Boxing: Kiwi boxing icon David Tua reveals biggest career regret, before Hall of Fame induction

Kiwi heavyweight great David Tua is still shaking his head in disbelief, after this week being named as a Boxing Hall of Fame inductee.

On Sunday (NZ time), the proud Samoan will be introduced as part of the 2022 class, alongside the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Laila Ali - daughter of the legendary Muhammad Ali - at a Los Angeles ceremony.

"I can't start to put it into words, but I know it's an amazing feeling to be amongst these great warriors and fighters," Tua, 49, told Newshub. "I'm very grateful.

"My dad says a person should never praise himself, you leave that to your peers, to the fans and to the people, and if that comes from them, then I'm very humbled and I'm very honoured."

'The Tuamanator' was the pride and joy of the NZ combat sports scene during his run to the elite ranks of the world's toughest division during the 1990s and 2000s, capturing the public's imagination with his trademark left-hook hammer and playful personality.

David Tua fights Lennox Lewis for the world heavyweight championship in 2000.
David Tua fights Lennox Lewis for the world heavyweight championship in 2000. Photo credit: Getty Images

He hung up his gloves in 2013, with a career professional record of 52 wins, five defeats and two draws, including 43 knockouts. He also won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. 

But for all of those memorable victories and highlight reel finishes, Tua admits one bout still haunts him, when he reflects on his 21-year tenure as a pro.

After reeling off a 10-fight win streak, nine of which came via knockout, Tua earned the opportunity to challenge Lennox Lewis for the WBC, IBO and IBF heavyweight titles.

That night in Las Vegas in late November 2000 didn't go to plan, with Tua falling to a comprehensive unanimous decision loss.

Feasting on a steady diet of jabs from the much taller Brit, Tua persisted with chasing the kill shot with his trusty left-hand, a one-dimensional approach he now wishes he had veered from.

"I could have done a lot better," Tua said. "I didn't display what I'm capable of.

"A man says, respectfully, there's more than one way to skin a cat and there's got to be more than one way to win. 

"That whole fight was all dependent on the left hook, but I knew I had more. I've got a jab, I've got a right hand, I've got body shots.

"It was a tough way to learn, but sometimes it has to be that way. I got a lot out of that fight, as a person and as a boxer."

Tua's choice of career highlights are perfectly indicative of the South Aucklander's humility and values, singling out his professional debut - when he was able to place a down payment on his parent's house with his fight purse - and a bout two years later, which allowed him to pay off the home in full.

Sunday's honour will be shared with his family and supporters across the country, who have stuck by him to this day, added Tua, who is still frequently stopped by admiring passers-by for some informal fight chat.

"When I leave the ring, I leave everything in there, and it's not until I run into a fan or people who love the sport that these memories come back.

"To be quite honest, I couldn't have gone as far and I couldn't have accomplished a lot of the things I have in the sport, if it weren't for the fans' support.

"That goes for the critics too, because it has helped me tremendously, not only in the ring, but out of the ring as well."