- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Remember heavyweight David Tua?
At one time, in the second half of the 1990s, the Samoan knockout artist from New Zealand was the No. 1 contender. He was powering through the division and knocking out everyone, including several top opponents of his day -- John Ruiz, David Izon, Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev. But when he got his long-awaited title shot in 2000, he ran into a prime Lennox Lewis and lost a decisive decision.
Tua continued to fight, although he had multiple lengthy layoffs and was never really a top contender again.
The 40-year-old Tua (52-4-2, 43 KOs) has not fought since losing a unanimous decision in a rematch to Monte Barrett in August 2011. He was due to come off his latest long layoff -- almost two years to the day -- Aug. 31 to face Alexander Ustinov (28-1, 21 KOs), who is one fight removed from an 11th-round knockout loss to contender Kubrat Pulev in a title elimination fight last September.
However, according to promoter David Higgins of Duco Events, who was putting on the fight in Hamilton, New Zealand, Tua suffered a grade one calf muscle tear during training last week, forcing the fight to be postponed until Nov. 16.
“This is the fight game and every now and again fighters get injured and plans change,” Higgins said. “Alexander and his crew from K2 Promotions have been exceptional. They understand that delays are commonplace in the world of boxing. They couldn't have been more accommodating in terms of accepting the new date. And David Tua, too, has been excellent to deal with. He has put in an enormous amount of work to get himself into peak condition for the bout. But he has kept his spirits up and has accepted the new date and has already begun re-strategizing his buildup."
Russia’s Ustinov, who lives in Belarus, will return home and get set for the new date.
“Coming to New Zealand to prepare for Aug. 31 has been great," Ustinov said. “Even though the fight has been delayed, when I come back in November I will know what to expect inside and outside of the ring. These things happen in boxing. I'm just looking forward to the fight and taking on the world famous David Tua.”
As for Tua, he said he will remain positive.
“It is what it is," Tua said. “All you can do is be positive, and to be honest, there is plenty to be positive about. The delay gives me even more time to get into peak condition and it also allows me to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the strategy of the fight.”