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Thu Apr 24 08:58:31 SAST 2014

Sonny Bill Williams pips 'White Buffalo' on points

Sapa, | 08 February, 2013 13:560 Comments
Sonny Bill Williams v Francois Botha
Sonny Bill Williams punches Francois Botha during their heavyweight bout at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on February 8, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia
Image by: Chris Hyde / Getty Images

Francois “The White Buffalo” Botha was left fuming after he lost to Sonny Bill Williams on points in their WBA International heavyweight bout in Brisbane, Australia, on Friday.

Williams beat the veteran on points over ten rounds – 97-91 on two cards and 98-94 – to win the WBA International heavyweight title.

Williams came desperately close to being knocked out in the final 20 seconds of the bout but he survived after outscoring the South African.

The fight was never meant to be an exhibition of first-class boxing. And it certainly was not. But it created much excitement because of Botha’s track record as a former IBF champion and Williams’s popularity as a World Cup-winning All Black.

Williams, known for his outrageous off-loads in top-class rugby, failed to off-load a knockout punch but put up a commendable performance in only his sixth professional bout.

Both fighters wore black shorts and blue gloves but that was about where the similarities ended. Botha, known as the White Buffalo and fighting in his 61st professional bout, looked in better shape than in many months but Williams was the only one in superb condition.

Williams used his reach advantage well and opened a cut on the bridge of Botha’s nose in the opening round. He finished the second round on top, even though Botha kept talking to him to test his concentration.

Botha’s right eye also showed some damage after the third round and he was unable to take control against the fitter and faster New Zealander even though he scored with some decent blows.

Williams surprised his detractors with his composure and ability to read the fight. Despite his lack of experience and obvious deficiencies on defence, he handled everything that Botha offered.

Botha had a point deducted from his score for hitting after being told to break in the ninth round. Many referees would have disqualified him there and then.

Williams also gave away a point in the final round but stayed on his feet during the hectic final seconds to enhance his status in the fight game.

The 44-year-old Botha’s record now stands at 48 wins, 9 losses, 3 draws and 1 no-contest, with 28 wins coming inside the distance.

The South African had fought the likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer, all world champions. He won the IBF heavyweight title when he beat Axel Schulz on points in December 1995.

But that was 17 years ago when he was still a “youngster” of 27. Now he is coming to the end of a good career, if not a great one.

The 27-year-old Williams, who was born in Auckland, New Zealand, is a vastly xperienced rugby player but still a novice as a boxer, albeit undefeated after six fights, including three knockouts.


The South African, however, was furious with officials after the decision was made to shorten the bout, with the 44-year-old looking to have worn out Williams by the end of the 10th.

“You know I love Sonny Bill, I think he’s a great guy, a gentleman, but this was bullshit,” the 115kg Botha said in an interview after the fight.

“If you look at the crowd, you know who won. You’ve got to win fair and square, not with the advantage of the judges, you’ve got to fight. According to me I won, hands-free.”  Botha’s trainer, Hardy Mileham, was shocked to see the bout shortened — a decision that was seemingly made during the contest.

“The fight was scheduled for 12 rounds, and in round number 10 he (Williams) was in danger,” Mileham said.

Despite a strong comeback by Botha in the final stages, with Williams visibly shaken, it was ultimately not enough to sway the judges.

Botha, who did not sit down once between rounds, came out firing in the final round, nearly bringing Williams to his knees with a flurry punches.

Over the first four rounds Williams, 27, had dominated proceedings, while Botha clearly adopted a strategy of outlasting his younger opponent.

The veteran South African taunted Williams throughout the early rounds.

With a number of powerful left-hand jabs, Williams caused Botha’s right eye to close up.

Botha said he wanted a rematch against the New Zealand heavyweight champion and All Blacks rugby star.

“A rematch — if he can beat me he can go on, but if he doesn’t he should throw in the towel.”  Sapa

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