Respectful SBW 'privileged' to fight Botha

The former All Black while he will show Francois Botha respect, he's going out to win.

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Sonny Bill Williams has opted to take the road less generally travelled by boxers the world over in his WBA International Heavyweight bout against South Africa's Francois Botha on Friday.

With Botha firing numerous verbal jabs in the Rugby World Cup-winners direction since arriving in Brisbane, including claiming his son could beat the rugby union and league star, Williams has decided to rather keep his counsel and instead told EWN Sport of his respect for the "White Buffalo".

In an interview from Brisbane, where the fight takes place on Friday night, he said he understands why Botha has taken the route that he has.

"Well, you know he's been around for a long time. He feels he needs to speak. I feel he deserves to have his time to speak because he's been in the ring so many times with some great champions.

"It's a privilege to fight him. It's a privilege but it doesn't mean I'm going to be asking for his signature in the ring."

The 44-year-old has fought a host of some of the biggest names in the fight game, including the likes of Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer and Lennox Lewis.

But he has though lost his last three fights, most recently in September to Italy's Francesco Pianetta.

This will be a significant step-up for Williams who has won all five of his previous fights, and is the New Zealand Heavyweight Champion after beating Clarence Tillman by knockout in 2012.

His fight against Botha was originally scheduled for November but had to be rearranged after he tore a pectoral muscle while playing club rugby in Japan.

He says that he is fully recovered from that injury and has prepared well.

"It's been a bit of a tough preparation, given the fact I had to travel across three countries, but I'm happy with where I am at the moment. I am looking forward to going out there and showing I've taken it up a step in the boxing ring."

With Botha running down Williams' chances, has he taken much notice of what's been said?

"Nah, not at all. He's in a position where he's been around for a long time and he deserves to. For me, I just have to gain his respect inside the ring.

"It's a privilege to be fighting someone of his stature who's been in the ring with a lot of champions. For me, if I can't beat guys like this, then there's no future for me in the sport."

Williams also refutes the notion that he has perhaps giving the vociferous Botha too much respect.

"I think I give him respect in the way that I train and in the way I prepare and the fact that I don't take him lightly. I haven't been in the ring a lot, but I've been involved in some pretty big occasions. I just know that I gotta get out there and let it all go.

"I'm prepared that the fight's gonna go all the way - the whole 12 rounds, but also if there's an opening, be prepared to jump on it and just steer clear of some of his punches."

So what does he feel victory over Botha will mean for him as a boxer?

"It'll mean I've improved a lot. I wouldn't think that two, three fights ago, I would've been fighting someone like this."

Close friend Quade Cooper, the Australia fly-half, takes to the ring for the first time against Barry Dunnett on the undercard in Brisbane. Williams says he has been impressed with Cooper's preparation.

"He's looking sharp. He's pretty powerful. He's dropped a couple of his sparring partners but that's what happens when you get clipped. He's got a bit of a temper, but he'll be alright once it comes Friday night. I'm looking forward to seeing him fight."

Williams ends off first with a tribute to his friend Hashim Amla who he calls: "The Man," before also thanking the support he has in South Africa.

"I know that I've got a lot of fans over there and especially in Cape Town so a shout to all of my fans and hopefully I don't disappoint."

The tournament featuring Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper against Barry Dunnet starts at 10am on 8 February.