Boxer and former Sydney Roosters NRL young gun Willis Meehan credits the help of his family and good friend Sonny Bill Williams for helping him to turn his back on a life as a standover man for hardened criminals.

The 20-year-old Auckland-born athlete was living a double life in recent years, building a fearsome reputation for using his size and fists to settle debts, while breaking into first grade football.

But after making his debut NRL appearance last year, his hopes of becoming a fulltime member of the Tricolours squad went south after he was charged with assault and robbery in company following a late night incident in April.

Meehan was sacked by the Roosters in July, and was fortunate to have the robbery in company charge dismissed and escaped conviction on the assault charge.


With the help of his father, Kali, who tonight faces off against Joseph Parker at Auckland's Trusts Arena, and fellow boxing and cross-code rugby star Williams, he has since converted to Islam and spent the past few months training hard for tonight's undercard bout against Leamy Tato.

"I've made all the mistakes that some people make in a 10-year career and I've made them in two years," Meehan explained.

"I'm just growing up and learning lessons. I'm blessed that it all happened because it's brought me to a better place within myself.

"I've got my dad, he's one of the best role models any young athlete can have. Sonny Bill Williams and I are really close, he's like my brother, through Islam as well and my good friend Omar Slaimankhel.

"These boys have helped me a lot to grow into a young man. I was a boy who thought I knew everything, now I'm a young man who knows I've got so much to learn."

Of his experiences on the other side of the law, Meehan is optimistic and stresses that his behavior throughout his late teens is no reflection on his strong upbringing.

"You can see it as a bad thing, those things that happened, or you can see it as a blessing, which I do," he said.

"But I grew up with a really good family, my brothers, and my mum and dad were awesome parents.

"It just got to that stage when I grew up and started seeing the world and got a bit excited and made some mistakes, which I'm not proud of. But that's my life now and I can't change it."

Following tonight's fight, the 1.95m tall and 126.2kg giant has another bout booked for November on Anthony Mundine's undercard and hopes to be back playing football in 2016.

He is currently weighing up his options about a return to the NRL and has also had interest from Super Rugby franchises, and knows he needs to make the most of any opportunity.

"There's a lot of people that don't get the opportunities and breaks that I've been blessed to get.

"At the moment I'm just focusing on myself, getting fit and strong and I'm leaving the rest in god's hands. Those are my two arenas, playing rugby league and fighting. So as long as my side's good then everything's going to fall into place."