Action Man doll versus the tattered teddy bear

Forget about controversy for a moment.  Boxing is always controversial.  Forget about the scoring too, which was woeful.  The real story of the fight between Sonny Bill Williams and Frans Botha was the ending.

Williams was out on his feet as the final bell rang.  He was getting beat up by an old man.  Botha never had prime time as a fighter.  Sonny Bill Williams won’t either.


Williams and Botha

Botha and Williams


The fight epitomised all that is wrong with boxing.  The build up was ruined by accusations of farce.  Williams, at 26 and in his athletic prime, had picked a fight with a 44-year old journeyman.  The only surprise in the choice of opponent was that Botha was still fighting.


In 1999, when Botha was 31, Mike Tyson knocked him out in the fifth round with one punch.  A year later, Lennox Lewis destroyed Botha in two rounds.  When Botha was 34 he was knocked out in the eighth round by Wladimir Klitschko.


In 2010, 46-year old Evander Holyfield stopped Botha in the eighth round.  As Botha was getting older he was getting worse.  Michael Grant knocked him out in the twelfth round eighteen months ago.  A year ago someone called Carlos Takam stopped Botha in the eleventh round.


Before the Williams bout, Botha had lost four of his last five fights, getting knocked out in three.


Botha has always been a limited, plodding fighter with few skills.  He’s never looked fit, carrying an expansive roll around his belly and lacking muscle definition.  He was effective enough against men of similar ilk to get a few title shots.  He lost them all, except for one but was later disqualified after testing positive for steroids.


Unbelievably he is often referred to as a former world champ.  That he cheated and was stripped of the title doesn’t seem to matter anymore.  Despite his limitations, Botha can be described as sturdy.  Against mediocre opposition, he doesn’t get knocked out but can be relied upon to lose on points.


Williams is managed by Khoder Nasser, who is an interesting character.  Nasser, it must be remembered, orchestrated Anthony Mundine’s rise from footballer to world champion.  During his career, Mundine made a living by beating up old men past their prime, just like Williams is.


So it’s obvious why Nasser chose Botha as an opponent for Williams.  Somehow the fight would decide the WBA International heavyweight title, which may be a title of sorts, but is a long way removed from the real WBA heavyweight title.


The WBA International title is fluff.  It is patently worthless.  Botha is currently ranked 131 among the world’s heavyweights.  Williams, with just five fights, was ranked at 100.  There is no way those two men should’ve been fighting for any sort of title.


The World Boxing Association (WBA) sanctioned the fight, which seems amazing generosity.  Their sanction mocked boxing’s ranking system and proved that the WBA is an organisation that disregards itself.  The WBA’s appalling handling of the fight shouldn’t be a surprise.


Australia’s WBA representative, Brad Vocale, wasn’t present at the fight.  Given Queensland has no authorised body to control combat sports and the WBA was absent, Nasser could do what he wanted.  Had Vocale been present, the fight mightn’t have been reduced from twelve rounds to ten.


Williams would’ve been knocked out and there’d be no controversy.


But this is boxing.  It is a self regulated sport that can’t regulate itself.  The promoters make the rules by following a loose set of guidelines.


The fight was originally scheduled for twelve rounds.  It was billed as a twelve round fight in the media and on boxing websites.


The WBA’s current rules, endorsed in Jakarta on 30 October 2012, are clear when it comes to the scheduling of world title fights.


Bout Duration. All sanctioned bouts shall be scheduled for twelve (12) rounds. Each round shall be scheduled for three (3) minutes duration with a one (1) minute rest between rounds.


Minutes before the fight was due to start, Nasser told Botha’s promoter, Thinus Strydom, that the bout had been shortened from twelve rounds to ten.  As Strydom said afterwards, what can you say just before the fight is about to start?


Strydom could’ve protested.  He could’ve told Botha, which he didn’t.  He could’ve refused to let his fighter walk to centre ring before there was agreement that the bout would be fought over twelve rounds.


Instead, Strydom kept quiet, because he didn’t want to distract Botha.  Strydom failed miserably in his duty of care.


Williams walked to the ring first, which was surprising given he was the local and the top billed fighter.  Botha apparently insisted on the honour of entering the ring last.  It was the only concession he would get.


There is no doubt Williams is a supreme athlete.  He is tall and muscular.  He weighed in at 107 kilograms, his body without any fat.  Botha has never been an athlete.  He weighed in at 115 kilograms, which was light for him.  He looked fat though, that ever present rung of flesh jiggling around his belly.


Referee Tony Kettlewell looked like a toy as he gave Botha and Williams the final instructions.  Kettlewell is tiny but he did an impeccable job.


The first round was excruciatingly slow.  Botha fought like a life-size teddy bear.  Williams fought like he was scared of teddy bears.

Through rounds two and three Williams used the jab effectively but that was all he landed.  He didn’t hit the huge morass of flesh hanging around Botha’s waist.  He didn’t land a hard right hand.  His left hooks were far too wide.  Botha, despite being glacier slow, could see them coming.


Convinced Williams couldn’t hurt him, Botha plodded forward, his jab missing by a foot, the right cross floating like a kite over Williams’s head.  The crowd laughed as Botha tried to force the pace.  His hup hup hup as he threw punches could be heard above the disappointed spectators.


Throw a fucking punch, someone yelled out.  This if fucking shit.  I can’t believe I paid $110 for this.


Others were more clinical.  Botha’s been knocked out by everyone and you can’t hit him Williams.  Tyson could fight both of you at the same time and win.


Both fighters stuck with their limitations.  It barely seemed a fight.  Williams hit Botha with a jab to the belly and the crowd laughed.  Botha did too, because it was a meek tap.


When Botha moved forward his punches missed.  Occasionally he bounced a right hand off the side of Williams head.  All Williams did was jab and hold.


Botha’s right eye began to swell in the third round but it never became an issue.  Clearly, though, Williams was landing the jab and he’d won the first four rounds.


Botha did better in the fifth but not enough to win the round.  Williams was winning a shutout by jabbing and holding.  Botha couldn’t have been anymore ineffectual.  When Williams landed a body shot he grinned.  Nice, I thought.  You’re gloating about beating up an old man.


Williams was ahead on points.  He was the stronger, faster man.  His punches were harder, but he didn’t land enough.  Whenever he had success, Botha smiled or mouthed off.  It seemed a half paced sparring session.


The crowd booed at the end of the fifth round.  Nothing was happening.  People had paid money to watch children’s toys fight.  The action doll couldn’t hit the teddy bear.  The teddy bear hit like a soft toy, but couldn’t hit anything.


The tempo changed in the sixth round.  Botha kept plodding forward, clumsy stalking, getting closer and landing jabs and solid right hands, forcing Williams to continually hold.  Towards the end of the round Botha waded in and hammered a body punch, driving Williams into a neutral corner.


That punch almost changed the fight.  Botha wasn’t using a stool in the minute break between rounds.  He stared across the ring, hoping to catch glimpse of Williams, seated and surrounded.  I wondered out loud if Williams had enough stamina to go twelve rounds.


At this point, I thought the fight was scheduled for twelve rounds, as did almost everyone else in the crowd.


Williams jabbed and held in the seventh.  Botha pressed forward, missing mostly but swatting, double handed on the inside.  He stepped on Williams’s toes to stop him retreating.  He started landing punches, taking a jab occasionally, but being busier.


By the eighth round, Botha was landing left hooks in close.  Williams was jabbing and holding, as he’d done all night, his tattooed right arm a feature around Botha’s neck.  Frustrated by the holding, Botha hit Williams on the break twice and Kettlewell correctly took a point off.


Botha won the eighth round, but the point off meant the scoring was even.  Undeterred, he crept forward in the ninth.  Williams, his legs betraying him, could move backwards and paw an occasional jab but mostly he held.  Botha belted him at long range and in close.


Midway through the tenth round, the MC announced there was ninety seconds left in the fight.  What the fuck, I thought.  This was supposed to be twelve rounds.  Botha was energised by the announcement.  He hammered Williams at will, hitting on the break, trying to push Williams away.


The referee finally penalised Williams a point for holding, but he had to hold.  He was a combination away from getting knocked down.  As the fight ended Williams was cowering and defenceless, out on his feet.


When the judges scores were read the crowd was enraged.  Steve Marshall scored the fight 97-91.  Alan Moore scored it 98-94 and Adam Height had it 97-91.


On Marshall and Height’s card, Williams lost two rounds.  On Moore’s card, Williams lost just one round, and it had to be the last.


It was utter bullshit.  On my unofficial card, the fight was much closer.  But before I reveal my card, and for those who don’t understand how to score a fight, I’ll give you a quick education.

The winner of a round must get ten points and the loser must get nine or less.  If a round is even (and I don’t like scoring even rounds) then both fighters get 10.


If a fighter is knocked down once in a round, he loses a point, so the round is scored 10-8.  If there are two knockdowns the round is scored 10-7.  If he is knocked down three times in one round the fight is usually stopped.


A fighter can lose a point for a rule infraction.  In Botha’s case, he won the eighth round but had a point taken off for hitting on the break.  The judges would’ve scored the round 9-9.


In the final round, which Williams clearly lost, he also had a point taken away for holding, so the judges would’ve scored that round 10-8 for Botha.


So, according to my scorecard, this is what happened.




SBW Botha


































I scored the fight even but thought Botha might’ve eked out a win.  I left the Boondall Entertainment Centre disgusted, at the scoring and the shortened fight.  Stevo, a mate who’d never been to a live fight before, was similarly disturbed.


Botha was absent through the first five rounds but he closed the show.  Had the fight ran the scheduled distance, he’d be the winner by knockout.  There was no fairness or justice.


Simply, the whole night had been a farce.  The fight card was filled with mismatches.  Quade Cooper knocked out Barry Dunnit in the first round.  Copper is linked to Nasser.


Amazing anyone could pay money to watch this kind of boxing.  The public was completely ripped off.  The following day Williams tweeted a photo with the belt wrapped around his waste.


Fraud, I thought.


The scandal was predictable.  People, once again, have a reason to hate boxing.  It didn’t help that Anthony Mundine walked to the ring with Williams and got into the ring after Cooper won.


The day after the fight, WBA official Brad Vocale was boisterous on Fox Sports.  ‘Sonny Bill is not even rated in the Australian ratings,’ he said.  ‘He’s never fought 10 rounds. That doesn’t qualify him to fight for a WBA title.’


The obvious questions are why did the WBA sanction the fight and allow Nasser to control it???


‘In this instance there was no WBA appointed referee, judge or supervisor,’ Vocale said.  ‘So I have my doubts as to whether the fight was actually ever approved by the WBA because the criteria was never met in the first place.’


The fight was always billed for the WBA International title.  Vocale, if he reads newspapers, must’ve known that, but he ragged on about red tape.


‘Due process clearly wasn’t done here by the self-appointed regulatory branch here in Queensland because they never bothered to check with the WBA to say has this bout been approved?’


Mr Vocale, you must’ve been aware of it, so why didn’t the WBA do anything to protect the integrity of the fight?


There are dozens of questions that need to be answered about this crap.  The WBA has suggested stripping Williams of the title and ordering a rematch.


Botha wants a rematch in South Africa, scheduled for twelve rounds.  Given Williams has commitments to rugby league, the rematch won’t take place until after the season.  By that stage, if the WBA are to believed, Williams would’ve handed the pointless belt back, so two deserving fighters could slug it out.


I used to love boxing.  That love is waning.  Most of my heroes have ended up damaged and broke.  There are few happy endings in boxing.  It relies more on public excitement and hype than any other sport.


No one who watched Williams fight Botha ended up excited.  They ended up enraged, and I’m not surprised.  I’ve seen enough boxing shams and I don’t want to see anymore.  So please, don’t watch Sonny Bill Williams fight, not until he makes the same decision Mundine did and quit football for boxing.


Until he does that, he doesn’t deserve our money.  He couldn’t beat up a faded fighter eighteen years his senior, a man knocked out seven times.  Botha fought beyond his payday as journeyman opponent.


And that is the measure of Williams, so ignore him in the ring until he quits football.  I’m going to.  I used to love boxing.  I always hated bullshit.  I can’t stand it when they’re put together.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Great piece, Iron Mike.

    Yes, we’ve seen the best and worst boxing can be in recent times. Daniel Geale showed the Australian public how great a champion he is by producing a technically superb fight against Mundine and also, more importantly, he demonstrated impeccable class and dignity in the lead-up, despite Mundine’s constant taunting, and afterwards in his post-fight words. Daniel is a fine role model and I hope the local media and public get behind. No need to mention Mundine’s behaviour – we all saw it.

    The Williams v Botha bout reduced the Sweet Science to seaside carnival level. It was like two well liquored locals taking the ring in a tent boxing troupe. And for Botha to test positive afterwards was a final insult. The whole night disrespected boxing.

    Like you, I love boxing for its history, people and physical and mental requirements. But sometimes you can’t argue against the mounting evidence on the side of those who want the sport banned.

    Boxing needs Daniel Geale.

  2. Don’t know who Iron Mike is, but that’s a powerfully-lit piece of writing.
    You’d think these big islanders would really rumble. But Jimmy Thunder is as good as it’s ever got, for God’s sake.
    Sad about boxing, when you know what heights it can reach.
    As for Mundine… when Mark Waugh sledged some South African batsman about thinking he was the best in the world, the yarpie returned fire with, “Mate, at least I’m the best in my family.”

  3. Cheers IM,
    Great piece and look forward to more. I used to love the fights but it is rubbish above middle weight. MMA has stolen the thunder as at least the blokes have a proper dig, albeit in a very nasty way at times as it could do without elbows and knees. I actually thought the Mundine Geale fight was much closer as well with Geale winninf by only two points as Mundine was not awarded any rounds from 7,8,9 which I thought he won. Still, as they say, dont leave the decision to the judges if you want to win a fight

  4. Australian boxing fans should be celebrating . Geales’ unaminous victory over Mundine, Solimans win in Germany, and the forthcoming title bout between the pair is something we should all savour. Instead the focus is on Mundines post bout jibberish, compounded by Sony Bill Wiliamson, full stop. It was bad enough with Williamsons tweeting about Mundine being robbed, we then had the farce with him and Frans Botha.

    Boxing in Australia has a proud history, Darcy, Palmer, Carruthers, Fenech, etc, etc, but it currently is in a sad state. I hope the Geale V Soliman bout can get the publicity boxing needs, rather than the low lights of the past fortnight.


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