Sonny Bill is in the crosshairs

2012-10-24 00:00

SONNY Bill Williams may be a revered All Blacks rugby hero and icon, but South Africa’s “Great White Buffalo” Francois Botha is confident of reducing him to a whimpering wreck when they meet in the boxing ring over 10 rounds in Brisbane, on November 24.

Many may laugh at the prospect of the 44-year-old Botha trading punches and stamina with a youthful 27-year-old, super fit rugby player, but, on the serious side, the match-up has created great interest in boxing circles and Botha has been training hard, taking nothing for granted.

“Sonny Bill may have taken down some Springboks in his time, but he has never stopped a charging buffalo. He’s in for a rude awakening. He will never be in the same league as me and he might be proud of being unbeaten in his five fights to date, but this is the first time he is taking on a real fighter,” said Botha.

There is validation in that last comment. Botha has been around the ring in the boxing world, making his professional debut in 1990. He claimed the IBF World Heavyweight crown in 1995 and has traded blows with the likes of Mike Tyson, Shannon Briggs, Axel Schultz, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis and Wladimar Klitschko. To date, he has logged up 363 rounds of boxing in the paid ranks and expects to give Williams a boxing lesson.

Said Botha: “People might think the buffalo is past it and should be put to pasture. That is far from the truth. With my trainer Hardy Mileham, a former SA Junior Welterweight champion, we have been working toward this fight, training over 10 rounds daily. I am approaching this like a world title showdown.”

According to organisers of the bout, Williams has said he is excited about the fight and respects Botha. He added that seeing him only as a rugby player would be a costly mistake.

But, the big question is why the fight is not in South Africa or even Durban, Botha’s hometown. Television rights and costs have been a major issue and confirmed venues had to be scrapped. Williams was quick to want the fight in New Zealand, but Botha opted for Australia, a neutral venue, after reliving events from last year. “No way do I want to fight in New Zealand. Not after what happened to the Springboks in the quarter-finals of last year’s Rugby World Cup. I still have vivid memories of Bryce Lawrence grinding the Boks into the ground and could never feel comfortable there. I do not want another reckless New Zealand influence ruining another great sporting spectacle,” he said.

And it came to pass that the Brisbane Entertainment Venue was chosen, limited to 4 000 spectators with tickets $10 (R87,70) Although Fox Sports is screening the fight, it is not broadcasting it to South Africa. However, all is not lost as has the rights to live stream the clash worldwide through its website.

Before heading for Australia, Botha has a meet and greet with fans and friends at Sibaya on November 14.

Said Botha: “I know I will come back with his scalp. Then people can call me Buffalo Bill.”

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