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Boxing: Williams defends shortened title bout

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Sonny Bill Williams has defended his controversial unanimous points heavyweight victory over veteran Frans Botha in a title bout that ended after 10 rounds in Brisbane on Friday night.

The fight, which was advertised and scheduled for 12 rounds as per WBA rules, was stopped early, drawing an angry reaction from Botha and boos from the crowd at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

The former World Cup-winning All Black star, in only his sixth professional fight, won the points on all three of the ringside judges' cards against the vastly experienced but ageing South African boxer.

Bookmakers refunded bets on Williams's controversial win and 44-year-old Botha has challenged the rugby star to a rematch.

Williams, who was on the receiving end of some heavy blows from Botha in the final round, tweeted on Saturday that both camps knew it was a 10-round affair.

"First morning after the fight it's sinking in what a great night it was. We both knew it was a 10 rounder b4 the fight! WBAinterntionalbelt!!," he posted.

The Australian newspaper reported that Australian National Boxing Federation (ANBF) vice-president Alan Moore, a ringside judge for the bout, said he had no idea why the title fight had been shortened.

"When the ring announcer said over the loud speaker that it was the last round, that was the first we (judges) knew of any change," Moore was quoted as saying.

"Any international title fight is meant to be fought over 12 three-minute rounds. I have no idea what happened."

ANBF committee member John Hogg said a last-minute decision to shelve the final two rounds was "unusual" but that it had been ticked off by officials after both camps agreed shortly before the fight.

"Any suggestion that there was any decision made during the fight is just nonsense," Hogg told Fox Sports on Saturday.

"Both parties told us it was cut back to 10 rounds, we had no time to try and check with the WBA to see if they were aware of what was happening."

New Zealand betting agency TAB, which has refunded bets on the fight, claimed it had checked that it was correct in taking bets on a 12-round bout in the lead-up to the fight because it had been stung previously by Williams' fights finishing early.

"We went to great pains to double check and triple check that it was 12 rounds because (in) a Sonny Bill fight this has happened before so we're pretty annoyed about it," TAB head bookmaker Mark Stafford told New Zealand's Radio Sport.

"It's not really about the money figure. People are brassed off.

"I don't know how it has happened, why it has happened. When they said '10th and final round' we all just looked at each other and said 'what is going on here'?"

The ringside judges gave the Kiwi the victory 97-91, 98-94, 97-91 which was greeted by considerable booing from the crowd.

But Williams, who will switch back to Australia's National Rugby League this season after playing rugby union in New Zealand, was praised in some quarters for the win against Botha, who has fought Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko and Evander Holyfield in a 23-year career.

"No amateur career, no decent training camp & he won against a guy that fought the greats with 60 bouts to his name," tweeted one fan.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130208/boxing-williams-defends-shortened-title-bout-0