Sonny Bill Williams says he has been focusing more on his strength, power and athleticism in a bid to beat knockout specialist Mark Hunt ahead of their eight-round heavyweight clash in Sydney this weekend.

The former All Black is undefeated as a professional boxer, running up a 9-0 record since his debut in 2009. But the 37-year-old knows that could all change in an instant when he’s in the ring with one of the most devastating strikers in combat sports.

Williams and Hunt both appeared at an open workout on Wednesday at Tony Mundie’s gym in Redfern and the pair looked in excellent condition. Hunt believes it’s the best shape he’s achieved for years. ‘I started at 157kg,’ said the former kickboxer and MMA star. ‘I’m probably down to around 130kg now. 

‘I concentrated a bit more on gains outside of boxing this time around,’ said Williams, who knocked out his last opponent Barry Hall in less than two minutes. ‘Strength, power, athleticism – that sort of thing. That’s the big difference this time.  ‘My boxing training is going well, too. I’ve been training with a new coach from Greenacre Boxing – I’m a novice when it comes to this sport so I’m always learning.’

‘I got the call from Mark Hunt, and he said come over,’ explained Tua. ‘I can’t teach him how to fight – he already knows how. But the waterboy job is here for me. I’m excited to be here. ‘I never wanted to see my usos [brothers] going at it – but business is business. These guys are icons of their sports. It shows others that you can try other things in life. and succeed.’

‘It’s the back end of my career. However it goes, it goes. If Sonny gets me, he gets me. If I get him, that’s just how it is. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.’ Holding the pads for Hunt at the work was none other than former world heavyweight boxing title contender David Tua, who flew over from New Zealand for the fight at Hunt’s request.

Tua, who was known as one of the hardest-hitting heavyweights of his era, insists Hunt’s knockout power is still a worry for anybody he steps into the ring with. ‘He hits hard,’ Tua said. ‘I don’t want to get hit by him. People ask me if I know exactly how hard he hits – I say I don’t want to know, thank you.’ Hunt and Williams will go head-to-head at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on November 5.

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