Sonny Bill Faces the Fear
Vulnerability, fear and palpable humbleness are not qualities normally associated with sporting star, Sonny Bill Williams. But in an interview with The Guardian, the footballer and occasional boxer opens up about recent and historic controversies – including acknowledgement he is a journeyman boxer.
“I’m never going to be the world heavyweight champion but [boxing has] taught me so much,” Williams says. “I came from not even being able to throw a punch to slowly improving to sitting in the changing rooms and not wanting to go out – I was that scared.”
When reminded that even the great pugilists, such as Mike Tyson, felt the same fear, Williams responds: “Think of Tyson, at the peak of his powers, and me, an average Joe Blow, who hasn’t even had an amateur career.
“There is so much pressure and you’re that scared but when you come through the other side, it’s the best feeling in the world. So, boxing’s taught me I can face anything, even as a very average bloke in the ring.”
The Guardian is billing Williams as “the unequivocal star” of the Rugby League World Cup, bringing an irresistible blend of glamour and gravitas to the game, which outside of Australia and the northern counties has struggled to match the attention afforded rugby union.
Williams also addressed the furore surrounding his maybe-no-yes flip-flop on selection for the Kiwis.
“I knew if I didn’t play I’d have regrets the rest of my life,” he explains. “I honestly didn’t think a player would have to be dropped. I sent a text to Tohu [Harris, the player jettisoned to make way for Williams] and tried to get hold of him but he was upset. I want to repay everyone by working hard and playing some good footy.”
The Kiwis won their World Cup opening match against Samoa, 42-24 and were criticised for letting slip a 36-4 lead. The next game is against France on Saturday (NZT) morning.