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Sonny Bill enveloped in fight night fiasco

Published: 8:31AM Sunday February 10, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Francois Botha had read about the match-fixing, organised crime and performance-enhancing drug scandals enveloping Australian professional sport - and now the South African boxer feels he is part of the story.

Botha pulled no punches after his unanimous points decision loss to Sonny Bill Williams at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Friday night - a defeat that attracted more scrutiny to a sport already associated with low blows.

Botha was trailing on points but literally had Williams on the ropes in the latter stages of their WBA International heavyweight bout when the contest ended two rounds earlier than he expected in the 10th.

Williams could barely maintain equilibrium as he struggled to absorb a flurry of blows that navigated the 44-year-old journeyman to the brink of an unexpected triumph - one that could have drastic repercussions for the former All Black's boxing future.

Before taking on Botha, Williams intimated he would concentrate on football if the two-time heavyweight world title fight contender knocked him out.

It seemed an empty threat at the time but the durable "White Buffalo" came within seconds of putting Williams out to pasture.

Botha has now lost five of his last six fights - but the manner of Friday's reversal clearly rankles. He didn't seem to know what happened to the two lost rounds but his promoter Thinus Strydom did, saying he was informed shortly before the fight, although he surprisingly didn't tell his fighter.

The fight was scheduled for 12 rounds - per WBA regulations - and Botha argued Williams avoided almost certain defeat and demanded a rematch.

"They're going to have to explain themselves, you can't win by cheating," he said, noticing the irony of his predicament.

"Look at the doping thing going on here . . . that's another point of the hand going there. Sure enough, this was match-fixing."

Botha and his trainer Hardy Mileham plan to lodge a protest with the Panama-based WBA.

No representatives of the organisation were present at the venue because it was not deemed a "world" title fight but the president of the World Boxing Federation, Howard Goldberg, was ringside. The South African, who admitted he was also Botha's adviser, said he was perplexed the fight was 10 rounds rather than 12.

"I've seen things like this happen when TV needs to cut time but otherwise not really," he said.

The validity of the fight was further questioned last night with suggestions it wasn't a sanctioned WBA belt.

"I haven't confirmed this at all - the championship belt put around Sonny Bill Williams' waist last night was not in fact a genuine WBA Championship belt," Brad Vocale from the WBA Pan Asian Boxing Association, told Fox Sports News. "In fact it was made by a member of the Queensland branch of the Boxing Federation.

"This thing has happened before with the same promoters and the same regulatory body. I despise the fact it's given a black eye to boxing again. There was certainly no WBA official there last night."

The Australian newspaper reported that Australian National Boxing Federation vice-president Alan Moore, a ringside judge for the bout, had no idea it had been shortened to 10 rounds.

"When the ring announcer said over the loudspeaker that it was the last round, that was the first we [judges] knew of any change," Moore said.

As the South Africans cried foul Williams' manager sauntered into their dressing room with the belt draped over his shoulder to mount a stinging counter-attack.

A belligerent Khoder Nasser berated Botha and his handlers for approximately a minute.

"You f&ing knew it was 10 rounds, you were head butting, you were double-punching. Who won the fight, fair and square? You know who won," he said.

Williams also thought he was in action for up to 10 rounds - the limit when he won the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association title a year ago in Hamilton.

"My whole preparation was based on 10 rounds," he said, adding he would be willing to entertain a rematch.

"If we do I'd love to have one in South Africa, preferably Cape Town because I have a lot of fans there. Probably more than he does," he said, referring to his rugby-based popularity among the coloured community.

Mileham indicated he would protest the outcome saying but Nasser shrugged off the threat.

"They can protest all they want. He's got the belt, mate, see ya's later."