Williams' show lacks firepower
HE'S billed as a man who can become the greatest multi-code athlete in history, but on last night's evidence Sonny Bill Williams still has a fairly lengthy journey ahead of him.
As a boxer, Williams is still very much an - admittedly self-professed - novice. It didn't take six rounds against Alipate Lavia'a to see that. Thirty seconds was plenty.
Williams is a super athlete. Tall, lean and ripped, it would be no surprise if he one day adds body-building to his stable of sporting pursuits.
The same can't be said of Liava'a who, given his benefit status issues, might want to look into employment opportunities for human cannonballs. The worryingly-short 43-year-old had thighs as big as a normal man's waist, and a waist as big as a normal man's house. And no neck. As physical mismatches go, it was a beaut.
The unanimous scorecards, too, would have revealed a mismatch.
Lavia'a didn't offer much of a threat and was an extremely hittable target. Williams obliged by hitting him often, but never hard enough to do any serious damage. In fact the only thing likely to get hurt were Williams' hands from the relentless pounding they endured from Lavia'a's skull.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder remarked to Williams' mother Lee before the fight that she was probably more worried than him. In reality neither had much cause for concern. Nor for that matter did fellow ringside attendees Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.
Williams' enthusiasm for boxing is a safe enough pursuit at this level.
"I know we aren't the best two fighters in the world," Williams said following the decision. "I just wanted to put on a good show."
The punters who follow him through pay per view will be the ultimate judge of that.
Lavia'a started promisingly enough, landing a couple of chopping blows coming out of clinches. However, before the first round had even reached the halfway point the tubby Tongan seemed winded.
He backed on to the ropes and remained there for the rest of the round, allowing Williams some lightly opposed target practice.
At that stage the prospect of a complete farce loomed large. But then for the bulk of the fight he claimed the centre of the ring and attempted largely unsuccessfully to catch up with the vastly more mobile Williams.
For the most part, the fight was a mundane affair, with Williams landing punches of questionable power at will.
He did land a succession of flush right hands in the fifth round, but Lavia'a simply grinned through them.
Williams did his best to produce the knockout his handlers would have wanted in the final round but Lavia'a was never likely to fall.
The same couldn't be said for the undercard protagonists, with five of the six bouts finishing inside the distance.
In fact, given the quality of the fight between the undefeated Warren Fuiava and Mundine-camp prospect Daniel Baff, which Fuiava won with a fifth-round knockout, spectators not caught up in wanting Williams to be the next Ali would have been well satisfied with their evening's entertainment.
Kiwi cruiserweight prospect David Aloua's fourth-round KO of Henry Tani was another high-quality affair.
In the night's main fight, Anthony Mundine was victorious in his light middleweight bout against Xavier Toliver.
Mundine had the better of the bout until the seventh round, when Toliver's corner threw in the towel.
Williams' best efforts, by comparison, didn't quite measure up. There were some words of encouragement from Lavia'a.
"Don't listen to people - you are going to fight."