Coach still respects SBW

By Brendan Manning

While the Sonny Bill Williams fight against Francois Botha ended mired in controversy, a local boxing club coach says he still has respect for the former All Black.

"He never had any amateur fights - so I've been told - and that's one of his downfalls," RiverCity Boxing Club Whanganui head coach Ivan Lacy said "You need amateur fights to go pro - even if it's only 10."

Mr Lacy said Williams met his match last Friday in Brisbane. He thought it was "weird the fight didn't go the full 12 rounds".

"If it went to 12 rounds, he certainly would have lost."

Mr Lacy said in the 15 years he had been running the RiverCity club, he had noticed the sport's popularity increasing.

People were coming for self-defence and confidence reasons, and more girls were becoming interested too, he said.

Shane Cameron was an inspiration to a lot of young boxers locally, Mr Lacy said.

Williams' win was tarnished by allegations over the length of the bout.

The TAB on Monday said it reserved the right to ditch the popular "Pick the Round" bet for specific bouts after it was forced to refund tickets following Friday's match.

"Given Sonny Bill Williams was involved in two fights previously where the number of rounds was reduced without notice, we undertook all due diligence around the number of rounds for his fight with Botha," TAB general manager Martin Saunders said.

"So we are as confused and disappointed by what happened in Brisbane as our customers are, given there was clear acknowledgment the bout was scheduled for 12 rounds."

Williams' manager Khoder Nasser said both camps knew the fight was intended for 10 rounds, although that was contradicted by Williams in the build-up to the bout, who said Botha would last the distance.

"He'll do 12 rounds pretty easy," Williams said on Thursday.

That was reinforced at the pre-fight weigh-in with an announcement the fight was set for "12 times three-minute rounds".

On Sunday, Williams wrote on Twitter that he had received a congratulatory phone call from the World Boxing Association (WBA).

However, New Zealand boxing coach Billy Graham described the match as an insult to the sport.

Graham, a former light welterweight boxing champion, told Radio New Zealand neither fighter should be boxing professionally.

He said Williams had no place in the ring.

"It's just a shame that he's got that sort of talent and he doesn't stick to his own sport and makes a mockery of ours ... If that guy [Botha] was 25 years of age instead of 45, he would have been flattened."

Both men had flouted the rules and embarrassed the sport, which was about "the art of self defence", Graham said.

It has also been reported Botha failed a drugs test before the fight.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the 44-year-old submitted a urine sample on Tuesday last week, which revealed the presence of phentermine, a banned stimulant.

The test also showed traces of benzodiazepine, a valium-type product. The test results had been forwarded to the WBA's headquarters in Panama. APNZ

- Wanganui Chronicle

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