We know the outcome of the Tua vs Barret fight so is there anything more to be said? I think so. It is commonplace to label the sport primitive and savage; two men bashing the hell out of each other’s brains and so on and so on. Nevertheless, I love boxing and that particular fight has given me an opportunity to explain why. But first the contenders:
David Tua. 37-years-old with 56 fights under his belt. 51 wins, 43 of them by knockout, or fight stopped to preserve his opponent. Only three losses (one of them to a highly regarded world champion) and two draws. Rated second only to Mike Tyson as a knock-out specialist.
However, Tua is a one dimensional fighter. He does not possess the boxing skills of Tyson. Tua won 29 of his fights inside four rounds with a bulldozing style and a terrifyingly fast and powerful punch.
Monte Barret: 39-years-old with 43 fights under his belt. Won 34, lost 9. Six of those losses occurred in his last nine fights. Barret has, as they say, been around. He’s considered good enough to beat men past their best but not serious contenders for a world championship fight.
He took one recent fight on after only three day’s notice. Again recently, on entering the ring he tried to vault over the ropes but made a mess of it and fell into the ring. Not an edifying sight. To make it worse he lost the fight.
Even though Monte Barret is a pretty good boxer, he is considered no more than a stepping stone for boxers going on to bigger things. Just the man for David Tua on his quest for another title fight. Barret had declared beforehand that this would be his last fight. There was no genuine debate about the outcome apart from when it would end, with Barret stretched out of the canvas. How could I not give my support to such a hapless underdog?
I have always had a preference for the skills of self defence over the power of the big puncher. Boxing is not, as it is often made out to be, mere thuggery. The noble art of self defence is as highly regulated as fencing, but lacks that sport’s snobbery value. Millionaires like to be seen with boxing champions but don’t invite them home to dinner.
Boxing is for the lower classes like the mythical Rocky. For this fight I hoped, rather forlornly, for a Rocky-like miracle.
And so the bell: It was evident from the first round that the stalking Tua was going to finish the job quickly. In the first few rounds he made devastating contact, leaving Barret’s legs shaking and unsteady. Yet Barret, the taller man, kept poking out and backing up, trying to keep out of harm’s way. You could see he was scared. He had a right to be. He’s been around long enough to know the man stalking him could kill him with one good punch.
There are some mocking fools who see Barret’s style of boxing as evidence of cowardice. These are the bar-room boxers who have never stepped into a tiny boxing ring with nowhere to run, before an audience of thousands. Never faced the dilemma of circling, backing, boxing and surviving, or running from the ring. Never faced a terrifying opponent.
What I saw unfolding before me was high drama, suspense, and, above all, a riveting demonstration of courage eked out over twelve anxious rounds. And for each one of those rounds I silently urged Monte Barret to keep moving, keep jabbing, keep out of trouble, stay the distance. End your boxing career with dignity.
Desperation marked both men as the contest was drawing to a close. Tua was frustrated by the persistently wily Barret who continued to evade the big punch. Then Tua made a mistake and Barret pounced, knocking Tua down (briefly) for the first time in his career. Barret thought he had won. However, the decision was a draw, which to many seemed unfair.
Even so, the two boxers talked amiably together after the fight. Two quietly spoken Christian advocates earning a living in a profession that does not depend on degrees or even literacy. The only qualification is bravery.
I hope they were well paid for that night’s work. They earned it.