Notorious rugby league hard man Willie Mason will headline the next edition of New Zealand's Fight for Life boxing extravaganza and says 'it's personal'.
Mason, the Newcastle and former New South Wales State of Origin and Australian test forward, will front up in the ring at Trusts Stadium in Waitakere on December 15.
It will be Mason's boxing debut and at 1.95m and 115kg, he's clearly in the heavyweight division. He will fight over two three-minute rounds.
It's another league versus rugby format with Mason, 32, confirmed to captain the league team at a launch function in Auckland today.
Promoters Duco Events will reveal the rest of the line-ups over the coming weeks but it is understood they have several All Blacks in their sights for the rugby 'team'.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation has again been confirmed as the charity to benefit from the night, which will be televised live on pay-per-view TV. The expectation is to raise in excess of $150,000 for the foundation.
Mason said he had personal reasons to get involved in this cause.
"Whenever I hear the word 'cancer' it sets me back for a second or two," Mason said today.
"My father Ian fought cancer before he died in 1997. And while it wasn't from prostate cancer, I think for anyone who has suffered a loss like my family did, cancer is cancer - whether it's prostate cancer or another cancer. So, when I heard the charity was a cancer awareness one the decision to get inside those ropes was an easy one.
"If I can convince blokes to go and get checked and save their kids from having to go through what I went through in 1997, then every second inside the ring would have been worth it."
Mason feels his league career has rebounded under super coach Wayne Bennett at the Knights. He believes his involvement in boxing can only help him heading forward.
"I am in a really good space at the moment," Mason said. "Mentally and physically things have come together really well at the Knights. I feel like I am ready to take my game to another level again and certainly the boxing training that I'm doing is ultimately going to help me next season.
"I'm looking forward to fighting in New Zealand. I know I am not the most popular person over here but I'd like to think people will respect me a bit more because of this decision to get in the ring to raise awareness about prostate cancer."
- © Fairfax NZ News