Former All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams has confirmed his retirement from both rugby union and rugby league as he prepares to resurrect his boxing career.
The 35-year-old last played union for the All Blacks at the 2019 World Cup in Japan before crossing to league for the second time in his career by signing a two-year deal with the Toronto Wolfpack in the English Super League.
COVID-19 resulted in the resulted in the demise of the Canadian club, though, which led Williams to a brief stint with the Sydney Roosters at the backend of last year’s NRL season.
However, without a contract in either code, the 58-test All Black, two-time World Cup-winner and 2012 Super Rugby champion confirmed he has hung up the boots for good as he targets world champion status in the boxing ring.
“I was humble enough to understand the old knee couldn’t meet the demands, although the mind wanted to, of the week-in and week-out footy, especially in the NRL,” Williams told Australia’s Channel Nine.
A 12-test Kiwis international and two-time NRL champion in league, Williams hasn’t fought as a professional boxer in over six years.
The last time he stepped in the ring professionally was in January 2015, when he defeated American heavyweight Chauncy Welliver by unanimous decision in Sydney.
That was the undefeated boxer’s seventh career win and he has previously held the World Boxing Association [WBA] international heavyweight and New Zealand Professional Boxing Association [NZPBA] heavyweight titles.
Both titles, won between February 2012 and February 2013, were stripped from Williams in December 2013 after failing to defend his belts.
However, Williams told Channel Nine he is eager to resume his career after speaking to his manager Khoder Nasser about his aspirations in the twilight of his sporting career.
“I spoke to my manager. I said, ‘Bro I think I’m keen to get in the ring for a couple of years, I’m 35’. Obviously spoke to the wife first and she had blank eyes but like usual, she supported me. I want to know how I will go in six months instead of six weeks,” he said.
Williams, who was last month reported to be eyeing a bout with former AFL star Barry Hall, won’t be lost to the rugby codes entirely, though, as he will remain onboard with the Sydney Roosters in a mentoring role.
When asked how he wants to be remembered for his time in union and league, Williams said: “Just as a brother. A man that just gave it a crack. Wasn’t perfect by any means but tried to learn from his lessons.”
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