It's official - SBW to fight at Arena
Sonny Bill Williams' stardust is already rubbing off on Hamilton.
When the boxing Chief strolled into the cash-strapped Claudelands Events Centre for yesterday's press conference to announce a New Zealand heavyweight title fight, every media shooter had their lens focused on his dapper, fit frame.
At the media pack's back was a Hamilton City Council officer wearing an expression suggesting extreme satisfaction. This event will be big, it said.
Wall-to-wall national and international media exposure. VIPs in ringside seats. A city abuzz with the prospect of seeing the All Black duke it out with a more seasoned opponent in Auckland's Richard Tutaki.
Council business development and marketing director Murray Jeffrey said the announcement was a big moment for the facility.
"I think it's going to help the promotion of this as a world-class entertainment and sporting venue."
That brand has taken a few punches of late. The Waikato Times revealed in October that the events centre would make a million-dollar loss at best in its first year. However, the Williams-Tutaki bout may herald better times.
For Williams it means a real test of his boxing prowess. He was also forced to wait at the press conference for an opponent who arrived like a "true professional ... whenever he wants".
Tutaki, 33, has 40 professional fights under his belt for 19 wins and 21 losses. Shortly after he arrived, sparks flew. Williams said: "I've only had four fights. I'm in the deep end there but I believe, as a sportsman, if you don't test yourself you don't know where you're at."
Tutaki replied: "Oh, you'll be tested."
Williams revealed he will train for four weeks in Sydney before coming back to Auckland, then Waikato where he hopes Chiefs team mates and locals will get behind him for the fight.
"During the Rugby World Cup the locals were very cool," he said. "I've got a lot of love from them – that's one of the reasons why I decided to come here."
Undercards for the event will be announced in coming weeks.
BATTLE FOR THE BELT
When: Wednesday, Feb 8, 2012
Where: Claudelands Arena
How: Tickets from $40 to $500 go on sale through Ticketek next Monday.