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Rugby won't keep Sonny Bill out of the ring


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Rugby won't keep Sonny Bill out of the ring


by Brad Walter




SONNY BILL WILLIAMS, who is looking to star at next year's Rugby World Cup, wants to establish himself in the boxing ring as well. Williams, who shone on the All Blacks' recent end-of-season tour of Europe, will today announce details of a heavyweight fight in Newcastle on January 29.


Unlike his previous two bouts, when he appeared on the undercard of Anthony Mundine's KO To Drugs promotions in Brisbane, Williams will be the headline act and his opponent, Scott Lewis, already has one big-name scalp to his credit, knocking out former Queensland rugby league prop Carl Webb in a bout earlier this year.


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Fans reacted with shock on Fairfax websites yesterday when the news broke of Williams's plan to box, but he clearly has the blessing of the New Zealand Rugby Union and an official told the Herald it had been agreed at the time of his signing that the former Bulldogs star could have several fights during his 18-month contract.


Williams, who yesterday lunched with Channel Nine representatives in Sydney, made his ring debut against Auckland bouncer Garry ''the Baboon'' Gurr last year and is known to be keen to fight as often as possible. The 25-year-old dual international was frustrated and disappointed after his most recent fight, on June 30, when fellow Kiwi Ryan Hogan lasted just over two minutes and 30 seconds, and told his manager Khoder Nasser to find him a tougher opponent for his next bout.


Fitting that bill is Lewis, a Campbelltown forklift driver who had a knockout win over Webb, a former Queensland Golden Gloves champion, in the fourth round of their bout at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Despite his superb fitness from an off-season of training at the Cowboys under the direction of Billy Johnstone - who was an Australian boxing champion during his playing days with Canterbury - Webb was outpointed by the more experienced Lewis and did not last the distance.


Williams and Lewis, who has had three wins and four losses, are expected to fight eight three-minute rounds.


The fight is scheduled for the same night that Williams's Crusaders teammates play their first pre-season match before the Super Rugby season, which starts on February 18, but a Canterbury spokesman said that as a member of the All Blacks squad that toured Europe, he was not due to resume training until February 1.


After the tour, in which he made his All Blacks debut against England and was named man of the match in his second Test, against Scotland, Williams visited Toulon, where he played two seasons after walking out on the Bulldogs in 2008. Having turned down a three-year, $6 million offer to remain at the French Top 14 club to pursue his goal of playing for the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup, Williams has been linked with a return to Toulon and indications are he would also want to continue boxing.


The NZRU is thought to be keen to extend his $550,000 a year deal, while several NRL clubs are expected to show interest when he comes off contract at the end of the year.


Channel Nine, which has the rights for the Rugby World Cup, is believed to be keen to maintain a strong relationship with Williams, and he, Nasser and Mundine yesterday lunched with news director Darren Wicks, sports presenter Ken Sutcliffe and reporter Danny Weidler.


Source: [url]http://www.smh.com.au/[/url]

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