Steve Bunce on Boxing: Spare the outrage over Sonny Bill's carnival fight


Sonny Bill Williams looks like he was made somewhere but I can assure you that the former New Zealand rugby league and union player was not put together in a boxing gym.

Last Friday in Brisbane Williams moved to six wins from six fights courtesy of a bizarre last-minute change in the duration of his fight against the once half-decent Frans Botha. A gem-heavy bauble of some description was on offer in the 12-round championship fight but Williams, who is carved from rock, suddenly started to look stiff and vulnerable after nine rounds.

"I had taken his best punches and now it was time for the 'White Buffalo' to take over," insisted Botha, who briefly held the IBF heavyweight title in 1995 before a chemist found nandrolone in his system and he was stripped. Botha, by the way, is a South African and has always been known as the "White Buffalo". As Don King, his old promoter, was fond of saying: "They're both rare: White buffaloes and good white heavyweights."

At the end of round nine somebody at ringside went to both corners to inform them that it was the last round. Williams was knackered, his bulk seizing up and he was freezing in front of the fans' eyes. However, Botha, fat, bored and listless for most of the fight, was just getting started. Well, that's his claim.

"I trained for 12 rounds, not 10," insisted Botha, who is now 44 and was having his 61st fight. It looked more like 12 minutes considering the shape that he was in. Anyway, it was also reported that he had failed a drug test before the fight when a powerful stimulant was found. There are, it has to be said, doubts about the drug claim.

In round 10 Williams proved why he is an attraction by showing his guts and heart and raw desire. He was, as they say in the boxing business, "out on his feet". He managed to survive the round but would not have lasted two more, and the fight's abrupt change of distance saved him from defeat and a full-time return to rugby.

There was a lot of mock and shock outrage at the crazy ending, which is ridiculous because the fight featured a muscle-mad rugby player with zero natural talent against a fat geezer with a steroid blot on his record and a highlight reel of brave efforts that end with him on the canvas. It was a glorious freak fight and should be applauded and embraced as such – a gentle move up from Ricky Gervais poncing about in the Sport Relief ring a few years ago.

So Williams got the nod, Botha got stitched up in the latest in a long and distinguished line of heavyweight carnival fights.

One memorable ride with Rendall

The fight ended just a few days after confirmation that Jonathan Rendall, a boxing writer colleague of mine from the Nineties, had been found dead and alone in his home.

In 1993 Rendall and I travelled to New Orleans to watch the People's Choice heavyweight tournament at a casino built in a swamp at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which was about an hour away from our hotel in the French Quarter. It was a drive back in time, trust me, and Jon was never much of a driver.

The tournament enticed us because of the $1m prize and the lunatic list of 16 heavyweights. It took place in the evening of just one day – my birthday, as it happens – and lasted four hours. The line-up included two fallen world champions, recovering drug addicts, a Romanian cop, an Olympic champion, the King of Peckham and a teenager from Canada who had never boxed. The bare-knuckle champion of Britain, Joe Savage, never showed.

The event was squalid and sensational in equal measure; nothing since has come close to the drama and mayhem of the 15 fights that ended with former world champion Tony Tubbs beating the Romanian cop, Dan Dancuta. Tubbs had beaten Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs in the semis, the early Cuban exile Jose Ribalta in the quarters and had an easy win in the first round against a prisoner! Just before the fights started the $10,000 knock-out bonus vanished and when it was over $830,000 from the $1m bounty had also been slashed. In the aftermath, back at the tiny and seedy motel, where the fighters were staying, blood was in the air when news of the reductions started to circulate.

Nobody died that night, but a few legends were born and I think we laughed all the way back to New Orleans – a journey made essential when, with fears of an impromptu lynching of the promoter, the bar closed. It was a good trip, a fabulous event and I had a quality lunatic as a travelling partner.

Suggested Topics
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Year 2 Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Bognor Regis!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 2 Teacher currently need...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits