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OPINION: "We wuz robbed."
It's one of the oldest of boxing's truisms, and was wearily appropriate to Friday's fight between Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha. Those of us who shelled out $40 are now hurling our seats into the ring, demanding our money back.
Sky TV told us that we would get 12 rounds of championship action. On the night the commentators told us that 12 rounds were scheduled. They told us that six rounds was the halfway stage. They discussed which of the fighters was best placed to go the 12 rounds.
The Fair Trading Act makes it illegal for traders to mislead customers, give them false information or use unfair trading practices. Well, we the customers were undoubtedly given false information on Friday night and we were given it in very large quantities.
On the undercard a man called Barry Dunnett was knocked out by Quade Cooper at the end of the first round. He is an insurance salesman with almost no pro fighting experience. His job on the night was to fall over and to promote Blue Chip Financial and Strategic Advisers. After the bout Dunnett said: "It would have been nice to make another round and show everyone a real fight, but shit happens."
They were the truest words spoken on the night.
Next up was the main event. We should have known the fix was on when Rick Powell, the ring announcer, began to stumble over his words. Had someone been tampering with his notes? Each of the previous five fights had been introduced by mention of the fight length. But suddenly the duration of Sonny Bill's fight was left unsaid. The garrulous Powell had nothing to utter on the matter.
Did I say Sonny Bill? Not according to Powell. The waxen-haired ringmaster pronounced: "This is our main event broadcast for the WBA International heavyweight title. Let's now make welcome to the centre ring, no need for major introduction, please welcome Sonny Boy Williams."
Sonny Boy? Is he some relation to Sonny Boy Williamson, the blues harmonica player? And what was this WBA International heavyweight title? Surely not an attempt to pass off a toy belt as some sort of heavyweight world championship? Then the cameras panned to Botha, as he made his way into the ring. And what a way it was. To the chords of Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier - a historical song about a black African taken from his homeland to America - a white, blond South African bounced from foot to foot in a ghastly simulation of dance.
At this point we should have at least suspected Botha was on drugs. Or he is according to Khoder Nasser, the manager of SBW. Botha says he's not on drugs and the positive test was rigged by a Nasser family member or something.
Nasser responded by saying: "The pathology company is a very reputable pathology company."
And so to the fight. Did I say fight? It was more like a religious ceremony. During the sermon the commentators, preachers, evangelists, call them what you will, described SBW as, "fresh, amazing, a multi-sport superstar, athletic freak of nature, a superman show, clever, full of heart and intestinal fortitude, wonderful, career-defining, a star, beautiful, very good, confident, brilliant, powerful, perfect, devastating and much, much more.
This was sport as religion. We were being asked to believe in a false god. And then someone noticed that the god's knees were a bit wobbly. The ref rushed across and told Williams' corner it was the last round. With one-and-a-half minutes to go, the announcer said, "30 seconds to go". Williams was out on his feet. The ref issued a points deduction and Williams conveniently got 10 seconds respite. And still the god was hanging on for grim life.
Then the bell went, SBW was the champion, the victor, "an amazing performance, an amazing night, an amazing fight". I guess it was. Botha's corner called foul. They complained about the ref holding Sonny up and of the fight being shortened. The man with the microphone looked like someone had just pushed dog dirt through his front door. Follow-up question? No chance.
I frequently stand up for Sky. Much of what it does is first rate. But this was a sham. We, the customers, were misled and given false information. But Sky maintains that, unlike the TAB, its customers will not be refunded.
Sky New Zealand spokeswoman Kirsty Way said: "The way the whole night pans out is out of our control. We delivered to our customers the whole event so there are no issues there. People were a bit surprised about the 10 rounds but it was out of our hands."
That is entirely disingenuous. Sir Robert Jones called the fight "seedy, nasty and bogus" and described SBW as "an idiot adrift on a float of publicity". Well said, Jones. You sound like the white knight that we need. Why not ride in and take on Sky under the Fair Trading Act. You would be doing us all a big favour.
* When contacted this morning Sir Robert said he wouldn't be taking on Sky.
- The Dominion Post