Rugby star’s boxing return is no knockout

By: Sideline Sid

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Sonny Bill Williams’ recent pronouncement on his return to the boxing ring, that "I am not in it for the money" caused Sideline Sid to almost burst out laughing.

SBW’s next statement was that he had ex-rugby league star Paul Gallen and Aussie Rules turned boxer Barry Hall, in his sights. Gallen being the man who reputably banked more than $1 million dollars after his loss to a real boxer in Justis Huni.

However, SBW remains one of five All Blacks to win a New Zealand Heavyweight boxing title. Brian McCleary, Arch McCormick, Morrie McHugh and Kevin Skinner, all won New Zealand amateur heavyweight titles before earning All Black honours.

McCleary was the first, and most accomplished All Black pugilist, to earn a boxing crown with back to back titles in 1920 and 1921. His first title saw him dispatch future All Black legend Maurice Brownlie.

The double New Zealand amateur champion, went on to plenty of success in the 'paid to punch' ranks, winning the New Zealand professional Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight titles.

Arch McCormick repeated Brian McCleary's dual success winning the Dominion's Heavyweight titles in 1922 and 1923. Arch McCormick was the father of outstanding All Black fullback Fergie McCormack.

Fifteen years after McCormack's success in the ring, Aucklander Morrie McHugh won national honours. All Black hard man Kevin Skinner, sorted out the Springbok test front row, in the 1956 South African rugby tour of the country.

Previously in 1947, he defeated Ron Tate from Morrinsville to take home the heavyweight amateur prize.

SBW grabbed his share of All Black boxing honours, when he won the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association Heavyweight title after knocking out an inept Clarence Tillman in 2012.

Don't get me wrong, I admire SBW as an athlete in having skills that other rugby and league players can only dream of. However, in his eight fight-eight win, boxing career, he has been fed a lineup of has-beens, washed up fighters and never-will-beens.

I rest my case on Clarence Tillman, who entered the ring against SBW with an 11 win, eight loss, three draw record, going on to lose his next 20 fights.

The SBW return to the ring didn't fare any better in the credibility stakes, against Waikato Falefehi in Townsville in June 2021. His opponent boasted a two win, 14 loss record - with Sonny Bill having to get up off the canvas to eke out a points victory from the three judges.

In Sideline Sid's humble opinion, SBW is using his celebrity status to beat mostly tomatoe-cans in the ring. I suggest that his frailties with in ring-craft will be exposed when he meets a boxer with genuine boxing credentials.