Sonny Bill hopes to rein in South African

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Photosport

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

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The last time Sonny Bill Williams represented the All Blacks against South Africa his counterpart was a blond Afrikaner, a vastly more experienced adversary.

But other than their hair colouring, shared ethnicity and extensive sporting pedigree, there is no comparison between Jean de Villiers and Francois Botha.

Williams marked the 84-cap Springbok at Port Elizabeth in August 2011 - a Tri-Nations test won 18-5 by the hosts - and will be hoping his match-up with another of the Republic's sporting heavyweights ends more satisfactorily at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre tonight.

While De Villiers, who was elevated to the national side's captaincy last year, is an unassuming footballer, the ageing pugilist is clearly his compatriot's antithesis - a bravado-fuelled ringleader custom made for professional boxing.

Williams couldn't help but smirk when Botha showed him the ropes - showmanship style - at their pre-fight weigh-in yesterday.

Even the usually talkative Quade Cooper - who makes his professional debut against little-known kickboxer Barry Dunnant - was wide-eyed at the South African's attempts to inject some life into his tilt at the vacant WBA International belt.

Botha was in fine form, stalking the room while claiming "The White Buffalo" would make mincemeat of the footballing superstar - or at least crack his ribs.

While Botha's blunderbus approach occasionally had the audience in stitches, it is difficult to see him inflict similar damage during a 12-round contest that Williams is tipped to take comfortably.

The 27-year-old is a warm favourite to extend his professional record to 6 and 0 by adding the nondescript belt to his New Zealand Professional Boxing Association heavyweight title - not that he was taking anything for granted.

A respectful Williams pointed to Botha's world title fight experiences against Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko; the ornery orthodox fighter had also waged war against boxing luminaries Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield - although the troubled Americans were both motivated by the purse rather than pride.

Botha lost four of his previous five fights, though Williams noted bouts against Francesco Pianeta, Carlos Takam and Michael Grant either went the distance or ventured perilously close.

" . . . he's a hard head. It's going to be tough to put him in the canvas. I'm prepared the go the whole distance, at this stage that looks how it's going to go."

Williams obviously paraded in better physical shape when tipping the scales at 107kg; Botha playfully patted his belly after registering 115.25kg.

Although Botha looked more attuned to consuming ribs rather than cracking them, Williams maintained that his record of 48 wins (29K0s) 8 losses and 3 draws indicated he was a dangerous opponent.

"He's crafty, it doesn't matter what you look like, experience is a big key," he said.

Meanwhile, Williams proved he was more than capable of defending himself when quizzed on widespread allegations of drug use and match-fixing currently enveloping Australian sport.

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"I haven't read the papers . . . I've been getting hit up with those sorts of questions the last couple of days but I keep getting in trouble for saying the wrong thing."

When pressed on whether the Sydney Roosters-bound former Bulldog had any knowledge of performance-enhancing drug use or match-fixing, he reiterated "I don't want to talk about that bro," before adding: "but I haven't been". 

- Fairfax Media

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