There was no shortage of advice yelled at Sonny Bill Williams as he tackled the toughest challenge of his professional boxing career - even his opponent critiqued his work during a bizarre WBA International heavyweight title fight.
Fellow footballer-turned-boxing convert Anthony Mundine, trainer Mick Akkawy, and manager Khoder Nasser supplied the bulk of the advice, but opponent Francois Botha also offered his opinions, based on the ringcraft gleaned from 60 previous fights.
Although Botha's bellowing as he forecast an attacking raid was the sound most associated with the South African inside the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Friday night, he also gave six-bout rookie Williams some sage advice between clinches.
"I'm sorry if I schooled him, I talk always because I spar with my son [Marcel] a little bit," the 44-year-old explained, while venting his spleen after losing by a unanimous decision.
He's not quite a father figure for 27-year-old Williams - there was no love lost as Botha unleashed a sequence of dubious blows as the fighters were being separated late in the contest - but the veteran did warn the rookie he was becoming predictable.
"I said you're showing your shots man, you're showing your punches," said Botha of his role in Williams' development in the school of hard knocks.
It was a painful learning experience for Williams, who encountered few problems in his five previous bouts.
But the "White Buffalo" was not about to be shot on sight and forced Williams to fight past a sixth round for the first time.
He had early success, opening up a cut on the bridge of Botha's nose, and his left jab also puffed up the South African's right eye socket, but Williams never replicated the head-jarring blows he received in the controversial "final" round.
"He never hurt me. He had a good jab but he didn't do enough," said Botha, who still trailed on all three scorecards. He freely admitted hitting Williams after the break, the bell, and he also used the unsavoury technique made infamous when he boxed Mike Tyson's ears with a double-punch during their clash in 1999.
"You remember the Tyson punch? It throws you off [balance] and messes you up.
"I do it in a certain way so the ref doesn't see it. The ref is on my right side, I go ‘bop'." His only regret was the fight only lasting 10 rounds, instead of the specified 12.
"Remember when I said I was going to take him to the deep ocean and see if he could swim? I wasn't swimming this time, I was chopping trees.
"Bit by bit I was chopping him down, one more round and I would have yelled ‘Timber' and then boom he would have been down."
It was hard to quibble with that scenario after Williams was clinging on grimly, until saved by the bell.
Now Sydney Roosters-bound to resume his NRL league career, Williams wasn't exactly puffing his chest out.
"I try and pride myself on doing everything above board, I guess I don't have a dirty bone in me, but him being the old crafty bugger that he was- he was punching the back of my head and standing on my feet, trying to stop me moving and things like that.
"I've learned a lot from that."
- Sunday Star Times
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