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SBW ready to knuckle down to rugby

Published: 3:46PM Sunday January 30, 2011 Source: NZPA

  • Double trouble: Sonny Bill Williams with Anthony Mundine (Source: Photosport)
    Double trouble: Sonny Bill Williams with Anthony Mundine - Source: Photosport

The gloves are off for Sonny Bill Williams, and are now the prized possession of a fight fan who paid $3,890 towards the Queensland flood relief fund for the memento.

Williams autographed the pair while surrounded by well-wishers inside a Gold Coast dressing room last night - not that he's signing off as a professional boxer after surprisingly being taken the distance by the obscure unemployed forklift driver Scott Lewis.

Soon after raising his left arm in triumph when three judges awarded Williams victory by a unanimous points decision - extending his pro record to 3 and 0 - the four-test All Black said his rugby World Cup ambitions were now the focal point, punching holes in defences the priority.

"Rugby's first right now," he vowed, before cautioning a return to the ring was still conceivable during the Crusaders Super rugby campaign.

His New Zealand Rugby Union contract includes the option of another fight though Williams might have reassured those sceptical of his unusual marriage of union and boxing by declaring the black jersey, not black trunks, will be the most comfortable fit for the remainder of 2011.

"I can have another fight but if I feel it's going to jeopardise my playing ability in any way I won't do it," Williams said, shortly before returning to Christchurch and a belated arrival to Crusaders training on Monday.

Far from Lewis' reality check prompting a rethink about life on the ropes, Williams was as enthusiastic as ever after finally being tested in the ring.

"I love the sport, it's a tough sport. You need to prepare really well and stay sharp in there," he said.

"It gives me that kick, mentally I feel strong and after that I feel confident I can play 80 minutes of any footy."

Lewis, 11 years the New Zealander's senior, and physically inferior, was not expected to do the main event justice - instead he ensured Williams could not quite drop his guard.

"Thank God I got through that unscathed," William said, a bruise under the left eye proof he had finally been tested after humiliating Gary Gurr and Ryan Hogan with ridiculous ease last year.

"A lot of people didn't give this fight any credibility but I wanted to respect the sport.

"I knew by giving him eight weeks to prepare he'd be in the best shape possible and it showed.

"I hit him with a couple of beauties, I'm surprised he didn't go down. He just wobbled and he kept coming forward."

Lewis surrendered a 3-inch height advantage and was 6kg lighter than the supremely conditioned Williams, not that he took a backward step - he caught the New Zealander on the jaw 2secs into the opening round.

He also whacked the side of Williams's head after the bell ended round four, not that it rattled the double international.

"I got caught a couple of times but it shows I can take a punch," he said.

"The first two rounds I was a bit jittery but I felt I was in control for most of the fight.

"Obviously there are some areas I need sharpen up in but it is a work in progress, and I was happy with how I went."

Williams' strategy, devised by his confidante and cornerman Anthony Mundine, was to keep Lewis at arm's length and use the jab to accumulate points.

As Lewis swarmed in, Williams also landed a couple of sweet uppercuts, and the panel scored the fight 60-55, 60-55 and 60-54 in his favour.

"I was trying to keep my distance because I knew I was a better boxer than him.

"Credit to him, he knew he had to get in close and load up and he was fit enough to do it."

Meanwhile, Williams hoped the leg injury that has prevented him from running since the end of the All Blacks Grand Slam tour of the UK and Ireland in November would be healed sufficiently to enable him to stretch out at Crusaders training this week or next.

"It's feeling really good," he said, before attempting to diffuse criticism about him boxing with the stress-related shin problem.

"The whole story got inflamed a couple of weeks ago because it wasn't public knowledge," he said reiterating the All Blacks management and medical staff were in the loop.

"From the outside looking in it looks like I'm off the rails and doing what I want but everything's planned, we talked to the right people and everyone's on the same page."

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