NEW YORK – Over the course of his 49-fight pro career David Tua has knocked out four heavyweight champions – John Ruiz, Oleg Maskaev, Michael Moorer, and Hasim Rahman.

Unfortunately for the New Zealander, none of them owned a title at the time. In his one crack at a world championship, against Lennox Lewis six years ago, the Terminator terminated himself. Tua looked lost and overmatched, losing a lopsided decision.

Of course, looking bad against Lewis doesn’t exactly make him a member of an exclusive club. Many of his fellow heavyweights looked even worse.

Tua looks over the current quartet of heavyweight champions and he wants one of them – any of them. And when you think about it, it is somewhat remarkable to consider that the 33-year-old Tua has had only one crack at a title when many of his inferiors have merited multiple chances.

Beating Maurice Wheeler, which Tua did Friday night at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, probably isn’t going to get him any closer to that goal, but it’s better than losing to Maurice Wheeler – and for the first few rounds, that appeared to be a distinct possibility.

In Tua’s defense, Wheeler was a late substitute, replacing (take your pick) Ross Puritty, Kelvin Davis, and Abraham Okine, all of whom had earlier been cast in the opponent’s role.

“It was frustrating,” said Tua. “I had trained to fight a shorter, orthodox fighter,” and instead found himself facing a tall southpaw with “North Philthy” stitched on the seat of his trunks.

And for three rounds Tuaman looked almost as lost as he did against Lewis. Standing in the middle of the ring, he spun around in the center of the ring like a 250-pound top, unable, or unwilling, to cut the ring off against Wheeler, who circled around him, pausing occasionally to pepper him with long-range, right-hand jabs.

Tua didn’t even begin to fight until the fourth, but once he did, he asserted himself as the fight wore on, punishing Wheeler to the body once the opponent’s jab lost its snap and he was no longer able to hold the Terminator at bay.

By our calculations Tua had drawn even after six rounds, but by then the fight had gone out of Wheeler. In the seventh, Tua softened him with a clubbing right to the ribcage and then unloaded a hard left to the body that seemed to suck the wind right out of his opponent. Wheeler sagged to his knees, then rolled over on his back and almost rolled right out of the ring before he came to rest and took Randy Neumann’s ten-count staring up at the bottom strand of ring rope.

“It was a good shot,” said Wheeler later.

“It was pretty much what I expected,” said Tua. “I knew I had him in the late rounds.”

It was the fourth win on the trot for Tua, who had taken a two-year hiatus from the sport after a disappointing draw with Rahman in their 2003 rematch.

“This is where it’s at,” said Tua. “The most important thing is that I’m getting my ring-rust off. If it was up to me, I’d be fighting every month.”

“He’s got to fight more often,” agreed Roger Bloodworth, the trainer in Tua’s latest incarnation.

In Tua’s defense, Bloodworth said that the shell game involving Friday night’s opponent hadn’t been helpful.

“It was hard to prepare,” said the trainer. “We didn’t know who he was fighting until the day before. This guy (Wheeler) had some skills, but mostly he didn’t want to get knocked out.”

Promoter Cedric Kushner managed to put a happy face on the performance, noting the importance of the six-plus rounds’ worth of work Tua got in against Wheeler.

“Activity is very important,” said Kushner, who added that he hoped that Tua might “slip in one more fight” by the end of the year before gearing up for a hoped-for title challenge in 2007.

Tua raised his mark to 45-3-1 with his work against Wheeler, while the opponent’s record fell to 10-9-1.

Although New York super-middleweight Joe Greene floored Edson Aguirre seven times in less than five rounds of their co-featured bout, the durable Aguirre got up and returned to the fray after six of the knockdowns, and was evidently prepared to do the same after the seventh.

Remarkably, referee Earl Brown seemed ready to let him do just that until New York commission inspector John Scalesi and Dr. Joseph Herrera, the physician assigned to the Mexican’s corner, came charging into the ring and all but gang-tackled the referee to stop the fight at 2:30 of the fifth.

Scalesi and Herrera, it turned out, had been alerted by the ringside physician, Dr. Osric King, along with NYSAC chairman Ron Scott Stevens, once it became clear that Aguirre and, apparently, Brown, were just too brave for their own good.

Greene had put Aguirre down twice in the opening round (first with a short right, then with a straight left which connected so solidly it was surprising that the opponent made the count), and twice more in the third (first from a right to the body, next with a left cross). A right hook followed by a left sent Aguirre to the canvas for the fifth time, but once again the resilient foe defied logic, rolled over, and beat the count by a second.

A left to the body in the fifth made it an even half-dozen knockdowns, but neither Aguirre nor Brown was ready to call it a night. Greene moved in, fired a right uppercut and a left that sent Aguirre down for the seventh time, and when he got up Brown appeared to be on the verge of wiping off his gloves and sending him back to fight some more before he was collared by the medical posse.

After the seventh knockdown Stevens had turned to tell Dr. King “he’s had enough,” but the doctor had already arrived at the same conclusion and flashed a signal across the ring to Herrera and Scalesi.

The win moved Brown’s record to 13-0, while Aguirre fell to 11-5-1. When he examined Aguirre afterward, reported Dr. King, “he was fine – alert, and even happy. He was very proud of his performance.”

It’s too bad Dr. King couldn’t have come up with a medical reason to stop the bantamweight bout between Puerto Rican Jose Nieves and Mexican Alejandro Moreno. To the consternation of a yawning audience, the pair went the distance in their scheduled 8-rounder, a one-sided but lackluster affair that saw Nieves (16-0-2) stay undefeated as he pitched an 80-72 shutout on all three scorecards. There were no knockdown, nor was there the threat of one. Moreno is now 21-20-3.

Brooklyn middleweight Peter (Kid Chocolate) Quillen remained unbeaten at 8-0 with a first-round TKO of Chicago’s David (The Weezel) Estrada (10-10). Quillen was able to jump on his foe from the outset, and had decked him twice in the first round – first from a hard left hook to the head, the next with a left-right-left combination – before referee Gary Rosato came to Estrada’s rescue at 2:56 of the round.

Quillen, in keeping with his post-fight ritual, celebrated his win by showering the crowd with chocolate coins from the ring. While he was at it he probably should have tossed a few the Weezel’s way.

When unbeaten Jorge Teron and Virginia journeyman Marcus Luck met in Boston back in February, Luck fought for two rounds and then quit, citing an injured hand. It did not, in other words, seem to be a fight that exactly cried out for a rematch, but matchmaker Jim Borzell must have known something the rest of us did not. Teron-Luck II proved to be the most competitive bout of the night.

Luck, who brought an unimposing 7-11-1 record into his meeting with the unbeaten Bronx welterweight, flattened Teron with a right followed by a left in the first round, a stanza he won handily.

Teron scored a less impressive knockdown in the second – Luck’s knee touched the canvas after he took a left to the body, resulting in a count from Brown – and in the third Teron went down again, and while it appeared to be a half-slip, Luck had landed a short right, making the referee’s count a proper one.

Teron won the fourth, but Luck appeared (on our scorecard, anyway) to take the fifth, in which he threw more punches and landed a few, while Teron was mostly finding air with his.

Teron closed the show by handily winning the final round, which was enough to give him the verdict on the cards of George DeGabriel and George Smith, both of whom scored it 56-55 for Teron. (The issue wasn’t even in doubt on the third scorecard; Mike Conforti scored it 57-54, meaning that he opted to ignore at least one of Luck’s knockdowns.) The Sweet Science card had Luck in front 56-55.

At one of Kushner’s recent promotions, the round-card girls showed up, but somebody neglected to bring the round cards. The result was that the lissome ladies pranced around the ring between rounds holding up the proximate number of fingers to remind the crowd of what round it was. Fortunately, few of the bouts got past five, so their math was not severely tested.

The start of the nine-bout card at the Roseland Friday experienced a 15-minute delay because once the boxers and their seconds arrived in the ring, it developed that there were no corner stools. The stools, it turned out, were locked in a truck parked not eight steps outside the arena’s back door, but the ring-man, who had the key, had gone missing and had to be located.

When it finally got underway, the opening bout featured 518 pounds’ worth of heavyweights, one of whom, winner Darryl Madison, was sponsored, according to the legend on the back of his trunks, by ‘Waste (as opposed to Waist) Management Systems’. Madison, a Long Islander making his pro debut, knocked out North Carolina visitor Clifton Adams (0-2) at 2:31 of the first round.

The next fight was even shorter. Bouncing back from his own trip to the canvas (slip, ruled referee Brown), heavyweight Jon (The Fighting Marine) Schneider bounced up to drill opponent Rogelio Brown with a pair of lefts that sent him to the canvas. Brown woozily made it to his feet, still shaking cobwebs from his head, and Earl Brown waved it off at 0:23 of the first. The Fighting Marine goes to 2-0, with Brown falling to 0-2.

The first round-card girl sighting of the evening didn’t come until the third bout, which saw Bronx light-heavyweight Joel Castillo (3-0) stop his Texas opponent James McAvey (1-3) in the second. Castillo landed a couple of good rights in the first round before turning his attention to McAvey’s midsection in the second, when he landed several painful body shots. Although McAvey kept his feet, the punishment being meted out was evident, and Rosato took the visitor into protective custody at 2:15 of the round.

Another prelim saw Hector Sanchez overwhelm Jaime Morales in a battle of Puerto Rican welterweights. Sanchez (9-0), a 6’1”,143-pounder, was able to use his vastly superior height and reach to land almost at will, while the shorter Morales couldn’t even get near him. Sanchez had Morales (3-3 ) trapped in a corner and was whaling away when Neumann intervened at 1:03 of the second.

* * *

NOVEMBER 3, 2006

HEAVYWEIGHTS: David Tua, 250, South Auckland, New Zealand KO’d Maurice Wheeler, 245, Philadelphia (7)

Jon Schneider, 200, Yonkers, NY TKO’d Rogelio Brown, 205, Milwaukee, Wisc. (1)

Darrell Madison, 258, Central Islip, NY KO’d Clifton Adams, 260, Laurinburg, N.C. (1)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Joel Castillo, 171½, Bronx, NY TKO’d James McAvey, 171½, Lewisville, Tex. (2)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Joe Green, 162½, Jamaica, NY TKO’d Edson Aguirre, 162, Mexico City (5)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Peter Quillin, 159,  Brooklyn, NY TKO’d David Estrada, 158, Chicago, Ill. (1)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Hector Sanchez, 143, Rio Piedras, P.R. TKO’d Jaime Morales, 141½, Juana Diaz, P.R. (2)

Jorge Teron, 142, Bronx, NY dec. Marcus Luck, 142¼, Danville, Va. (6)

BANTAMWEIGHTS: Jose Nieves, 117, Carolina, Puerto Rico dec. Alejandro Moreno, 116½, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (8)