SBW weighs in as favourite for Botha bout

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 17:00 07/02/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Photosport

Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha stare each other down at the weigh-in.

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Conventional boxing wisdom suggests Francois Botha hasn't got a dogs' show against Sonny Bill Williams in their World Boxing Association heavyweight title fight- although the loquacious South African's chihuahua apparently begs to differ.

"My dog Peanut said 'knock him out', that's what must I do," growled Botha as the 44-year-old played his part as the main event's undisputed showman today.

After complaining about the funereal atmosphere at yesterday's press call, "The White Buffalo" ensured the traditional pre-fight weigh-in was an entertaining prelude to Williams' bid for the vacant WBA International heavyweight belt.

Turning up punctually and sporting dark glasses and a red bandana, Botha certainly stood out at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre as he told no one in particular what and how he was going to deal with the multi-sport star.

"Ah, he's showed up, so at least there's going to be a fight, I thought he was scared and not showing up" said Botha as Williams turned up fashionably late - by 16 minutes.

"Now the Buffalo can take some neck bones and crack some ribs."

Compared to the supremely conditioned former All Black, Botha appears more accustomed to devouring ribs - although he at least stripped down in better shape than some of Williams' previous punching bags.

"It's the lowest (weight) the Buffalo has been in years. If the Buffalo is 113 (kg), the Buffalo is in great shape."

Perhaps assuming his goal weight was unattainable Botha playfully patted his paunch before tipping the scales at 115.25kg.

Williams, meanwhile, clenched his six pack and weighed in at 107kg even - the first of many advantages he could utilise over a fight scheduled for 12 three-minute rounds.

The 27-year-old is younger, taller and carries superior conditioning into a clash that was postponed last November because Williams injured a pectoral muscle while playing rugby in Japan.

Once the scales were set aside the combatants stared each other down - a light-hearted exercise where Williams poked the South African's tummy without retaliation.

Williams, who is undefeated in his five fights, is the $A1.60 favourite with bookmaker TABSportsbet but concedes ground in one boxing-specific craft.

"The showman's come out in him. He's been talking it up," said Williams, who adopts a more constrained persona before stepping into the ring.

"It's a privilege to fight him, but I won't be asking for his signature inside the ring."

That was about as belligerent as Williams managed after the duo shook hands and embraced.

Quade Cooper was also fairly restrained as he contemplated his professional debut against Barry Dunnett, a car crash assessment officer with a background in muay thai.

"It's getting a little bit tense, the atmosphere of this whole thing," said Cooper, who takes on Dunnett in a non-title cruiserweight bout.

"I've learnt a whole lot from this experience. I'm in great shape."

Cooper refused to speculate on how long his first foray would last.

"Hopefully I'll finish up on top but I'm not here to predict anything. I'll get in there and do my best. I've prepared well and I'm very confident in my abilities and what my trainers have been teaching me."

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Dunnett, who last boxed without using his elbows and knees in 2010, has vowed to land a blow for genuine fighters who don't enjoy a footballer's luxury of returning to a lucrative professional contract.

"Everyone in the boxing community is behind me. They want me to put an end to the footballer-turned-fighter."

Dunnett acknowledged the controversial Wallaby had a height and reach advantage but believed confidence - never mind technique - could be an issue.

Although the playmaker struts his stuff for the Queensland Reds, in their brief meetings Dunnett associates Cooper with the star who dissolved under pressure during the 2011 World Cup.

"He doesn't strike me as a confident person," said Dunnett, who didn't blink as the pair tensed up within touching distance.

- Stuff

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