NEW YORK - David Tua, a former heavyweight contender on the comeback trail after a two-year layoff, knocked out Maurice Wheeler with a hard right to the body at 2:48 of the seventh round of a scheduled 10-round bout Friday night.
Wheeler, 245 pounds from Philadelphia, was the fourth opponent lined up by promoter Cedric Kushner for the 34-year-old Tua of New Zealand. He was a late replacement for Abraham Okine of Ghana, who failed an eye exam as part of a physical on Friday morning.
Ross Puritty, of Wichita, Kan., canceled 10 days earlier after getting cut during training camp. He is expected to be sidelined for three months. The first scheduled opponent, Kelvin Davis - also of New Zealand and a former cruiserweight contender - got "cold feet'' after signing a contract, Kushner said.
The 250-pound Tua won his fourth straight since beginning his comeback and improved to 46-3-1 with 40 knockouts. Wheeler dropped to 10-9-1.
"It was frustrating having to prepare for so many different opponents,'' said Tua, who lost a unanimous decision to heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in 2000. "You have to be prepared once the bell rings, but still it was tough to train one day for a certain opponent and then go to another style another day.
"Frankly, I didn't prepare for a southpaw. I was just trying to feel it out early on. All I do now is take it one fight at a time. Quite honestly, I think I'm only two or three fights away before being ready for another title shot.''