Boxing: Sonny Bill farce' has left purists cringing

By Brendan Manning


A local boxing coach has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Sonny Bill Williams' fight against Francois Botha, labelling it a "farce".

Tauranga Boxing Club owner Chris Walker said Williams was a "gifted athlete" who had definitely improved in recent years.

"He is able to handle the high pressure situations."

Williams had the makings of a successful fighter - given time, experience and coaching, Mr Walker said.

"To be fair, it's a little bit unfortunate that it's turned into a bit of a farce - it's taken away from the sport itself."

Cutting a fight two rounds short was "no good for anybody", Mr Walker said.

"When you prepare for a fight, you prepare for 12 rounds and two rounds can make a huge difference.

"I don't think that Sonny Bill's got much to do with it - it's got to do with who he's working with really. He's just doing his job, boxing, and he's doing it reasonably well."

Williams' win was tarnished by allegations of poor sportsmanship amid confusion surrounding the length of the bout.

The TAB yesterday said it reserved the right to ditch the popular 'pick the round' bet for specific bouts after it was forced to refund tickets following Friday's match.

"Given Sonny Bill Williams was involved in two fights previously where the number of rounds was reduced without notice, we undertook all due diligence around the number of rounds for his fight with Botha," TAB general manager Martin Saunders said.

"So we are as confused and disappointed by what happened in Brisbane as our customers are, given there was clear acknowledgment the bout was scheduled for 12 rounds."

Mr Walker said Williams' fight added awareness to the sport, but he questioned whether it was for the right reasons.

Whenever boxing captured the mainstream media's attention, it was due to controversy.

"Mike Tyson - controversial, Muhammad Ali - very controversial, Anthony Mundine in our own backyard - controversial and to be fair, they know how to work the media."

Mr Walker, an amateur boxing stalwart, said boxing had enjoyed a surge in popularity in the past five years - largely due to the sport's great fitness benefits.

Williams' manager Khoder Nasser has claimed both camps knew Friday's fight was intended for 10 rounds, although that was contradicted by Williams in the build-up to the bout, who said Botha would last the distance.

"He'll do 12 rounds pretty easy," Williams said on Thursday.

That was reinforced at the pre-fight weigh-in with an announcement the fight was set for "12 times three-minute rounds".

On Sunday, Williams wrote on Twitter that Boxing Queensland had acknowledged to both parties the fight was supposed to be 10 rounds. He also said he had received a congratulatory phone call from the World Boxing Association.

However, New Zealand boxing coach Billy Graham described the match as an insult to the sport.

Graham, a former light welterweight boxing champion, told Radio New Zealand neither fighter should be boxing professionally.

He criticised their techniques and said Williams had no place in the ring.

"It's just a shame that he's got that sort of talent and he doesn't stick to his own sport and makes a mockery of ours. It makes it sound like anybody can just jump in the ring and do our game.

"There's consequences for it and he found out in that tenth round. He got some hard punches banged on him - if that guy [Botha] was 25 years of age instead of 45, he would have been flattened."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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