Nobody expected it but the heavyweight bout between Monte Barrett and David Tua turned out to be one of the best heavyweight battles of the year.
It was supposed to be the Farewell Fight for Monte Barrett. The former world title challenger and top 10 contender has had a good, solid, respectable career – not bad for a guy who started boxing in his 20s. Though for all his 34 wins, Two Gunz, until this point, would be most remembered for his important losses, which came to Wladimir Klitschko, David Haye, Odlanier Solis and Nikolay Valuev.
David Tua is still working hard and desperate for a final world title opportunity. Ranked #2 by the WBO, Tua knew a win over Barrett would qualify him for a shot against Wladimir Klitschko possibly in the next 12 months.
This was the stage at the Ballroom at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino on the south end of Atlantic City on a hot summer night. The crowd was at about 75% full. At ringside in press row, New Zealand sent two reporters to cover the fight which was televised live back to New Zealand and 24 other countries including Poland, France, Italy, and by delayed telecast to 15 other countries. Though America was hardly taking notice or much cared, this was actually an important heavyweight bout.
Barrett and Tua did not disappoint in the least. In the opening rounds, Tua’s handspeed stood out as he still possesses the explosiveness that he showed back in the 90’s against Ruiz, Rahman, Maskaev and Ibeabuchi. Barrett looked in very good shape too but his legs appeared somewhat shaky at times, and unstable. You could sense Barrett was near the very end.
Tua and Barret both wanted to win this fight something fierce. During round three a reporter in press row commented that Barrett looked like Calvin Brock which I interpreted to meaning the version of Brock againts Klitschko where he was eventually knocked out by one punch. There was a hint of vulnerability to how Barrett looked and moved, but his psychological will to win was far greater on this night than any physical liablilities.
Tua landed his shots throughout the bout but, oddly, they did not have the intended effect on Barret who simply refused to crumble. Tua’s left hooks landed but so did Monte’s jab and his right and some left hooks too.
There were many famous ringsiders watching this fascinating battle, including Vinny Maddalone, Jean Marc Mormeck, Tomasz Adamek, Shamone Alvarez and former Miami Dolphin Kim Bocamper.
By round nine the crowd was applauding the effort of both. At all times, Tua was calculating how to connect his bombs to end the fight. There was no posing or going through the motions. Barrett was more the matador, looking to implement the stick and move blueprint employed by Lennox Lewis vs. Tua in 2000. It was a fantastic clash of styles and a superb display of heavyweight boxing that even Ross Greenburg of HBO would have thoroughly enjoyed had he been watching from his ringside seat. And it was a more evenly matched and competitive fight than Bradley vs. Abregu.
Though this bout was slow paced at times, you did not hear a single boo for the entire night. Every person in attendance appreciated and admired the tremendous effort that both Tua and Barrett were performing.
At times Barrett was Lennox Lewis – boxing like a pugilist specialist – and at other times, Monte was Buster Douglas against Mike Tyson. Barrett landed uppercuts on Tua which were similar to the ones Buster nailed Mike with. This fight was looking like the masterpiece of Monte’s career.
In round nine Tua threw a huge, but slightly short right at Barrett who was against the ropes. It landed but if the punch was an inch more accurate it might have ended the fight. Still, Barrett kept on working and willing himself to win. It was incredible how much he wanted to win this final fight of his life, though it really didn’t mean for much other than for pride.
In round ten, Barrett asserted himself and began to show himself to be the superior fighter. He landed several hard rights to the bald head of Tua which made solid connection. Tua smiled sinisterly at Barret but you wondered how many more of those could Tua absorb.
Tua was desperate too, a title shot was on the line. Tua wanted to win by knockout. In the 11th he landed his best left hook of the night, a huge smashing thudding shot – but Barrett endured it. For the rest of the round Tua tried to get his man out of there but could not cleanly land the one or two shots necessary to do the job. He came close but close isn’t good enough in boxing.
In the final round, Tua again applied pressure to score the KO. Tua’s speed was still there and he marched forward going for the kill. Barrett would not comply. Tua showed his strength by throwing Barrett to the canvas, which provoked ref Randy Neumann to deduct a point from Tua. Was this an act of extreme frustration by Tua? Shortly after the delay, on the ropes right in front of us, the two warriors engaged in a Foreman-Lyle, all-out exchange, completely eliminating caution from their tactics. Barrett came out the better, landing a right and then a left hook which dropped Tua on his back. It was the first official knockdown of the hard-headed New Zealander’s 18-year career. Barrett raised his arms, overjoyed at being able to accomplish something that Lewis, Ibeabuchi, Maskaev and many others were unable to do.
Tua got up and finished the fight but Barrett stole the show. Clearly on his last legs in this fight, Barrett seemed to be sending some sort of a message to the world watching. He saved perhaps the best effort of his career for his final fight. With all the criticism of American heavyweight boxers, Monte Barrett made a statement tonight which really ought to silence people like Teddy Atlas, Ross Greenburg, Bert Sugar, Tom Hauser, Max Kellerman, who constantly and repeatedly denigrate the state of the heavweight division and America’s heavyweight fighters.
Barrett could have been content to collect his final paycheck and move on but he showed tremendous pride and an iron will to win. And all American boxers should gain inspiration and motivation by this performance by Monte Barrett. And HBO (and Showtime) should re-assess their controversial business decision to ignore heavyweight boxing.
The judges scored it 115-111 for Tua and 113-113 twice for a majority draw but as we all know, the judges – and TV network executives – don’t always get it right.
In the ring, a few minutes after the final bell and before the decision was announced, Barrett went over to embrace Tua and kissed him on the cheek. Two global gladiators with nothing but enormous respect for each other. The executives at HBO and Showtime should watch a tape of this fight to re-learn that this is what heavyweight boxing is all about, not the survival performances of Brewster, Rahman, Ibragimov, Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Peter, and Gomez.
After, Monte took a parting shot at the sport of boxing in his post-fight interview in the ring which could be heard by everyone in the Ballroom. “Everybody knows I am the winner. I fought with heart and determination. I’m retiring from boxing, this is my last fight. The sport of boxing is not pure like the boxers.”
“Champions are born and I’m a champion at heart,” said Barrett. “I gave it my all, all my heart. I feel like I gave it my last breath in there. Now I’m gonna go to the next level of boxing, the corporate side.”
Said Tua: “Monte is one of the great warriors. I have a lot of respect for him. I was trying to work on my speed, it seemed nothing was going my way. I kept my heart going.”
Tua’s record is now 51-3-2 (43 KO’s) and Barrett is 34-9-1 (20 KO’s).