Editorial: Debacle king hit for sport of skill

By Dylan Thorne

I had the misfortune of paying $40 to watch the Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha fight.

I was expecting to watch 12 rounds of boxing but ended up seeing just 10 for reasons that are yet to be adequately explained.

I bought the pay-per-view fight in anticipation of seeing Williams' dubious boxing career come to a sudden end.

The contrast between the two men could not have been more stark. Botha, aged 44 and well past his prime, was heavy around the midriff while Williams appeared, as always, to be in peak condition. Not that image counts for much in this sport.

Botha, a South African, has fought a long list of world heavyweight champions and said Williams was crazy to agree to fight him and the two did not belong in the same ring. Many agreed with him.

Williams has established himself as a great rugby league player and a good rugby player but has yet to show any signs that he is worthy of calling himself a champion boxer. In my view, his foray into boxing has verged on make-believe.

His previous bouts have been farcical and his unbeaten record merely a reflection of the calibre of boxers he had faced.

His fights have done little for a sport that has long endured a shady reputation.

It could be argued that the publicity Williams can generate is positive for boxing, but the bad outweighs the good.

It detracts from what the sport should be about: Two evenly matched and skilful boxers competing on an even playing field.

This latest fight was damaging to the sport. Williams won by a unanimous points decision, but the fight was inexplicably stopped after 10 rounds despite being advertised as a full, WBA 12-round title fight.

Howls of protest followed.

Williams was out on his feet when the bell sounded at the end of the 10th round. If the fight had gone another two rounds it's likely Botha would have won by a knockout.

The controversy continued when reports emerged that Botha failed a drugs test before the fight.

If the reports are true then Botha's outrage and demands for a rematch should be taken with a grain of salt.

It appears the only real losers were those who paid good money to watch this debacle.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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