Sonny Bill Williams is readying himself for the toughest fight of his boxing career and looking to earn respect when he steps into the ring to take on experienced American southpaw Chauncy Welliver this month.
The 29-year-old dual rugby code international will make his long awaited boxing return on January 31 at the Footy Show Fight Night at Sydney's All Phones Arena, against an opponent Williams believes will provide a thorough test of his boxing credentials.
Almost two years on from his controversial bout against former-heavyweight champion Francois Botha, Williams admits he is looking to enhance his boxing credibility against the well-seasoned Welliver.
"I guess you could say that after what happened in the last fight," Williams said.
"In a boxing sense, I just knew that with the [quality of the] card, [rising Sydney Roosters forward] Willis Meehan, [NSW and Cronulla captain] Paul Gallen, [All Black] Liam Messam, and a couple of great up and coming Australian fighters, I had to step out of my comfort zone and take on someone with a really decent record."
Welliver's physique might appear more marshmallow than granite but Williams points to his rival's extensive and impressive fight record and insists his vast experience will ensure a rugged contest.
"Everyone is just looking at what he looks like, from a physical point of view but he's done the yards, he's crafty," he explains.
"In boxing terms, it's no easy feat fighting a guy that's had 70 fights and won 55 and lost 10, against someone who has only had six fights. And a few of them were, I guess you could say, exhibition fights.
"It's going to be a tough challenge but I know that I have to back all my athletic skills to help me out in the ring and that's definitely what I'm going to try to do."
Meanwhile, Williams' good friend Messam is looking into the great unknown as he prepares to make his professional boxing debut in an undercard bout against an as yet unconfirmed opponent.
"It is really nerve-wracking, not just because I don't know who I am fighting but just because it is boxing," said Messam. "We had an opponent a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately he pulled out. That's outside of my hands.
"I've just got to keep working hard and put my head down and get the right preparation."
Entering his 10th Super Rugby campaign with the Chiefs and a World Cup year, the 30-year-old loose-forward is adamant this stint in the ring will ensure he is primed for one of the biggest seasons of his career to date.
"Definitely. Why I suggested doing this fight is for that one reason, because it's a massive year and I believe this is going to give me the best preparation for 2015 and hopefully after this fight we can get back on deck with the Chiefs and prepare to win a title."