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Sonny Bill Williams to return to boxing ring against ex-AFL bad boy

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

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Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams will make his return to the boxing ring against ex-AFL hard man Barry Hall.

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The bout, which was announced on Wednesday and has long been rumoured as one of several fights that Williams has been linked with, will take place in Sydney on March 23.

Williams, the two-time World Cup winner and ex-NRL icon, has travelled to England to train alongside world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, and Kiwi boxers Joseph Parker and David Nyika, in preparation for the bout.

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It will be the ninth time Williams has fought as a professional boxer since his debut in the ring back in 2009.

The 36-year-old’s intermittent boxing career, which has been interrupted by his rugby union and rugby league commitments, resumed last June when he beat Australian fighter Waikato Falefihi by unanimous decision in Townsville.

It was the first time Williams had fought professionally since 2015, and his six-year absence from the ring was reflected by the fact he was knocked down by Falefihi in the second round.

However, the former New Zealand heavyweight champion rebounded to score his eighth win from as many professional bouts.

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Williams will look to keep his undefeated record intact when he faces Hall, the 44-year-old AFL Hall of Fame inductee who garnered a reputation as one of Australian football’s toughest players during his lengthy career between 1996 and 2011.

During that time, Hall was frequently embroiled in on-field controversies where he earned numerous suspensions for striking other players.

The highest-profile of those incidents came in 2008, when Hall landed a sickening punch to the face of West Coast Eagles defender Brent Staker to land himself a seven-week suspension.

Following his retirement from the AFL 11 years ago, Hall – who, in 2005, captained the Sydney Swans to their first AFL title in 72 years – turned to professional boxing in 2019.

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That year, he made his debut in the ring against former NRL star Paul Gallen, with the pair’s fight ending in a majority draw.

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Hall’s upcoming bout against Williams will be his first since his clash with Gallen, with Williams declaring that the fight will be the beginning of the final chapter of his glittering sporting career.

“I finished rugby and rugby league, and before I walk off into the wilderness with my family, I said to my wife that I think I want to give boxing one more crack, just to scratch that itch,” he said.

“It’s great to see Barry here, it’s great to line up two athletes who are here to win – it’s a 50/50 fight and it’s going to be a great night.

“I think for me, this journey – I have said before I want to have 5-10 fights. In order for that to come to fruition, I have to beat Barry and I have to beat him convincingly. No stone will be unturned in this journey.”

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