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SBW's boxing reputation on the line

Published: 12:34PM Tuesday December 06, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

After four lame fights against four lacklustre opponents, Sonny Bill Williams has decided to step it up a gear.

The All Blacks midfielder announced today he will take on veteran fighter Richard Tutaki, for the vacant New Zealand heavyweight belt at the Claudelands Arena on February 8th.

While undefeated, it represents a big step up for SBW as all four of his previous fights have been against no more than journeymen.

Williams, 26, was heavily criticised after he failed to knock out 43-year-old sickness beneficially Alipate Liav'a last May and the fight against Tutaki could very well make or break his fledgling career.

"After the last fight I kind of said to my manager I kind of want to step up in class and the opportunity came about and I was offered the chance to fight for the belt and it's not everyday that you get that opportunity," Williams said at a press conference today.

"I'm just really excited and hopefully this is something I can add to my sporting achievements"

The World Cup winning All Black had previously dealt with Gary Gurr in his first professional fight in 2009 by way of second round knock out and followed that up with a demolition job on the seriously overweight Ben Hogan in 2010.

His third fight was against Australian Scott Lewis earlier this year and while he won on a points decision, his boxing limitations were evident and this became even more apparent when he fought Liav'a as he lacked both the power and experience to dispatch his out-of-depth opponent.

The Tutaki Express Train

Tutaki - known as "The Tutaki Express Train" - will be a huge step up. He is a 10-year professional boasting a 19 win-21 loss record, with one draw. The 33-year-old has won nine fights by knockout and lost 14 times by the same method.

Standing 1.92m, Tutaki is 1cm taller than Williams while his rating on the respected Boxing Record Archive rankings is 288, just five places higher than the All Black.

"A lot of people probably will be saying 'ill probably lose this fight but i know that i can improve, im a quick learner",  Williams said

Tutaki is a former sparring partner of Shane Cameron and has lost four of his last five fights.

His last fight was a loss to veteran compatriot Clarence Tillman in Auckland in April. Before that, he had an 18-month hiatus from the ring.

Despite his lack of recent training, Tutaki believes his experience in the ring will be too much for Williams.

"Fitness will play a big factor but experience will show at the end of the day, the more fights you have the more experience you have," Tutaki said.

Rugby followers may very well hope the Tutaki is right considering the bout is just two weeks before the Chiefs open their Super Rugby season against the Highlanders on February the 25th.