Sonny Bill Williams is being challenged to an A$1 million ($1.13 million) winner-take-all bout to defend his New Zealand heavyweight boxing crown - provocatively delivered just before tonight's NRL grand final.
Duco Events, promoters of rising star Joseph Parker who fights Afa Tatupu for a rival New Zealand title on Thursday, have offered Williams a winner-take-all purse of A$1 million (thought to be the biggest in Australasian boxing history) to take on the winner of the Parker-Tatupu fight in a unification bout.
An email was sent to Williams' agent, Khoder Nasser, yesterday setting out that Duco would promote and underwrite the bout and purse. The proposal is for a winner-takes-all prize and Duco spokesman Dean Lonergan says they are confident enough of the pulling power of the fight to hold it no matter who wins the Parker-Tatupu clash.
"We have heard that Sonny Bill is destined to come back to the Chiefs," said Lonergan. "We have heard many times from Khoder Nasser and others that he is a potential world heavyweight champion.
"Sonny Bill isn't even dominating the New Zealand boxing landscape. I'd suggest he is only the fifth-best boxer to come out of this country in recent times, behind David Tua, Joseph Parker and Shane Cameron - and Afa Tatupu. He will be relentlessly ridiculed if he doesn't step up to take this fight."
Nasser, when contacted by the Herald on Sunday, was unimpressed: "Tell Dean Lonergan to get in line. Tell him to stick to his little enclave over there because we don't even know who he is over here. He doesn't even register.
"So tell him to get back down his burrow and not stick his head out too far. Tell him too about that old Chinese proverb - be careful what you wish for."
The offer - if accepted - would boost the New Zealand heavyweight scene into the big time.
The two New Zealand belts - the New Zealand Boxing Federation title (held by Tatupu) and the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association title (held by Williams) are little known but will earn new credibility if the Williams fight occurs.
"If Sonny Bill doesn't have the balls to take on a winner-takes-all purse, well, we will sit down and negotiate," said Lonergan.
"It could be a $500,000-$500,000 purse, or $600,000 to $400,000, or even $700,000 to $300,000 but we would prefer a winner-takes-all bout."
Parker, while reluctant to talk about the fight before he takes on Tatupu, is happy to fight on an all-or-nothing basis for the A$1m: "Yes, it would be a great opportunity for me as a boxer to be fighting for that kind of money when my career is still pretty new.
"I hope Sonny takes it on... I respect him and what he has done on the rugby and league field and I know he will train his best and his hardest for this.
"I sparred with him before his fight against Clarence Tillman, stayed at his house and met his family - he is a great guy; a humble dude, but boxing is boxing and that's one of the fields he has chosen."
The suggested date is December, January or February in New Zealand to get around Williams' NRL or Super Rugby commitments but Lonergan says they will accommodate any other dates if necessary.
Certainly the timing is provocative - Nasser was sent the email yesterday, a day before William's Roosters were slight favourites to beat the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL grand final.
Williams has been the focus of reported moves by Nasser to match him against 47-year-old Australian heavyweight veteran Bob Mirovic, a boxer who hasn't fought for two years after being denied permission to fight in Australia.
Mirovic then tried to fight in New Zealand but the move was blocked by the NZPBA. Mirovic, who has fought 55 times for 31 wins and 22 losses (and two draws), told the Sunday News a CT scan had cleared him of any serious brain trauma but his licence was revoked because of his age.
Mirovic has lost six of his last nine fights, two of them to former NRL league star John Hopoate who embarked on his own boxing career before that was ended with a loss to former US heavyweight champion Oliver McCall and a disqualification three years ago against Cameron.
"I mean, this guy [Mirovic] would have to come out of retirement, there is a hint he might be brain-damaged and if Sonny Bill wants to be the alpha male, why would he be thinking about taking on a 47-year-old? Khoder is really just giving him an easy fight," said Lonergan.
"Yes, boxing is about the money - but we have covered that with the huge A$1m purse. We have the experience and the capability and the credibility to hold such a fight with such a purse. We have done it before [Tua v Cameron saw both fighters receive $500,000]. We are also bringing the Rugby League Nines to New Zealand - and that is a $6.5m-$7m undertaking.
"Boxing is also about the sport. We are prepared to get our guy up for the sake of New Zealand boxing - these two titles should surely be unified - and we are prepared to back this fight even if Afa Tatupu can overcome Joseph Parker, the best boxing talent to come out of this country since 1992 and David Tua.
"Joseph has, in our opinion, the fastest hand speed in the entire heavyweight division right now and his power is coming up. He is lethal and dangerous. He is building his repertoire of punches; he is not just a one-dimensional fighter but has a whole range of punches."
Clearly Duco are expecting Parker to win the fight though Tatupu is motivated and has a puncher's chance against the 21-year-old, who has fought only six times for six wins.
Tatupu has a more modest record - nine wins and four losses - but has knockout power. He will test Parker, who knocked out veteran 45-year-old heavyweight Frans Botha in his most significant fight.
Good judges rate Parker highly and he is training with Kevin Barry in Las Vegas.
"Sonny Bill was nearly knocked out by Botha in their fight so he clearly needs more credibility than Mirovic can give him," said Lonergan.
The Botha-Williams fight was marred by controversy when it seemed to be suddenly shortened, preventing a possible loss marring Williams' undefeated record.