Francois Botha boasts SBW will be seeing stars

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 14/10/2012
Francois Botha
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Mike Tyson looks down at a knocked out Francois Botha.
Sonny Bill Williams
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Sonny Bill Williams announcing his plans to play in Japan.

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Age has only boosted Francois Botha's supreme self-belief.

At 44, the "White Buffalo" is well past his prime. After 60 professional fights, even the twilight years are long gone.

His pot belly displays the afterglow of numerous Castle lagers and hearty South African steaks.

But this former boxing champion has taken shots from some of the best - Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, just to cite a few. And, for that reason, Botha feels Kiwi rugby/league star Sonny Bill Williams is not in his league. Not even close.

Williams is, apparently, set for a beating on November 21 in Durban.

"I see Sonny Bill getting knocked out, legs shaking on the floor and lips trembling," Botha told Sunday News.

His arrogance is borne from experience.

Botha's headline fights in the 1990s contributed to substantial career earnings that even Williams cannot yet match.

"I'm looking at more than $10 million," Botha said.

"Once you establish yourself in boxing, then the big fights come. Then you can make a huge amount of money."

It's no wonder he is a well-known, if not renowned, heavyweight.

In his heyday, when the division of giants had a strong pulse, Botha claimed the IBF title in 1995 with victory over German Axel Schulz, only to be stripped of the crown for steroid use. At that point he was 36-0.

The fight with Tyson in 1999 remains his fondest memory, despite being knocked out in the fifth round by an electrifying right hand.

Botha was Tyson's first opponent after returning from his 19-month exile for biting Holyfield's ear.

"The Mike Tyson fight always stands out. Everybody will always remember Tyson. He had knocked out everybody. No one gave me a shot of lasting five minutes."

Since then, Botha has experienced four brutal years of mixed martial arts in Japan, where he suffered a broken leg, before returning to his traditional trade.

"They flew me right to the top. I didn't know anything about kick boxing and those guys kicked the shit out of me. It took me a while before I really started getting into it.

"In the boxing ring I would destroy those guys."

Losing four of his last five fights and weighing around 124kg, it is clear Botha's fitness is not an asset but he still packs a killer punch. Just ask Flo Simba, the previously 10-0 South African cruiserweight, whom Botha knocked out last year.

If the lines read off Botha's brash script next month, Williams will play a similar role.

"He's going to have a rude awakening but it will make him a better fighter in the future.

"Sonny Bill Williams might be a good rugby player but I don't see him as a good boxer. He doesn't belong in the boxing ring. He should go play rugby.

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"He's just starting out his career. He's taking a big step up. It's a big risk."

Botha admires Williams' courage and athleticism but believes the dual-code superstar is "young and foolish" for taking such a punt so early in his budding boxing career.

If managed properly, professional boxers slowly build credentials by taking gradual steps to fashion respectable, undefeated records.

Not Williams. Just five fights into his under-whelming pro career he is taking chances.

"I would never have taken a fight such as this at his stage of his career," Botha said.

"The guys he's fought are all rubbish.

"They are mediocre fighters I wouldn't let tie my shoe laces. He's about to find out what it's all about. He's young and foolish. I'm mature and wise.

"I'm going to take him out quick. "

Botha reckons Williams should have taken baby steps before taking on a seasoned veteran.

"My son has started boxing. Maybe he should have fought my son. He's 22. He's a good boxer. He's had two amateur fights and won both.

"If he beats my son then he can fight Big Daddy," he said, chuckling.

There is a theory that favours Williams. If he can use his long reach to keep his distance in the first four rounds, his superior conditioning should get him through. After much convincing, Botha concedes Williams might "get lucky" and fast-track his boxing credentials.

"If he can do well against me it will raise his status around the world."

Having seen and gone toe-to-toe with, some of the premier heavyweights of the modern era, Botha bemoans its diminishing appeal.

"The heavyweight division is a shambles at the moment," he said.

"We will never see the likes of Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis again.

"We need somebody that can lift the standard.

"Look at the Klitschkos . . . they are boring. That's why nobody watches them."

After Williams he plans to realise a book, dabble in promotion and start a world boxing exhibition tour with Holyfield.

But he can't sign off without one final jibe at Williams. "Don't you scare the boy too much now."

- Sunday Star Times

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