Home' The Wellingtonian : January 26th 2012 Contents 23
THE WELLINGTONIAN, JANUARY 26, 2012
Black Out The Heart
Be there for something special
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Heart
Sunday Jan 29th, 4.30pm
Tickets available at Ticketek outlets or call 0800 Ticketek or www.ticketek.co.nz
New Zealand title fight a sham
right, on his
So Sonny Bill Williams and
Clarence Tillman are to
square off on February 8 for
the New Zealand professional
heavyweight boxing title.
Williams, 26, has fought four
times professionally. His previous
fight was last June against a
rotund 42-year-old Tongan named
Alipate Liava a, who couldn t box
Tillman, 34, a New Zealand-
domiciled American, made his
professional boxing debut at 30.
He has had 21 professional fights
and won 11.
Last year he lost to Lucas
Browne and Michael Kirby,
neither of whom has Las Vegas
fight promoters knocking down
Yet a footballer who boxes --
poorly -- part-time and an Amer-
ican who is, if anything, even
worse, are to fight for a New Zea-
land title. How can this be?
In most sports, winning a
national title is a significant
Lawn bowlers practise for years
and during nationals week have to
win through in a field numbering
several hundred. Squash, track
and field, swimming, triathlon
and most other sports do not
bestow the honour of a national
championship on just anyone.
Being a New Zealand champion
should mean something.
Only in boxing, where anything
goes as long as it makes money,
would a national title be offered
merely to promote ticket sales.
Who was the previous New Zea-
land professional heavyweight
champion? How did he lose the
title? What qualifies Williams and
Tillman to fight for the title?
There was once a very good
heavyweight named Henry
Tillman. He fought Mike Tyson,
Evander Holyfield and Buster
Douglas. Clarence Tillman, all
125kg of him, has nothing in com-
mon with him except a surname.
Williams is a really exciting
footballer, a marvellous midfield
back. His offloading in a tackle is
a sight to behold. If he wants to
box, good for him.
Some footballers are actually
quite good boxers. Anthony
Mundine and Mal Meninga are
two recent rugby league stars who
have looked right at home in the
Several All Blacks have boxed
Tough Canterbury hooker Brian
MacCleary, one of the 1924-25
Invincibles All Blacks, won the
amateur New Zealand and
Australasian heavyweight titles in
1920 and 1921.
tungsten-tough front rower, won
the New Zealand amateur heavy-
weight title in 1947.
Wilson Whineray, one of the
great All Black captains, was a
New Zealand universities boxing
But Williams has taken it a step
further. He has disdained ama-
teur boxing and, urged on by his
agent -- and now boxing promoter
-- Khoder Nasser, is fighting as a
His boxing was a curiosity when
he first stepped into the ring,
against Garry Gurr in Sydney in
It was immediately evident he
was no boxer. He hadn t learnt the
skills, had limited punching power
and had no combinations.
He was an amateur, boxing as a
professional. Punters pay to watch
him, television networks pick up
his fights and sell them. That s the
way boxing works. If it makes
money it must be good.
I have no objection to that.
What annoys me is when some-
one who should know better has
the cheek to call this upcoming
bout a New Zealand title fight.
Such a description is an insult
to every sportsman and woman
who ever sweated blood to win a
genuine New Zealand sports title.
Sports lover: Brian O'Brien
By JOSEPH ROMANOS
One of Wellington s
sports journalists is
to be honoured with
an annual prize for
Brian O Brien,
who edited Sports
Digest from 1949 to
1979, was one of
the leading sports
in New Zealand for
more than three
Marist Newtown and St Patrick s College, he
served in the air force during World War II and
then became a reporter on The Evening Post.
But he really made his reputation editing the
monthly Sports Digest.
Though O Brien was a great lover of boxing,
cricket and rugby, he ensured his magazine
covered a huge variety of sports and commissioned
stories from leading sports writers around the
In addition, he was very encouraging of young
and emerging sports journalists.
The Brian F O Brien Memorial Prize for Sports
Journalism has been set up by his son, Dennis
O Brien, who owns Slow Boat Records in Cuba St.
The prize is to be worth $1000 annually.
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