down and making the blow stray low. This will send a message to Lennox to cool it, and also prevent him from landing the foul blows.
It is likely that this fight will initially appear to be a mismatch. However, if Tua is still around late in the fight, don't blink, because there will be drama somewhere. In the final analysis, the edge goes to Lewis, but I would not bet on this one, because I could not take the agony of waiting to see if Tua lands the bomb.