Australian boxing officials have not explained why Friday's fight between Francois Botha and Sonny Bill Williams lasted only ten rounds.
The heavyweight bout in Brisbane was scheduled for twelve rounds, with the WBA international title at stake. But at the start of the tenth, the ring official announced it would be the last round. According to some reports it caught even the judges by surprise.
A senior Australian official confirmed afterwards the judges had not been told the fight had been shortened to ten rounds. But no one seems to know whose call it was or whether the referee or the ring announcer had made a mistake.
Officials of the Australian Boxing Federation are likely to investigate and discuss the matter as soon as possible. Everything points to a huge embarrassment for the federation and the organisers of the tournament.
The WBA may even declare the result null and void and order a rematch, taking the title away from Williams, a New Zealand rugby international who was fighting in only his sixth professional bout.
"World" title fights, even bouts for "international" titles, are usually scheduled for twelve rounds.
Williams has hinted that he is not too sure about boxing again. He is under contract to play rugby league for the Sydney Roosters from March, which could make it impossible for him to fight for most of the year.
But if the WBA order a rematch, he will be under pressure to face the “White Buffalo” again.
At the end of the tenth, Williams was nearly out on his feet after taking several hard blows from a desperate Botha, a former IBF champion.
Many ringsiders and television viewers felt Botha would have won had the bout continued as scheduled.
Botha, a South African who fought in his 61st bout as a professional, has already asked for a rematch, saying he felt he had won.
Two judges, Steve Moore and Adam Height, scored the bout 97-91 for Williams and the third, Alan Moore, made it 98-94 for the New Zealander. Most critics felt it was a fair reflection of the fight.
Whether Williams would have recovered quickly enough to survive for another two rounds, no one will ever know. Being extremely fit he may have been able to outrun Botha. But one more big blow may have convinced him to get out of boxing.
What is beyond doubt is that referee Tony Kettlewell was out of his depth. He should never have been appointed to handle a bout between heavyweights and was justifiably criticised by reporters and commentators.
Tags: Francois Botha , Sonny Bill Williams