UNCASVILLE,CT – DECEMBER 21,1996: David Tua (L) lands a left hook against David Izon during the fight at the Mohegan Sun Casino,on December 21,1996 in Uncasville, .WATCH RAU’SHEE WARREN VS NORDINE OUBAALI LIVE, Connecticut. David Tua won the WBC International heavyweight title by a TKO 12

On August 3, 2012, American Olympian Rau’shee Warren met French representative Nordine Oubaali in the second round of the flyweight tournament. As they stepped inside the ring at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre, each man was painfully familiar with the cruel plot twists that often come with Olympic boxing and Chinese amateur legend Zou Shiming played a role in their mutual stumbles.


On August 3, 2012, American Olympian Rau’shee Warren met French representative Nordine Oubaali in the second round of the flyweight tournament.

In the 2008 Beijing Games, Oubaali tied Zou 3-3 in their second round match, only to be denied victory via the “count-back” tie-breaker. Zou went on to win the gold medal while Oubaali regrouped and earned a berth on the 2012 team. But as bad as Oubaali’s Olympic experience had been,

Warren’s was far more wrenching; in his first fight of the 2004 Games in Athens, the 17-year-old Ohioan lost a 22-9 decision to Zou, who ended up winning bronze. Four years later in Beijing, Warren, now a team captain and one of the nation’s brightest medal hopes, met South Korea’s Lee Ok Sung in the opening round of the flyweight tournament. As the bout neared its end, Warren glanced at the scoreboard and saw a 9-8 score. Thinking he was ahead, he shifted into shutdown mode and danced away the closing moments. Unfortunately for Warren,

he was the fighter who was trailing and by the time Warren understood what his corner was screaming about, it was too late to rectify his egregious error. Therefore both men had much to prove to their nations and to themselves as they stood across the ring from one another. For Oubaali, the Warren match was his second fight of the Games, as he defeated Afghanistan’s Faisal Ajmal 22-9, while Warren received a first-round bye.

Although Oubaali appeared to win the first round with his effective aggression and heavier punches, Warren was credited with a 9-6 lead in the computerized scoring, thanks to his occasionally effective counters. Oubaali’s surge in the final moments of round two enabled him to win the stanza 7-5 and cut Warren’s lead to one point entering the final round. With the result still in doubt, Warren reverted to his 2008 form by boxing cautiously, while Oubaali stepped on the gas. The result: A 6-4 lead for Oubaali in round three and a 19-18 decision victory. Oubaali lost his next fight – a 22-18 decision to Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan in the quarterfinal – while Warren was left to ponder his future.

For both men, that future was the professional game and, on Saturday in Las Vegas, nearly six-and-a-half years after their Olympic encounter, they will meet for even higher stakes – the vacant WBC bantamweight title. Warren, a former WBA beltholder at 118 (he lost in his first defense to Zhanat Zhakiyamov in February 2017) has a record of 16-2 (with 4 knockouts), while Oubaali, a fellow southpaw, is 14-0 (with 11 KOs). Their fight marks only the third time since 1988 that two Olympic foes have met as professionals with a major title on the line and each can draw inspiration from the other two results.

For Oubaali, he can look back at Henry Maske’s double triumph against Egerton Marcus, the first by a 5-0 decision in the 1988 gold medal match and the second a 12-round decision in February 1995 to retain his IBF light heavyweight title. For Warren, he can be encouraged by Miguel Cotto’s bounce-back ability against Muhammad Abdullaev; the Uzbek defeated Cotto 17-7 in the 2000 preliminary round en route to the gold medal, while Cotto exacted brutal revenge nearly five years later with a ninth round TKO to retain his WBO junior welterweight title.

However if one wants to look back at the most exciting Olympic/professional series since 1988, there is only one choice: David Tua vs. David Izon. While their December 1996 pro contest wasn’t the “Fight of the Year” (Evander Holyfield KO 11 MikeTyson I, though Tua played the role of Tyson for “The Real Deal” during sparring) or the knockout of the year (Wilfredo Vazquez TKO 11 Eloy Rojas won that honor), Tua-Izon was a contender for each prize. One could surmise that the seeds for the furious pro meeting were planted more than four years earlier and 3,725 miles east of Uncasville, Connecticut.

On August 6, 1992, Tua, born in Samoa but fighting for New Zealand, and Nigeria’s Izon (whose surname “Izonritei” merged his Izon tribe membership with his family name of “Ritei”) met in the heavyweight semifinal at the Olympic tournament staged in Barcelona, Spain. Tua (whose full name was Mafaufau Tavita Lio Mafaufau Sanerivi Talimatasi)

earned his spot in the bronze medal match by stopping Spain’s Jose Ortega in round two on July 31 and Czech Vojtech Ruckschloss in the third on August 3, while Izon halted Iran’s Morteza Shiri Ghesiagh in round three on July 31 and out-pointed Canada’s Kirk Johnson 9-5 on August 3. As they awaited the opening bell, one could see that the 19-year-old Tua’s physique, while sturdy, hadn’t yet acquired its “man strength,” while the 26-year-old Izon’s was trim and chiseled.

The opening round saw Tua working his way inside Izon’s longer arms with right-lefts to the body, while Izon used his jab to control distance and his right to catch Tua coming in. The action was rather mild and, at round’s end, Izon was viewed a 2-1 winner by the newly-instituted computerized scoring system that required three of the five judges to hit their “connect” button within a second of one another.

The system was supposed to neutralize the nationalistic bias that plagued previous games but it actually created new problems, one of which was absurdly low scores following action-packed rounds. The second round of Izon vs. Tua was one such example, for despite Tua’s superior energy and blistering combinations that bloodied Izon’s nose and raised a lump around the Nigerian’s left eye, his advantage in connects was a measly 5-3. Still, Tua entered the final round with a 6-5 advantage, which meant this was still anyone’s match to win.

The final CompuBox statistics further illustrated how competitive this fight had been. By landing 27 of his 39 punches in round 12 – and because Izon was just 11 of 35 – Tua pulled ahead 326-324 in terms of total connects and both were impressively accurate as Tua landed 46% of his total punches, while Izon landed 38%.

Will Saturday’s Rau’shee Warren-Nordine Oubaali rematch live up to the bar set by Tua-Izon? We can only hope.


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