Boxing: Fight not over for SBW

By Paul Lewis

Cries of match-fixing have cast a shadow over the title fight against the White Buffalo.

Sonny Bill Williams hung on for a victory over Francois Botha after two rounds were cut from the fight. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams hung on for a victory over Francois Botha after two rounds were cut from the fight. Photo / Getty Images

It ended in farce but Sonny Bill Williams' win over grizzled heavyweight Francois Botha has some deadly serious repercussions for Williams and his camp.

Boxing officials in Queensland are meeting to see if they can curtail the activities of Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser, after Friday night's controversial heavyweight bout against Botha which caused the latter to claim "match fixing".

Doubt has been cast over the validity of Williams' victory, and on the international World Boxing Association title he won, because the sanctioning body, the WBA, may not have been contacted to approve the bout.

The hunt is also on for a mystery man who, according to Botha's corner, approached them in the eighth round to tell them the rounds had been trimmed back to 10.

A clearly groggy Williams hung on to win though an angry Botha claimed he would have knocked Williams out had there been two more rounds - an estimation most fight fans would agree with, given Williams' unsteady hold on the vertical at the end of the fight.

Betting agencies, which had offered bets based on a 12-round fight, refunded wagers to angry punters after the bout was suddenly cut from 12 to 10 rounds. Australia's TAB, Centrebet and Sportsbet claimed they gave back almost A$150,000 ($185,000) in losing wagers, and the NZ TAB also refunded some bets on which round the bout would end.

As if that wasn't enough, Williams has now been called out by David Tua. Tua is challenging Williams for his New Zealand heavyweight belt, after Tua's promoter said the Williams-Botha bout had been bad for the sport and that credibility needed to be restored.

Botha's corner man, Hardy Mileham, told APNZ's Patrick McKendry that an unidentified man had loomed up in the corner during the eighth round, delivering the message that the fight had been shortened to 10 rounds.

Mileham said he quickly told his fighter: "They've cut it down to 10, you've got to open up. It's make or break."

"Sure enough, this was match-fixing," an angry Botha said in his dressing room afterwards. "How can you cut 15 seconds [from the final round]? How can you cut two rounds? That's called match-fixing."

Meanwhile, according to Brisbane's Sunday Mail, some of Australia's leading boxing figures - furious at another tainted promotion staged by the controversial manager of Williams and Quade Cooper - have called a crisis meeting to curtail his activities. A Queensland boxing official, who did not wish to be named, told the paper: "We are going to have a very serious talk in the next few days pertaining to [Nasser's] promotions in Queensland."

Brad Vocale from the WBA's Pan Asian Boxing Association told Fox Sports News: "Due process clearly wasn't done here by the self-appointed regulatory branch here in Queensland because they didn't even bother to check with the WBA whether this bout has been approved."

Vocale said he doubted the belt presented to Williams was sanctioned by the WBA, and that it wasn't a genuine WBA belt but made by a member of the Queensland branch of the Boxing Federation.

"This thing has happened before with the same promoters and the same regulatory body," Vocale added. "There was certainly no WBA official there last night. In my view they've defrauded the fight-paying public of Australia."

That could mean Williams might be awarded the win but will not be officially recognised as a WBA international champion because of the unprecedented shortening of the bout. WBA championship fights are held over 12 rounds.

Yesterday John Hogg, the supervisor of the fight for the Australian National Boxing Federation (ANBF), said Nasser and Botha's manager Tinus Strydom approached him only minutes before the first bell to say the fight was being cut back.

"The boxers may have even already been in the ring when we were told," Hogg said.

"I did find it strange to make a change like that so late in the night. The timekeeper was informed of the change and so was the referee and the judges. But it was done at such late notice there was not even time to inform the TV commentators. I find it a bit hard to believe that Botha didn't know of the change."

However, the Australian reported ANBF vice-president Alan Moore, a ringside judge for the bout, had no idea it had been shortened to 10 rounds.

Nasser was adamant yesterday that all parties knew the fight would be over 10 rounds.

Boxing image hurt

Sonny Bill Williams, on Twitter yesterday
"First morning after the fight its sinking in what a great night it was. We both knew it was a 10 rounder ... "

Dean Lonergan, boxing promoter
"To lose two rounds from the bout is a bit like the referee pulling the plug on an All Blacks match 10 minutes from the end because we thought the boys might lose. It is not on. This will hurt boxing and damage the credibility of the sport. ..."

Sir Robert Jones, property tycoon
"It was like watching an amateur show pony taking on a tired old man. By the 10th round Sonny Bill looked like he was going to be knocked out by a 44-year-old bloke who is well over the hill. Sonny Bill must have been embarrassed by what happened and he should quietly hang up his gloves and stick to playing rugby.

"The whole performance was degrading to the sport of boxing. It was a joke."

Ken Reinsfield, Shane Cameron's manager
"Before the fight Sonny Bill had been talking about it as being a 12-rounder and it was advertised on the tale of the tape as such. I have been involved with about 25 title fights and regional belts with Shane Cameron and they have all been over a minimum of 12 rounds. Sonny Bill ... was out of his depth and was out on his feet when it was stopped. I hope the punters realise that this was just a bit of showbiz and didn't really look like a genuine match."

- Herald on Sunday

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