x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Change in rugby career plans costs Williams boxing belts

'Rude' refusal to accept challenges cited in decision to vacate titles

Sonny Bill Williams, right, strikes South African opponent Francois Botha during their World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight fight in February. Williams has been stripped of the championship he won on points after he refused to accept challenges for his title. Dave Hunt / EPA
Sonny Bill Williams, right, strikes South African opponent Francois Botha during their World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight fight in February. Williams has been stripped of the championship he won on points after he refused to accept challenges for his title. Dave Hunt / EPA

Former All Black Sonny Bill Williams has been stripped of his professional boxing belts after the dual-code rugby international failed to defend his world and New Zealand heavyweight titles.

Williams, 28, is eyeing a return to rugby union in 2015, hoping to be part of New Zealand’s World Cup defence and also feature in the national sevens team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

His new goals forced him to halt a boxing career, during which he won all six of his professional heavyweight bouts.

That prompted the World Boxing Association to vacate the heavyweight title that Williams won in controversial circumstances over South African veteran Francois Botha in February.

The New Zealand Professional Boxing Association also stripped Williams of his heavyweight belt after he failed to respond to any challenges.

“We haven’t heard a thing back and, personally, that’s rude,” Lance Revill, the association’s president, told NZ Newswire.

“He’s not even said he’s received the challenge and that they’re going to think about it. If that was the case, we’d hold off, but we’ve got no choice now but to strip the title.”

A World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2011 and Super Rugby champion with Waikato Chiefs, the controversial Williams opted to stay with the National Rugby League champions Sydney Roosters for 2014.

His abrupt career changes have enraged fans and officials in both codes, and even his decision to play in the recent league World Cup involved a backflip on his original plan and resulted in another player being dropped.

sports@thenational.ae