Willie Mason says his father's unsuccessful fight against cancer is the reason he wants to step an Auckland boxing ring for charity.
Rugby league star Willie Mason says his father's battle with cancer is the reason he's stepping into the boxing ring in a charity fund-raiser.
The former Australia and NSW forward will headline a Fight for Life boxing event in Auckland when he fights a yet-to-be named All Black in December in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.
"Whenever I hear the word 'cancer', it sets me back for a second or two," said Mason, whose father, Ian, died from the disease 15 years ago.
While it wasn't prostate cancer his father succumbed to, the 32-year-old Mason said cancer was cancer for anyone who had suffered a loss like his family did.
"So, when I heard the charity was a cancer awareness one, the decision to get inside those ropes was an easy one," said the Newcastle Knights player.
"If I can convince blokes to go and get checked and save their kids from having to go through what I went through in 1997, then every second inside the ring would have been worth it."
The Fight for Life event is been billed as a "battle of the codes" between rugby union and league.
Among those who took part last year were present and past All Blacks Liam Messam, Christian Cullen and Carlos Spencer, dual Australian international Wendell Sailor and Kiwis hooker Issac Luke.
Mason knows he isn't the most popular person in New Zealand.
In 2006, he angered Kiwis fans when he appeared to disrespect the haka before what turned out to be a spiteful trans-Tasman Test in Auckland.
He hopes his decision to get into the ring for charity will gain him a bit more respect on this side of the Tasman.