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Wed Apr 23 19:31:15 SAST 2014

Colourful duo behind Botha-SBW fight

Sports staff | 06 February, 2013 07:250 Comments
Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams Press Conference
Khoder Nasser speaks to media during a press conference at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 26, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia
Image by: Chris Hyde / Getty Images

THE men behind Friday's big fight are almost as colourful as the pair in the ring. And they could not be more different.

Khoder Nasser, who has taken Sonny Bill Williams under his wing, is a Lebanese cafe owner. He arrives at fights wearing sandals, a backpack and a wild beard. Shrouded in a baseball cap pulled low, he shuffles about handing out complimentary tickets.

Thinus Strydom, who has promoted most of Fransie "White Buffalo" Botha's fights, is an old hand at the game. And he dresses smartly, if on the conservative side.

Strydom started out as a talented sprinter and rugby wing. He played Craven Week in 1965, the first boy from his school - Rob Ferreira High, in White River - to do so.

He worked his way up from virtually nothing to become one of the most successful businessmen in the Lowveld, specialising in white goods. Boxing always appealed to him and he seized the chance to promote a small-time tournament, then became one of the country's leading men in the field.

Few took Strydom seriously when he announced plans for the Botha-SBW fight, but it will become a reality in Brisbane on Friday because he failed to get any takers to sponsor the bout in South Africa.

Nasser became a sports agent when he decided to help a friend. The friend was a young Anthony Mundine, then playing rugby league in Australia, who would become world middleweight boxing champ.

Nasser was working between a café and a chemist in Sydney when he met Williams, who was a rugby world champion and wanted some "flexibility" in his sporting career. Nasser helped him achieve that.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Nasser is a "fearsome negotiator" who acts for only a few clients. He doesn't have a computer and insists on a handshake to confirm an agreement.

John Fellet, chief executive of New Zealand Sky TV, says he negotiated the fight on a handshake.

Nasser says he doesn't bother with sponsors, instead simply "working out a number" and getting on with the deal.

He says most sports organisations are greedy and that agents would be redundant if sporting officialdom were honest.

He represents only Williams and Wallaby star Quade Cooper. He no longer represents Mundine.

Williams met Nasser when he hung out at a Sydney café Nasser co-owns with Mundine and asked him to take over his affairs.

Some people say Nasser is difficult to work with, but New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew differs.

"Everyone in here found Khoder very straight-up, which was refreshing," Tew said.

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