By Chris Barclay
As physical specimens Sonny Bill Williams wins by unanimous decision, but he is still burdened by the weight of expectation leading into his boxing comeback against jovial American journeyman Chauncy Welliver.
Williams will attempt to restore credibility to the heavyweight component of his sporting career tomorrow night in Sydney when his seventh professional bout - and first for almost two years - is the focal point of the inaugural Footy Show Fight Night.
The cross-code superstar is still smarting from his contentious win over South African Frans Botha in February 2013, and although he has added a second NRL premiership to his achievements since then, that night in Brisbane continues to undermine his pretensions as a boxer.
Williams acknowledged his win over Botha in a bout allegedly trimmed by two rounds when the veteran was gaining the upper hand had tainted his reputation, so his match-up with Welliver provides a belated opportunity to regain credibility.
"It's very important. It's taken a few years to get the fire back in the belly after the Botha fight," he said, after Welliver had a one way conversation during their stare down at Allphones Arena.
"I know I'll never be the best fighter in the world, I just want to keep improving."
Welliver, who took the stage while eating popcorn before weighing in at 136.6kg [301-pounds], dominated the pre-fight posturing as Williams stood in bemused silence.
"It's just how I am. Most Kiwis, that's how we're raised. We keep it humble but that doesn't mean I'm not confident in my ability and my two-month preparation," he explained following Welliver's expletive-laden rant.
Although he has lost his last three fights, the 31-year-old talked up his chances in between mouthfuls.
"Don't let this fool you guys," he said, in reference to his girth.
"I've come to f*** him up. Believe it or not, yes I did train. I've put in the miles. I did all the hard stuff, I've got the experience.
"I'm going to finish it easily. I'm going to pick up where Botha left off."
Welliver admitted he was wary after watching the Botha fiasco because Williams acquitted himself well before barely surviving 10 rounds of what many assumed was a 12-round contest.
"The more I watch that fight I say 'This kid can fight'. He looked amazing against a guy who was beating Mike Tyson before he obviously got tired.
"I give him a lot of respect, but he is just that, a kid - in my sport. He has six fights, I have 70.
"The question is can he go eight (rounds) with my style? One thing I do is I throw a lot of punches," he said, before declaring one certainty.
"You're going to see a lot of flab out there. People can say 'Oh my God, look at him, he's fat'. No sh*t, but I am in great cardio shape.
"I could stand there for 20 rounds right now," said Welliver, who was desperate to punch above his weight and add to his 55 victories.
"If we were in a beauty contest he wins, unfortunately for him it's a boxing match. This is where I get my chance to prove the fat guy isn't just some guy that sits on the couch all the time.
"This fight is big for me. It puts me right me back where I need to be to prove that I'm still legit."