Steve Deane: SBW promoters find themselves in sad farce

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Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images

There's nothing all that eyebrow-raising in the sad tale of Richard Tutaki, the boxer who is sitting behind iron bars when he should be pumping iron in preparation for a fight with Sonny Bill Williams.

Plenty of boxers exist on the margins of society and eventually fall foul of the law.

It's hardly an unfamiliar story. For every Muhammad Ali or Manny Pacquiao, there are hundreds of Richard Tutakis - hard cases who make their bucks the hard way, inside and outside the ring. More often than not, things don't end well for them.

Had it not been for the intersection of his life with SBW, Tutaki would have remained an obscure character; a footnote in newspaper crime pages would have been the extent of his fame.

But by signing to fight Williams, Tutaki has been sucked into the vortex of the SBW media machine. No three letter combination in the English language generates more mouse clicks, page views and web chatter in Australasia than the initials of the dual-code international and would-be boxer.

Williams' handlers don't even need to justify charging $39.95 to watch a novice boxer fight a novelty opponent on pay-per-view television. The market speaks for itself, the dollars generated a cosy end to highly questionable means.

SBW Inc. is a big money industry of which boxing is just one arm (now's there's an idea for a replacement opponent). Forget about the sporting merit of his endeavours, or the occasional bad taste left in the mouth by his walking out on team-mates or stalling on contract negotiations.

When it comes to squeezing maximum revenue out of his athletic ability, Williams has been brilliant. And brilliantly managed.

That's why it's such a surprise his handlers have dropped such an enormous clanger here.

The serious criminal charges Tutaki faces date back 11 months. He has been in jail since Tuesday, and yet Sky were still screening commercials promoting the bout yesterday.

Having out-pointed an overweight gospel-singing sickness beneficiary in a pointless last bout, Williams' next opponent was supposed to represent a step towards boxing credibility. Instead, he finds himself engaged in another sad farce.

It's pretty clear there wasn't a lot of due diligence done here. Word that Tutaki hadn't trained at all for the fight reached the Herald earlier this week. Williams' manager Khoder Nasser, as promoter for Anthony Mundine, knows the fight game well enough to know that bouts like this can all too easily become horribly embarrassing affairs, often involving more tears than punches.

It's highly possible the damage to the SBW brand would have been greater had the bout gone ahead.

As it is, one wonders how the makers of the isotonic drinks and the owners of the sporting goods superstores whose marketing he fronts feel about him slugging it out with a man who is facing drugs charges.

Then again, SBW often talks about pushing the sporting boundaries, so maybe he's just pushing the boat out a bit further.

Given the impregnability of brand SBW to date, it's highly unlikely this latest fiasco will leave much of a dent. However it pans out, Williams is once again back in the news loop generating headlines. Even those of us who want to can't bring ourselves to ignore him. So maybe Nasser and Co know exactly what they are doing. Maybe it's all part of the master plan? If you believe that, you probably believe SBW will one day be bigger than Ali.

- NZ Herald

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