Boxing: Meat man raises the stakes

By Paul Lewis, Michael Burgess

Joey Wilson (right) is a meat delivery man and a boxer who is expected to give Sonny Bill Williams a real test. . Photo / NZPA
Joey Wilson (right) is a meat delivery man and a boxer who is expected to give Sonny Bill Williams a real test. . Photo / NZPA

Sonny Bill Williams' likely latest opponent, Joey Wilson, is a meat delivery man - but it may be that this is no easy meat for the boxing All Black this time.

In fact, Joey Wilson's manager, Willie O'Neill, is nervous that Williams does not want to face his 2.03m boxer.

O'Neill was still waiting yesterday for confirmation that Wilson will fight Williams in Hamilton on February 8 after Williams' scheduled bout against Richard Tutaki was stymied when Tutaki ended up behind bars for failing to turn up to court this week to face criminal charges.

Manager Willie O'Neill - himself a former fighter and cousin of Wilson - said yesterday: "I think they will be looking at videos of Joey and I hope they are not deciding that he is a bit good for Sonny Bill," said O'Neill. "He's a big boy who got into boxing too late to have an amateur career. He got into a bit of trouble so I took him on and he went straight into professional boxing."

Wilson's last fight was on the undercard of the last David Tua fight, against Monte Barrett, last August. He beat heavyweight Afa Tatupu in a fight local boxing expert Dave Cameron says was regarded as "the fight of the night. He's a promising guy, Joey."

"He just bashed him," said O'Neill of Wilson's win that night. " His strengths are his reach, he's got a heavy right hand and he's a good counter-puncher - and, more importantly, a good listener. I don't think Sonny Bill has faced anyone like him - they've just put him up against big swingers.

"I love the guy [Williams] and I am not running him down but I believe they are training him up the wrong way. He's come up too quickly; they are trying to make him too much like Anthony Mundine. Most good boxers tuck their chins down so they don't get hit in the head - he comes out with his head sticking up. A good boxer could really make him pay."

O'Neill said the Nasser camp had twice had the chance to pit Williams against Wilson before but had chosen other opponents instead. Williams yesterday talked about Wilson as an opponent but also the US expatriate fighter Clarence Tillman - a 136kg, 1.96cm boxer beaten by Wilson in a split decision in 2010 and who has a 21-fight, 11-wins, eight-losses and two draws record.

Williams is also talking up his prospective new opponents: "We are talking about two guys who are in the top three in New Zealand,", says Williams. "Outside of David Tua they are the best heavyweights in this country. They are quality fighters. They had a fight and it was a split decision with Joey just getting the points. In that sense they are both really good fighters and definitely a step up.

"On one hand I am pretty gutted and disappointed; on the other it is a relief that it is still on and it is just a change of opponent. The class now is definitely a step up from what I was doing and I have to keep training hard and stay focused. It's back to the drawing board in terms of studying [my opponent], getting a game plan and preparing to fight him."

Williams has spent just over a month in Sydney recently, training with Anthony Mundine and his legendary father Tony. He says Tony has given him new weapons and helped him to add power.

"I've learnt how to punch better and get more power in my punch," says Williams.

While many still deride his boxing as a sideshow, Williams shrugs off the criticism and hopes his time in the ring will do the talking: "Hopefully after this fight [the public] will take my boxing seriously but in that sense I am probably my harshest critic. I know that after this fight if I am satisfied that will be the best yardstick."

Wilson, of Auckland, has had 11 fights for eight wins, two losses and a draw. One of those losses came at the hands of Tutaki, Williams' opponent for their bout scheduled for Hamilton on February 8 but which will now likely proceed against either Wilson or Tillman on the same date.

The loss of Tutaki is the latest blow for Williams after four previous professional boxing fights have created interest - and large purses - but little in the way of credibility. The last was against Alipate Liava'a, an overweight 43-year-old, gospel-singing, sickness beneficiary dubbed "The Lard of the Ring" by Australian media, last June and a local radio station has already asked listeners to suggest a new billing name for the Williams fight - the front runner for some time being "The Con In The Tron".

The Alipate fight was billed as a fundraiser for Canterbury earthquake victims, and Williams gave $100,000 from his purse to the earthquake relief fund and is believed to have cleared a significant six figure sum from the Liava'a fight even after his donation.

The New Zealand Herald reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Richard Roretana Tutaki, 33, after he did not appear at the Auckland District Court on Tuesday. Tutaki faces more than 10 charges dating back to last February, including possession of methamphetamine and drug utensils, breach of bail, three counts of receiving stolen property, unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police, failing to remain stopped and giving false details to police.

Nasser, broadcaster Sky TV and the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association did not know Tutaki was in custody until advised by the Herald. Nasser instructed that Tutaki be dropped from the card.

Head of the NZPBA, Lance Revill, confirmed that Nasser would choose the opponent: "Khoder Nasser has put the money up and has the drawcard fighter so he gets to choose who the opponent will be," said Revill, who also confirmed that Wilson's name had been put to the Williams' camp before only to be overlooked in favour of another fighter.

- Herald on Sunday

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