White Buffalo likely too good for SBW
OPINION: At least now we'll see whether Sonny Bill Williams really has any future as a boxer.
According to trash-talking South African heavyweight Francois Botha, a long-term boxing career will no longer be an option for the ex-All Black after the pair meet in Brisbane tomorrow for the vacant WBA international heavyweight crown.
At 44 years old, Botha might concede 17 years to the immaculately conditioned Williams.
But for a man who can list Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Vladimir Klitschko and Evander Holyfield among his 58 opponents, there is finally some substance peering across the ring at Williams, whose list of victims to date includes such uncelebrated punchbags as Garry Gurr, Ryan Hogan, Scott Lewis, Alipate Liava'a and Clarence Tillman.
As Williams and his supporters have been at pains to point out, your career has to start somewhere, although scepticism has been as much a part of Williams' brief and unspectacular career inside the ring as all the unbridled hype that has accompanied it.
From 9pm tomorrow, though, at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, the code-hopping Williams faces easily his biggest challenge and even he admits that a loss to the self-proclaimed White Buffalo could well spell the end of his aspirations inside the ring.
Lose and you would imagine he would be off to Sydney to finally relaunch his latest NRL career with the Sydney Roosters.
Williams holds the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association heavyweight title after beating American Clarence Tillman III in February last year.
That still doesn't hold much water with the seemingly endless array of critics, many of them established boxing analysts, already convinced that Williams doesn't have the ability to match it with true professionals.
Botha has a record of 48 wins from his 58 fights, including 29 knockouts, and that experience, notwithstanding the age disparity, makes him a genuine threat.
Williams has no amateur background to fall back on and reportedly learned much of his "craft" by watching YouTube.
Trainer Tony Mundine apparently added sting to his previously uneducated punch although Mundine's now gone, leaving Williams feeling perhaps a little vulnerable against a fighter whose career began way back in 1990 in Johannesburg.
Ripped muscles and war paint might look good for the cameras, but you can't beat time in the ring.
You have to admire Williams' courage though and for an athlete who's been associated with winning teams most of his rugby-playing career, you'd expect him to face Botha with at least a facade of self-confidence.
This time though, he's on his own.
There are no team-mates to fall back on and you'd expect the odds are stacked heavily against him.
You'd certainly give Williams a starter's chance.
It's the finishing that could prove problematic.
- The Nelson Mail