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Sonny Bill Williams confirms retirement from both rugby codes as he prepares for next career move

By Sam Smith
Sonny Bill Williams

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.

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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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Jon 22 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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