Sonny Bill Williams has only just returned to rugby league but stands poised to walk away from the football codes forever to follow his dream of becoming a legitimate heavyweight champion.
There's no doubting Williams's commitment to the Sydney Roosters, where he has signed for the coming NRL season after returning from a successful stint in rugby. But his career as a footballer might soon be sacrificed to become a full-time fighter.
Williams said he was deadly serious about leaving both rugby codes behind him in the not-too-distant future should he beat South Africa's former IBF heavyweight champ Frans Botha in Brisbane on Friday night.
The fight might be something of a novelty to some but for Williams, it represents a fork in the road of his sporting career. At 27, he believes the time is coming where he must make a call, or risk sacrificing what could be his best years in the fight game.
In that regard, beating Botha - who doesn't believe Williams should even grace the same ring as him - is anything but a joke for one of the southern hemisphere's most bankable athletes.
It would be a massive gamble for Williams to leave league and union, where he has been a superstar and banked millions in the process. But under new trainer Mick Akkawy, his love of boxing has grown to the extent that he might risk it all to chase the bright lights of Las Vegas.
''That's the funny thing about it. The last fight [against Clarence Tillman] was the first time I had a trainer. Until then, I didn't think I had too much. I just used to bank on my athleticism. It was a real eye-opener, the things I learned. I just seemed to pick it up,'' Williams said.
''We sought out Mick, and things have just grown. My confidence has grown as well, hence the reason we're trying to take a big step up to the calibre of fighter that I'm fighting.
''I'm 27 now, I'm not getting any younger. If I want that to come to fruition and do this in the future, I need to fight guys like this.''
Williams said he had been surprised by how deeply he has fallen for the sweet science, a dalliance which at the start was largely written off as a quick fling to pocket some extra cash.
Now things are getting serious, even though there is no family history in the sport, and it wasn't until he caught Tillman with a crisp left that he really began to wonder whether his future might not lie between the white lines.
''It surprises the heck out of me. Boxing's not in my blood ... it just grew on me,'' Williams said.
He said he understood there would be doubters, especially given how green he remains in the craft, but he was happy to lay his cards on the table and try to make good on his ambition.
''Just like in rugby, the pinnacle was playing for the All Blacks. That was always a massive thing. But you never speak it outwardly because it can sound stupid,'' Williams said. ''But if you don't have massive dreams, you might as well stay in bed.''
- Brisbane Times
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