Sonny Bill Williams will emerge victorious from tonight's stoush with the White Buffalo.
He can't lose. Sure, he could get knocked out by ageing never-quite-was South African Frans Botha, or be deemed to have lost the fight (like that'll happen) by the judges, but Williams will still walk away the big winner. For a boxer whose opponents so far include a pub hard-case, a sickness beneficiary and an aspiring actor, being defeated by someone who has been in there with Wladimir Klitschko, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson would be no disgrace.
Simply by stepping in the ring with Botha, SBW will add another layer to his carefully crafted legend. Most importantly, brand SBW will be opening up another major market. South Africa hosts over 50 million citizens, providing vast commercial opportunities for the one-time Warriors reject. "SBW Biltong - the meat snack of legends," is coming to a store near you, citizens of Pietermaritzburg. Mark my words.
The brand is the bottom line with Williams. For a footy player who as a kid couldn't crack his hometown club but who turned in a couple of decent seasons for the Bulldogs before setting off an his OE, Williams' exposure has reached remarkable levels.
His transformation from a wide-eyed kid with a offload, six-pack and what one female boxing aficionado describes as a "pretty average boat race" into an international phenomenon will one day be requisite reading for marketing students the world over.
Those who lambasted Williams' decision to walk out on a restrictive, small-money deal with the Bulldogs five years ago might want to revisit their position. The boy has done good and it's not like the sky fell in on the NRL or the Kiwis following his exit. Warriors officials are counting the dollars as they salivate over the opportunity to welcome SBW to Eden Park when the Roosters come to town in round two of the NRL. They know full well a good few more seats will have bums on them if the soon to be WBA international heavyweight champion lines up for the Chooks.
SBW is good for business all right, even if a good chunk of what he does is just a little preposterous.
Tonight's fight certainly has the mark of ridiculousness on it. The idea that after just 16 total rounds against the likes of Gary Gurr and morbidly obese gospel singer Alipate Liava'a, Williams is ready to take on a former title contender with 350 rounds under his belt is bizarre. Botha may be 44, but it's not like he's lost any limbs recently. It's so wacky, in fact, that the fight is near guaranteed to produce a acky result.
Predicting an outcome simply isn't possible. There are just too many vagaries in professional boxing. Judging by his Twitter outburst after watching his great mate Anthony Mundine lose a fight on a routine unanimous points decision last week, Williams doesn't have much faith in the sport's legitimacy either.
What can be said with confidence is that we are not going to see 12 rounds of intense, high calibre heavyweight boxing.
Williams is still very much a novice. Having seen Paul Gallen in action recently, to these eyes Williams isn't even the best fighter in the NRL. If he was a normal human being who was serious about progressing his boxing career, he would be taking on the local prospects such as Joey Wilson and Afa Tatupu. But he isn't normal. And he and shrewd manager Khoder Nasser know a meritorious victory over an Auckland meat delivery man wouldn't sell as much biltong as a dubious one over an opponent such as Botha. Taking on Botha is just plain crazy - unless of course you know you can't really lose.By Steve Deane Email Steve