Botha lured to bout by SBW's popularity

PHIL LUTTON
Last updated 13:38 06/02/2013
Francois Botha
Getty Images
FRANCOIS BOTHA: "Sonny Bill Williams doesn't belong in the ring with me."

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Frans Botha is 44, has done everything from kick-boxing to sumo wrestling and is slightly softer around the middle than in his halcyon days, when he mixed it with some of the iconic names of the heavyweight division.

The clock is ticking on his boxing journey. But the South African remains confident only one career will end in Brisbane on Friday night: that being the one belonging to Sonny Bill Williams.

The man known as ''The White Buffalo'' is on the wrong side of 40 and has won just one of his last five fights, but represents a momentous challenge to the Sydney Roosters star, who will have his sixth fight when Botha clocks up his 61st.

Such is the gulf in experience that while Botha had well over a half-century of bouts to his name, Williams was learning to fight by watching Marvin Hagler on YouTube.

And anyone who saw Botha rocket his still heavy hands into the bag at a Brisbane gym on Tuesday will understand that Williams has taken quite the bite out of a very large and ornery sandwich.

Botha, who has fought (and lost to) Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, gives Williams credit for taking the fight, which he accepted only because of Williams's huge profile in rugby playing nations.

''He's got a lot of big balls - and I don't mean rugby balls, '' Botha said. ''In reality, Sonny Bill Williams doesn't belong in the ring with me. If you look at stats, he should never be in the ring with me.

''At this stage of my career, I would never have looked at a guy like this, a guy with five fights. Because of his popularity, the superstar that he is in rugby, that made it viable to me to fight him.''

Botha is hardly star-struck about Williams the footballer. He became lost when trying to thread an All Blacks-Springbok narrative through the pre-fight storyline, then gave it up altogether.

He's really here for a quick win, one which Williams later confirmed would put paid to any further boxing aspirations. But he also knows a loss would represent an embarrassing blip on his record.

''He's got a lot to gain by taking this fight and I do take my hat off to him, because nobody at this stage of his career would take a fight like that. It's a great opportunity for him,'' Botha said. ''If he loses to me, he can say he fought a former heavyweight champion. If I lose, I'm losing to a novice. I've got a lot of pressure on me.''

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Williams, who looked in superb shape and has made marked improvements on his power and technique under new trainer Mick Akkawy, didn't buy into any pre-fight talk and was humble to a fault.

''I'd be lying if I said I wasn't [worried]. For me, in a boxing sense, this is where I need to be, taking on guys like this. This is my sixth fight. He's had 60 I think,'' Williams said. ''So it's a massive step up. If I want to look to do this in the future full-time, I have to be able to beat guys like this."

Botha said Williams was ''very green'' in the ring and still had a ''lot of problems'' with his movement and technique. Williams tended to agree but wouldn't have taken the fight if he didn't believe he could win.

''That's fair enough,'' Williams said. ''I can't really talk myself up in a boxing sense so I'm just trying to go out there and do my best.''

- Brisbane Times

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