Sonny Bill Williams will train alongside world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury as he prepares for a wild return to boxing.
The retired All Blacks, Bulldogs, and Canterbury footy star announced plans to reboot his stuttering boxing career with a bout against novice brawler and former Sydney Swans AFL champion Barry Hall in Sydney in March.
Williams, 36, said he was flying immediately to train with Fury’s much-lauded team in the UK.
Sonny Bill Williams is set to train alongside world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury as he prepares for a wild return to boxing in March
Privately Williams (left) will be hoping a camp with fellow Kiwi heavyweight star Joe Parker and the relentless world champion Tyson Fury will prevent an embarrassing loss to the novice hard-man Barry Hall (pictured, Williams and Hall at the Turf War fight launch)
‘Starting with tonight I’m flying out to the UK. I’ve been invited by Joe Parker and Tyson Fury to do some training with him over there,’ Williams told Stuff.
‘When that opportunity arose I couldn’t say no, just to learn from the best. It shows my commitment to this sport, and this fight.’
He claims Hall is ‘nowhere near my class’.
But privately, Williams will be hoping a camp with fellow Kiwi heavyweight star Parker and the relentless Fury will prevent an embarrassing loss to the novice hard-man Hall.
Sonny Bill admitted he had to ask his wife Alana Raffie before accepting the fight with hard man Barry Hall (pictured, Williams with Raffie)
Hall shocked many by drawing with the battle hardened Paul Gallen in November 19
Hall, 44, surprised many when he drew with battle-hardened Sharks legend Paul Gallen in his only professional fight in 2019.
Hall, a Swans great with a reputation for striking opponents, will meet Williams, 36, on March 23 in Sydney in a fight already tagged ‘the turf war’.
Their fight is scheduled for 10 three-minute rounds at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, Sydney.
It will also mark the launch of a new Australian pay-per-view events service on streaming service Stan.
Viewers can watch the event live on Stan for a one-off fee of $50.
Williams will be a slight bookie’s favourite because he is younger and has more pro boxing experience, even if not lately.
This will be only Williams’ second fight in seven years, although he has won all eight of the fights he’s had since 2009.
His last fight was an unimpressive points win over another Kiwi Waikato Falefehi, in which Williams survived a standing eight count.
Falefehi has an appalling boxing record with 17 losses out of 20 fights.
‘Ever since I seen [Williams] fight I thought I can bear that guy, and that’s certainly gonna happen,’ Hall said.
‘He’s a huge name I know that but muscles don’t win you fights.’
The Turf War with Barry Hall will be only Williams’ second fight in seven years, although he has won all eight of the fights he’s had since 2009 (pictured, Sonny Bill Williams, left, facing Barry Hall at the Turf War fight launch)
Hall reckons he can ‘finish’ William’s boxing career before it goes any further.
‘Sonny Boy has made a mistake in taking this fight, I intend to finish his boxing career and open up bigger fight opportunities for myself,’ he said.
The fight, which is promoted by Australian former boxing champion Danny Green and Khoder Nasser, was expected to be held on March 16 but was pushed back a week.
Williams was ringside for Parker’s win over Derek Chisora in December, where Fury was also heavily involved.
Parker is considered part of the Fury camp and showed huge improvements in that fight, so Williams will be hoping for a similar knock-on effect.
But Williams, who first fought to pay off debts in 2009, is yet to achieve anywhere near the same level of performance in boxing that he managed in rugby league or union.
There was speculation last May that Williams could fight the 53-year-old retired world champion Mike Tyson in a charity showcase.
But former Australian champion Jeff Fenech warned Williams ‘could die’ if he dared fight Tyson.
The Turf War fight launch on Thursday in Sydney
Williams admitted he had to win over his wife, Alana Raffie, before signing up to fight Hall, who is 6’4 to his 6’3.
‘Yes I’m 36 years old, time’s not on my side, but do you mind if I have 24 months where I give my hear and soul to this sport that I’ve grown to love, he said.
His plan is to fight another five to 10 times before retiring.
Many felt Williams had dodged Gallen, who took down a former world champion Lucas Browne in a massive upset last year.
It is likely the spectre of that fight will follow Williams to Sydney and if he does beat Hall, he’ll come under pressure to face Gallen.