In a controversial main event from Australia, two rounds suddenly disappeared and Frans Botha may have been robbed of a knockout win over Sonny Bill Williams, while another rugby star, Quade Cooper, won his pro debut.
Frans Botha didn't need to do much more to knock out Sonny Bill Williams, but under controversial circumstances, he didn't get his shot. The main event from Australia was advertised as a 12-round bout, and the TV people were sure it was set for 12, but after Williams was hurt in the ninth, the fight suddenly entered its announced final round in the 10th.
Williams survived, barely, and hung on for a decision win on scores of 97-91, 97-91, and 98-94. The scores were not really any issue, as Williams definitely deserved the lead on the scorecards in the view of everyone I saw, but the disappearance of those two rounds is something that needs to be explained. The Botha corner took it well overall, but Botha's trainer did make note of the confusing switch in their post-fight interview.
The cynical belief, of course, is that the event promoters made the switch after Williams (6-0, 3 KO) totally hit the wall in round nine, where he got hurt and was clearly on his last legs. In the 10th, Williams was merely surviving, and was docked a point for excessive holding. That also gave him some time and may have helped him make it out of the round, and the fight. Botha cracked him with right hands over what turned out to be the last two rounds, hurting Williams repeatedly in the 10th.
With all due respect to Williams, it has to be noted that he showed some genuine toughness, a real fighter's heart, and for someone with a whopping six pro fights who is still a true novice, he's got ability. The guy's not a joke in there; he comes to fight and gives a real effort, and his fighting Botha is already as much as Deontay Wilder has done, really.
But the vanishing rounds are a major question, and give the entire fight a very fishy smell. That's unfortunate, because Williams himself doesn't deserve that criticism. It wasn't his call.
Botha (48-9-3, 29 KO) received a lot of cheers after the fight, and said to the TV interviewer, "I love Sonny Bill. He's a great guy, a gentleman. But this is bullshit."
On the undercard, another rugby player scored a nasty knockout win in his first pro boxing fight, as Quade Cooper flattened Barry Dunnett in the first round on a wicked right hand. Also on the card, heavyweight Alex Leapai (27-4-3, 22 KO) stopped Matt Hicks (13-9, 12 KO) in the first round, and former Commonwealth middleweight title challenger Jarrod Fletcher improved to 14-1 (8 KO) with a seventh round stoppage of Kiatchai Singwancha (32-9, 21 KO).