SBW's title win 'a farce'
Sonny Bill Williams (File)
Wellington - Rugby World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams won the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association's heavyweight title but his fight against an overweight American opponent who showed little skill or interest in fighting has been disparaged at home.
VIDEO: Sonny Bill Williams in weigh-in brawl
VIDEO: Sonny Bill Williams's first round victory
Williams, 26, won the belt with a first round technical knockout over Clarence Tillman in Hamilton on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old journeyman Tillman, an American living in New Zealand, was a late replacement for the original opponent Richard Tutaki, who was scratched from the fight after being arrested on a number of charges.
Williams and Tillman had been involved in a shoving match on Tuesday at the weigh-in, though local media questioned whether the altercation had been staged to boost pay-per-view sales.
Tillman shoved Williams then caught him with a glancing right hook before he was dragged away by Australian professional boxer and former rugby league player Anthony Mundine, a friend and stable mate of Williams under manager Khoder Nasser.
The real fight lasted less than three minutes, with the grossly overweight Tillman showing little enthusiasm for the fight or any technical skill when Williams managed to land his shots, forcing referee Lance Revill to stop the bout.
Boxing commentator and historian Bob Jones, however, was disparaging of the fight, calling Tillman a "joke opponent" and the bout itself a farce.
"Tillman's record is appalling. Five of his fights were against blokes who had never fought before and even then he lost one of them," Jones told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
"Have a look at all the bouts he's had in New Zealand and Australia, his name has never once appeared in the press. He's a joke opponent and they've built him up, and suddenly he's fighting in the limelight.
"He's hopeless. To see all this over the front page is silly.
"The whole thing was a joke from the start. This sort of farce degrades boxing."
Williams, who has a clause in his New Zealand Rugby Union contract to pursue boxing and fought shortly before the World Cup last year, is one of the world's highest profile rugby players and there has been immense media interest in his fights despite the poor calibre of opposition.
Media academic and former journalist Alan Samson said the attention on Williams' boxing pursuits was being fed by the public's obsession with the player.
"I'm not a marketing person but he is the most carefully constructed media brand I have ever seen," Samson, a Massey University journalism lecturer, told Reuters.
"Everything is carefully thought through, seemingly at the behest of his advisers.
"Journalistically I can understand why we are obsessed with Sonny Bill, why he achieves such attention, because the public is obsessed with him. It is a chicken and egg situation.
"I think some of the cover of the current and earlier fights has been absurd and if we are going to be covering him, it should be covered honestly. Warts and all.
"He has to be written about in the context of real news."