Our Samoan chant: ‘Fat Midget’ in 18 seconds

Mar 25, 2003 2:54 AM

Kevin Barry, the last man to defeat Evander Holyfield before Riddick Bowe (although Barry was unconscious at the time in the 1984 Olympics) is in position to become a bigger footnote in boxing history.

Barry, a New Zealander, was knocked out a split second after the referee said, "Break," in the light-heavyweight semifinals at the Los Angeles Games. Now, he’s the manager, trainer and discoverer of David Tua, who ”” surprise, surprise -- is once again on the cusp of a heavyweight championship.

And deservedly so.

Art Manteris listed Tua as the 9-5 chalk to repeat his knockout victory over ex-champion Hasim Rahman next Saturday in Philadelphia on HBO. It took an illegal punch and more than nine rounds for Tua to stop Rahman more than four years ago from which the Samoan native coasted two years to a title shot against Lennox Lewis.

This time, with Barry having replaced Ronnie Shields as trainer, there has been no coasting. Tua has fought some real people. He lost to Chris Byrd, but has also has knocked out previously unbeaten Fres Oquendo and ex-champion Michael Moorer in 30 seconds (well off his personal record of 19 seconds against a then future "champ," John Ruiz).

Barry, who got to be friendly with Holyfield when covering the Real Deal’s title fights for New Zealand media, took the poetry-writing Samoan under his wing after Tua fought in the 1992 Olympics. He brought Tua to Holyfield’s promoter, Main Events, and manager, Shelly Finkel, and Tua prospered. Up to a point.

Tua, who may be the division’s biggest puncher and certainly its best chin, failed miserably against Lewis. An early right hand by the champion let Tua understand that getting inside would be very, very dangerous. Tua hardly tried. Now he’s back and, in a sparse heavyweight division, all it should take is a spectacular knockout over Rahman to get him center stage again.

Never mind that the bout is to establish a mandatory challenger for IBF champ Byrd. Should Tua beat Rahman again, he’s positioned to be the public choice to challenge everyone from Lewis to Roy Jones Jr.

Barry has taken over the training and has gotten Tua, called a "fat midget" by Rahman, into reasonable shape. The squat Samoan may not be appealing to the eye, but there is no questioning his stamina. He may not need to take too many deep breaths this time around against Rahman.

Rahman was beating Tua every which way in 1998. He was jabbing beautifully, stepping to the side, and landing right hand after right hand. Tua seemed unable to leave low gear. Yes, he has scored some amazingly quick knockouts. However, Tua has just as often struck late when behind on the scorecards (see David Izon, Oleg Maskaev and Rahman). In the ninth round against the Rock, Tua finally landed one of his vicious left hooks to the side. I was sitting near Rahman’s corner and I could see him turn in pain to his handlers as if to say, "Get me out of here."

The fight had turned and it was only a matter of time. Tua couldn’t wait. The bell rang ending the ninth and Tua landed a hook to the head clearly after the bell. Rahman was out on his feet. He should not have been allowed to go on.

It was an accidental foul, but the fight should have stopped and the scorecards consulted. Lou Duva somehow convinced the inexperienced ref to go on with the fight and it had to be stopped quickly in the 10th. No, a five-minute rest period ”” as in cases of low blows ”” would not have been the correct call.

Dr. Flip Homansky of the Nevada commission pointed out that a concussion like Rahman obviously suffered normally sidelines a fighter 60 or 90 days, not five minutes. It should have been a technical decision victory for Rahman, who later went on to shock Lewis. But this time, with Rahman obviously having troubles in camp - he dumped longtime trainer Adrian Davis after losing the rematch to Lewis. Then a couple of weeks before this crossroads fight, he dismissed Bouie Fischer.

The outcome should be much quicker. Tua may not hear any bells after the opening one. Rahman is damaged goods (see Evander Holyfield). He is in decline, Tua on the way up again.

It says here, Tua in 18 seconds, and if he ever gets Mike Tyson into the ring, he’d lower his record to 17.