Rugby World Cup winner Williams became Fury and Parker’s sparring partner

Former New Zealand international Sonny Bill Williams is a two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who now plys his trade in the professional boxing ranks. The Kiwi puncher has ten bouts under his belt (9-1) and is a sparring partner for lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former WBO title-holder Joseph Parker.

The 38-year-old retired from rugby in 2021 following an impressive career in league and union. Williams earned international call-ups in both sports but established his name as a centre in the latter.

The 243lb colossus picked up 58 caps for New Zealand and won consecutive World Cups with the All-Blacks in 2011 and 2015. However, his competitive edge kept him yearning for more.

While out in France playing for Toulon, he took up boxing, initially as a way of keeping fit during the off-season, but quickly fell in love with the sport. In 2009, he stepped between ropes as a professional for the first time on his close friend Anthony Mundine’s undercard, beating fellow debutant Gary Gurr inside two rounds.

From here, Williams was hooked and continued fighting throughout his rugby career. In 2012, he stopped Clarence Tillman to become New Zealand’s heavyweight champion in only his fifth professional outing.

He then followed this up with a ten-round decision victory over former world title challenger Francois Botha to earn a ranking with the World Boxing Association (WBA) as well as one of their many trinkets, the WBA International strap.

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When he retired from rugby for good in 2021, he turned his full attention to boxing and travelled down to Morecambe Bay to spar with Fury and Parker in preparation for his fight with Barry Hall last year. A win there elevated him into a blockbuster showdown with MMA and kickboxing legend Mark Hunt.

Despite a bright start, Williams would ultimately be out-gunned by his veteran foe as he succumbed to a devastating fourth-round knockout loss that marked his first defeat in the sport. Williams has not fought since but has expressed his desire to continue competing. No future date nor opponent has been disclosed as of yet.

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