A HALF-DOZEN rounds against a roly-poly 43-year-old gospel singer doesn't sound too threatening but Sonny Bill Williams believes the danger level has gone up a notch for his next boxing foray, at Waitakere's Trusts Stadium on Sunday.
Alipate Liava'a's boxing record has taken a bit of a hit after seven straight losses, but the smiling South Auckland-based Tongan looks like he could do some damage if he can land some leather on the fleet-footed Williams.
Liava'a has spent a bit of time in the ring since debuting as a sprightly 40-year-old in March 2008. Over his 11 fights - he won his first four - he has clocked up 57 rounds. Williams has managed just nine.
Liava'a's four wins include two knockouts, while he has succumbed three times to early stoppages. In February, he survived six rounds against Bob Mirovic, the much-travelled 45-year-old Aussie battler who Shane Cameron knocked out in eight rounds while fighting with a broken hand in 2007.
Make of that record what you will, but Liava'a's build-up hasn't been disrupted by the demands of a professional rugby career.
Williams was still feeling the knocks - including a cut left hand - from Sunday's match against Queensland Reds when he shadow-boxed with Anthony Mundine and David Tua in front of the media yesterday.
He says he has been "doing the hard yards", but his preparations have been limited largely to a daily natter on the phone with mentor Mundine and some evening sparring sessions with Christchurch locals.
"It has been a real juggling act," he admitted. "That's why I'll be so happy after it is done, if I am successful."
The limited preparation magnified the danger posed by an opponent who won't be challenging for a world title any time soon but who has paid his dues on the prize-fighting circuit, Williams said.
"Definitely, it does," Williams said. "But I am always trying to push the sporting boundaries and my limits. You are only young once, so why not have a go?"
Rugby fans nervous about Williams' fitness as the World Cup approaches have their own answer to that.
While in New Zealand the marketing for the Clash for Canterbury has focused on Williams and the event's charity element, the contest is, in fact, a support bout to Mundine's fight against American Xavier Toliver.
Mundine's headline 10-rounder has barely rated a whisper on this side of the Tasman, however the bout is considered an important step in his bid to become a three-weight division world champion.
"The Man" has previously held titles at super middleweight and middleweight but drops down to junior middleweight to face the 23-6 Toliver.
"He's someone I can't take lightly," Mundine said. "As you saw with my first fight against Garth Wood where I wasn't mentally ready and I got beat. It doesn't matter what the records are.
"Even in Sonny's case it doesn't matter what the records are, you are only ever one punch away from disaster. That's what I keep telling Sonny. We try to make sure that we are ready and on point every time that we step in the ring."
How ready Williams proves to be will be revealed on Sunday.
"I've prepared as good as I could under the circumstances," he said. "Hopefully, I can get this fight out of the way unscathed then I can concentrate on the big picture, which is obviously trying to make the AB's World Cup squad."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.