Behind the usual pre-fight bluster and bravado, there’s a healthy respect between Sonny Bill Williams and Barry Hall.
Respect for each other’s remarkable football careers, respect for their willingness to put their squeaky bodies and reputations on the line by stepping into the ring.
And honoring a commitment to sign up for eight three-minute rounds, longer and more grueling than your average soccer fight.
Turf War: Sonny Bill Williams vs Barry Hall – Live and exclusive on the Stan event, March 23. Buy the event now on stan.com.au/event
Both men understand that they are looking at the real deal.
“He (Hall) grew up in a fighting family, he was the Australian (Junior) Golden Gloves champion, so he’s no stranger to the boxing ring,” Williams told Wide World of Sports ahead of the fight. Turf War” from March 23 in Sydney.
“So for him to come in and say Sonny has the experience, I take the big challenges – I think it’s a joke because he’s had the experience. He’s had loads of fights, he has been around boxing pretty much his whole life.
READ MORE: Socialites on SBW’s inauspicious introduction to boxing
READ MORE: Hall prepares to spend two years of frustration on Sonny Bill
READ MORE: Sonny Bill explains Tyson Fury’s camp plan for Turf War fight
“So for me, that’s the challenge. I think he won his last fight against Paul (Gall).
“I think he’s really talented from a boxing standpoint in this ring and for me for the next two years I’m not going to have too much fun. That’s why I took on this massive challenge against Barry .”
Hall, 45, remains adamant he can beat Williams, a man nine years his junior.
“I’m not going to take anything away from what he is – he’s a good fighter,” Hall told WWOS.
“He’s 9-0, a former national champion, he knows what he’s doing in there. He’s a great athlete, he’s recognized as one of the best athletes in the world. So I work to do, but I was an underdog in my first fight and it’s no different.
“They don’t want me to win. There’s too much money to lose if I win but I understand that.”
Despite being the older man, a lean, nasty Hall said he was more than happy to sign on for eight three-minute rounds.
His only other professional fight, against Gallen, lasted six two-minute rounds and ended in a draw.
“I was happy to fight Paul Gallen for three minute rounds, but give me time to prepare, you know,” Hall said.
“Obviously my fitness base is way ahead of what it was, I’m so much more comfortable in it now than I was. I was a bit rushed before.
“I’m a totally different fighter now than I was. I’m a totally different beast now.
“If it’s close and I’m ahead I’m not going to win. I get it, that’s what I signed up for so I have to knock him out.”
Williams is also aiming for a knockout but is happy to take the fight deep.
“I think it’s going to be a neck and neck type of fight, just his dynamic, the physical presence that he brings, I bring too,” Williams said.
“It’s going to be a great fight. I’m going to wear it down and then finish it.”
For a daily dose of the best news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by by clicking here!
Australia’s rugby greats share classic stories and relive big controversies from Stan Sport’s Glory Days series