By Johnny Walker
Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett opened an early lead and then held on to defeat David “Tuamanator” Tua today in an entertaining heavyweight battle at the Telstra Clear Events Centre, in Manukau City, New Zealand.
Barrett, 40, a New York native, had knocked Tua down in their previous meeting last summer in Atlantic City, in a contest that ended in a controversial draw. Tua, 38, much later admitted that he felt he lost that fight.
This time, the situation was reversed, as Tua knocked Barrett down and almost through the ropes at the end of the final round, but came up on the losing end of the scorecards.
The first six rounds of this bout, dubbed “Redemption” by the promoters, were probably the best of Monte Barrett’s long career.
Tua’s fate was sealed early when he came out sluggish and found his opponent far more ready for action. The 6’3” Barrett was visibly in supreme condition for this fight, and he used his height and reach advantage early to confound the 5’10” Tuaman. Barrett continually kept Tua out of range, and used superior footwork to keep Tua off balance. Stinging left jabs bounced off of Tua’s skull, and as Barrett gained confidence, he started to throw in combinations that hurt the New Zealand native.
While Tua was under assault in round three, a cut appeared on the corner of his right eye, but it didn’t seem to hamper his vision. Barrett began pushing a strangely passive Tua around the ring, and it took until round four before Tua finally started to find his range. Tua landed a hard left at the end of the round, but Barrett merely shrugged it off.
Rounds five and six saw the pattern of the fight so far continue, with Barrett using good lateral movement to force Tua to constantly reset.
Slowly but surely, however, Tua began to find a rhythm and get himself into the fight as it moved into the second half. Tua woke up in round seven and began to force the action, hurting Barrett with a hard left hook. Barrett began to slow down slightly as Tua went to the body, and for the rest of the bout, as Tua began to press, Barrett resorted to frequent holding (as he also did in their first encounter), and in this writer’s view should have been penalized for it at some point.
Tua landed the more clean and effective shots and was the more aggressive fighter from round seven onwards, though Barrett still managed to land his nifty jab with some regularity. Tua hurt Barrett with a hard left hook in round ten, and then stunned him with a right-left combination. By now the Tuamanator was visibly frustrated with some of Barrett’s tactics, and he started to mock him and laugh at him. The fight definitely turned a bit nasty at this stage.
Knowing his career was on the line in the championship rounds eleven and twelve, Tua went all out, and “Redemption” turned into a thriller. Tua landed hard body shots and Barrett’s legs began to wobble: he was now flat out running from Tua. Monte was ultimately trapped near the ropes, and in an exchange near the end of the round was in big trouble as Tua strafed him with hard shots. The bell saved Barrett from oblivion this occasion.
Tua went back to work in the final round and though Barrett tried to run, he couldn’t hide. Tua was throwing every punch with lethal intent now, and as Barrett tried to hold, Tua tagged him with a combination of punches, including a flush, hard blow to the jaw as Barrett went down, his eyes rolling in his head. It seemed that the fight was over, but somehow, almost miraculously, Barrett got up from the canvas and beat the count of referee Brad Vocale.
Though he again flurried Barrett, Tua had run out of time for this fight, and maybe for his career.
Even with the final round being a 10-8 score for Tua, the three judges gave Monte Barrett the nod, with scores of 114-113, 115-112 and 115-112. This writer, less impressed by Barrett’s tactics in the second half of the fight, scored it 114-113 for Tua.
Though much was made out of Tua’s weight and condition by some in the boxing media (he was seven pounds heavier for the rematch with Barrett), the fact is that Tua got stronger as the fight went on. Tua’s real problem seemed to be with his preparation, the lack of quality sparring partners in New Zealand perhaps dulling his instincts. By the time Tua had come to terms with Barrett’s strategy in this fight, it was too late, at least in the eyes of the judges.
Where each of these veteran heavyweights goes from here is anybody’s guess. Barrett (35-9-2, 20KO), who won the WBO Asia Pacific and WBO Oriental heavyweight titles, talked after the fight about his religious beliefs and his desire to become a professional wrestler. Tua (54-4-2, 43KO), who Sky TV was hoping to back for a title run at one of the Klitschkos, was instead left begging Barrett for a rematch.
“I thought I’d done enough, but that’s the way it goes” said a glum Tuamanator.
For this writer, Tua is maddening, because even now, the kind of excitement he provided in the last two rounds of this fight makes you want to see him fight again. There was certainly more fireworks in this contest than was seen in the much more heavily hyped bout between David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko. Tua did enough here to merit a third fight with Barrett, but that certainly isn’t where he wanted to be as Sunday Morning broke in New Zealand.
When Monte Barrett somehow rose from the canvas in the final round of the fight entitled “Redemption,” the future that David Tua had hoped for vanished right in front of his eyes.