Sonny Bill Williams stripped of boxing belts

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 07:56 15/12/2013

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Sonny Bill Williams collected two prestigious rugby league awards this year but his boxing titles are now non-existent.

Williams won the international player of the year gong with the Kiwis and, in their march to NRL premiership glory, was recognised as the Sydney Roosters' most influential figure with the Jack Gibson medal.

But after failing to defend his belt within six months, the World Boxing Association (WBA) confirmed to Sunday News this week Williams had been stripped of the title he won in controversial circumstances over South African veteran Francois Botha in February.

"He's no longer the WBA international champion," a WBA spokesperson said from headquarters in Panama. "He's been stripped."

Sunday News also understands Williams is set to lose his New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) heavyweight title today.

Since receiving a formal, written challenge from rising Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker, the NZPBA have attempted to contact Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser, on several occasions.

A letter was delivered in July and the latest email was sent two months ago, on October 14.

The four-person NZPBA committee - Lance Revill, John Gillespie, Carrick Belton and Pat Leonard - met this weekend and are expected to issue a formal statement today confirming the title will be declared vacant.

"As per-usual, I've had no reply," Leonard said. "The only reason why we didn't call on him to defend it before was because no-one had challenged him."

Williams claimed the NZPBA title with a first round knockout of Clarence Tillman in February last year, but has made no effort to defend it since.

National secretary Leonard and Revill are known to be furious at the lack of courtesy shown by Nasser, who could not be reached for comment.

The NZPBA has been more than generous by allowing Williams almost two years to schedule a defence. Their leniency was originally due to speculation Williams would return to New Zealand and the champion Chiefs next year.

"We wanted it settled in the ring but we've had to take it outside," Leonard said. "He realises he's not championship material."

The 28-year-old dual international will instead return to the Roosters next year, before transferring back to the Chiefs in 2015. He has said he will not get back in the ring to put his 6-0 record on the line for up to three years.

Stripping Williams will open the NZPBA title up to all New Zealand heavyweights. Elimination fights will then be held to ensure there are no gripes.

The No. 1 contender could then challenge Parker, holder of the New Zealand National Boxing Federation title, in what would be a long-awaited unification fight.

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- Waikato

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