Two-sport star Sonny Bill Williams has made his return to the boxing ring in a charity match against a former reality TV show winner.
The New Zealand rugby union player and heavyweight boxer will square up against Stu Laundy, who won Sophie Monk’s heart on the Bachelorette in 2017.
The Australian anthem was followed by a passionate rendition of New Zealand’s national song, with a trio of men then performing the haka.
Laundy came out of the corner strong, forcing Williams against the rope until the referee broke them apart.
A strong right hook connected with Laundy’s head after Williams let his guard down, with the first of four rounds ending quickly after.
Sonny Bill Williams and Stu Laundy (pictured) will square off in a charity boxing match
Williams, 33, entered a ring for the first time in three years after making a long comeback from an injury sustained during a football match.
Laundy meanwhile says he expects Williams to beat him and just hopes to raise some money for charity.
Known as a television personality and not a fighter, Lundy’s safety was such a concern to the NSW Combat Sports Authority they threatened to cancel the entire event, the Daily Telegraph reported.
But Williams declared during a press conference in the days before the fight he had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to hurt Laundy.
‘I think like we said before that the underlying cause outweighs that, we’ve got a gentlemen’s agreement,’ he said.
Williams, a former professional boxer, will return to the ring for the first time in three years
Before the undercard fights began, Williams refused to make light of Anthony Mundine’s stunning loss to Jeff Horn a night before.
Instead, he congratulated Mundine on a long career, telling him: ‘Love you, brother.’
All proceeds from the exhibition match will go towards the The Bill Crews Charitable Trust, Auckland City Mission and the Exodus Foundation.
Williams says Laundy came to him with the idea, and wanted to find a connection in his homeland, landing on the Auckland City Mission his grandmother volunteered for.
More than $200,000 has already been raised from sponsors for the event.
Bikini-clad ring girls were the centre of controversy earlier in the week, with Williams distancing himself from them while Laundy (centre) didn’t appear to object
But the lead-up to the main event wasn’t without controversy.
At a press conference for the match on Thursday, two ring girls were removed from the event after complaints from Williams’ team about their tiny gold bikinis.
A devout Muslim, Williams refused to pose with them when they attended the pre-match event at the Ashfield Uniting Church in Sydney’s inner west.
The All-Blacks rugby star looked uncomfortable and kept his distance from the ring girls while his opponent appeared more than happy to pose with the women.
But organisors say there won’t be any problems on Saturday night after a less revealing swimwear range was designed for the girls.