Boxing: TAB to handle SBW with care

By Kris Shannon

Sonny Bill Williams during his controversial heavyweight bout against Francois Botha. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams during his controversial heavyweight bout against Francois Botha. Photo / Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams' next fight may not feature the 'pick the round' betting option, the TAB decided today.

Williams' unanimous points victory over Francois Botha in Brisbane on Friday was tarnished by a dispute surrounding the length of the bout, with the scheduled 12 rounds cut to 10.

The TAB was forced to refund all 'pick the round' bets and, after meeting today, announced it would hold the right to remove the betting option on any future boxing matches.

"We'll have to take into account who's fighting, who's promoting, what's the title, what's the belt," said TAB head bookmaker Mark Stafford. "There's a lot of hearsay and speculation but, until we're presented with all the facts in front of us, we can't make a decision.

"By and large, boxing's fine. It's just when there's a few anomalies that could come up where we'll have to be proactive."

Those anomalies have cropped up in three of Williams' six professional fights, a track record Stafford agreed was "not good".

But he said the TAB would be remiss to remove the option entirely, considered its popularity and the interest Williams continues to generate.

"You could argue he's probably one of our most popular sports people currently. He creates huge amounts of interest, and even if he was fighting again this weekend people would want to bet on it. So we've got to provide a product our customers want."

The new proviso will not be tested by Williams until the end of the year at the earliest, with his return to rugby league with the Sydney City Roosters taking precedence for now.

Whether his next fight is a rematch against the aggrieved Botha - whose previous experience includes losses to Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis - is now in doubt, after the veteran South African reportedly failed a drugs test in the lead-up to the bout.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Botha submitted a urine sample on Tuesday last week which revealed the presence of phentermine, a banned stimulant - though the legitimacy of that test has since been questioned.

Australian National Boxing Federation (ANBF) committee member John Hogg said it would be "bizarre" if Botha was even subject to a test.

Hogg, an ANBF Queensland representative, sent Botha for his medical last week and he told the Courier Mail boxers competing in the state of Queensland were not required to be tested for performance enhancing drugs.

"I sent Frans for a complete medical which tested him for hepatitis and Aids etc, but that is the only testing required of professional boxers," Hogg said. "I have never heard of [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority] spot-testing professional boxers in Queensland.

"I would think I would have heard about ASADA testing Botha or Sonny Bill, because they have never showed up to boxing gyms in Queensland or on fight night."

An ASADA spokesman told the Courier Mail the body was not in a position to make a formal comment on the issue but typically boxing title fights fell out of their jurisdiction.

With doping allegations adding to the confusion over the length, the fight did not lack for controversy but boxing enthusiast Sir Bob Jones thought it was deficient in every other area.

Sir Bob, who is the manager of New Zealand's brightest heavyweight prospect Joseph Parker, said everything about the fight was "seedy and nasty".

"It's an invasion of a pure sport ... by impure people," he told Radio Live today. "I exclude Williams from that. He just seems to be an idiot adrift on a float of publicity, but it should never be given this attention."

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