Australian heavyweight champion Solomon Haumono had some sound advice for Sydney Roosters recruit, rugby star and occasional prize fighter Sonny Bill Williams when he spoke of how tough it was to serve different sporting masters.
Haumono is a fight away from capturing a top 15 ranking in the prestigious World Boxing Council after becoming, by his own admission, ''serious'' about his stop-start boxing career, which began 12 years ago at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, when he belted Ken Fuller so hard the ring collapsed beneath their feet.
Once it was repaired Fuller became the first of 17 men who have been stopped - or put to sleep - by Haumono's big fists. As a former first-grade league player with Manly, Canterbury and St George Illawarra, the powerfully built 37-year-old, who fights to feed his wife and five kids, said he gained a greater sense of purpose when he made the decision to follow one sporting path.
''I was in a fortunate position to be able to compete in both sports,'' said Haumono, as Williams prepares to fight veteran South African Francois Botha in February.
''But I don't think being in two minds really helped, you need to be committed to one [pursuit] only ... I feel in the five years since I returned to boxing I've benefited from concentrating on boxing. It's a great tribute to Sonny Bill that he can do all three sports at an elite level, but my own experience makes me think you have to commit to one if you want to succeed. To be the best in the world you need to apply yourself to be that.
''I'm not criticising Sonny Bill Williams in any way because he is a great person and a great athlete and it's what he chooses to do, but for myself I've come to realise it is all or nothing.''
Since making that decision the mild-mannered Haumono has dominated the local heavyweight division. In September, he stopped Nigerian-born Franklin Egobi in the final round of their Australian heavyweight title fight and on New Year's Eve he'll fight Japan's Kyotaro Fujimoto for the vacant Orient Pacific Boxing title in Osaka.
Fujimoto, in only his fifth fight, seized the WBC's 15th ranking in September with a unanimous points decision against American southpaw Chauncy Welliver in Tokyo. Haumono won't be taking his opponent, a former martial arts exponent, lightly.
''Welliver was a big scalp for him,'' Haumono said. ''He's hungry, he's young, he's only had a few fights but is already ranked No 15. I'm sure he sees me as just another stepping stone, and that he can bowl me over. There'll be some firecrackers in the sky that night being New Year's Eve, but there'll be a few going off in the ring too, wait and see.''
While Haumono was born with a KO punch, he prides himself on being a complete boxer. ''I like to not just be a puncher, I am a boxer,'' he said. ''In this sport you have to hit but the trick is to not get hit ... and that is something you don't learn [is crucial] until it happens. As you climb higher up the ladder you learn a lot of things, different tactics, about different fighters, offensive and defensive styles, all sorts of things ... I love learning the things I am.''
His father, Maile, won the Australian title in 1976. ''With age comes wisdom and I look at this as being a time in my life to achieve something; a dream I've had for most of my life,'' he said. ''The Australian title is an achievement, I know it has lost some prestige over the last 10 years because of the way boxing has gone, but my father held it and the quality of men who have won it over the years makes it a great honour.''
Haumono, who represented the NSW Super League team, said when he reflected upon his football career it stung.
''If anything it was something I took for granted,'' he said. ''I can say that in all honesty because as I have learned through boxing [greatness] requires commitment. I look at it in a positive light, though. I know I achieved a little in football, but I could have done so much more, but the experience has made me realise I can do a lot more.
"When I talk to kids who need some mentoring I draw upon those experiences and I tell them why they need to be committed. Rugby league and boxing are the two hardest sports in the world - boxing is the toughest - but league played its role to groom me to try and fulfil what has been a long-held dream for me - to succeed at boxing.''
- Sydney Morning Herald
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