DUBAI // The hoary old clubhouse argument about which hemisphere produces the most talented rugby players is never likely to get a finite decision.
However, the debate over which produces the toughest – north or south – will move a step closer to being settled when some of the sport's former stars meet each other in the boxing ring in Dubai in May.
Carlos Spencer, the former New Zealand fly-half, is one of a group of former internationals confirmed to box at Fighting Chance Dubai at Dubai Sports City on May 24.
Gareth Thomas, Shane Williams and Non Evans, the Welsh women's international, will represent the northern hemisphere in the event. "I'm coming to Dubai to put on a good show, hopefully people will get in behind all of us and make this something to be proud of," Spencer was quoted as saying.
Spencer is the standout name among the southern hemisphere contingent on a card which also includes the former South Africa internationals Chester Williams and Conrad Jantjes.
"Some of the players aren't very experienced boxers but they are all up for it and I don't think we could have assembled a better group of guys," said John Mamea-Wilson, the event organiser. "They are all good people and as soon as they found out about the cause, they all wanted to be involved."
Fighting Chance Dubai is being staged to raise awareness of BackOnYourBike, a fund for Richard Holland, an injured triathlete who remains in a state of low consciousness three months after being hit by a car while out training in Dubai.
The purpose behind the event may be charitable, but the bouts themselves are expected to be anything but, given the fighters on the card. Shane Byrne versus Brian Lima, in particular, will likely represent a scene from the Apocalypse, if their respective playing styles are anything to go by.
Byrne, the former Ireland hooker, is an adept boxer. Lima is regarded as one of the toughest players ever to have played rugby, but is a boxing novice.
There are minimal facilities for boxing in Samoa, so Lima's training regime to date has consisted of running, as well as turning out for his local rugby league club team.
"Everyone's expecting me to come to Dubai and destroy my opponent," Lima, who represented Samoa at international level for 17 years, was quoted as saying.
"I'm scared. Now I know how my opposite number feels in rugby."
Others are less obvious boxers. Williams, the 35-year-old Welshman who was the World Player of the Year in rugby five years ago tweeted after one training session in the build up to the event: "Punch bag 1 Me 0."
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