30.11.06 – The hard man of New Zealand rugby league is launching a new career in the boxing ring. Former Warriors captain Monty Betham today announced he is retiring from early from his UK league contract and retiring as a player. The 28 year old has already begun intensive training in Auckland, to prepare for his first professional bout. Details of the first fight are expected to be announced in the New Year..
“Professional boxing has been a lifelong dream,” he says.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first season in the Super League. But timing is now a crucial factor.
“If I wait one more year, I might miss this opportunity through injury or fatigue. So it’s now or never.”
The fiery former loose forward is an obvious choice for hand to hand combat. His father has legendary status in the sport of boxing. Monty senior is a former New Zealand and Commonwealth champion.
Before starring in an international league career, Monty junior excelled at Karate. He won the New Zealand men’s title while still a teenager at school. At 16, he also represented New Zealand at the World junior championships.
Although he has never competed in boxing, Monty has certainly traded a few blows; mainly in sparring sessions or while sorting occasional disagreements on the league field.
“I’ve always wanted a chance to follow the path of my father,” he says. “And I’ve often talked to him about making a switch,” he says.
“As a youngster, my mother was naturally protective. She didn’t want me in the ring. But over the years she’s seen the endless injuries I’ve suffered through league. So she’s now more relaxed about seeing me boxing.”
Betham’s manager Mick Watson says details of the first fight date and who Betham will face will probably be announced in early January.
“Monty currently weighs 91.8kg so he’ll be competing in the cruiserweight class,” he says. “The cruiserweight category will allow Monty to adjust to a lighter weight without sacrificing power and endurance.”
Betham is being coached in the gym by former professional fighter Danny Codling. The pair first worked together when Codling was training with the Warriors. Monty senior will also play an important role in his son’s new career – both as a technical adviser and as a coach.
“Dad’s support and advice will be priceless. The one thing he has always pushed with me is the important of staying in shape. That’s why fitness levels have always been a priority.”
Monty Betham’s surprise retirement from league has obvious parallels with Australian boxing sensation Anthony Mundine. Mundine quit league in 2000 at the age of 25. Despite the many doubters, he went on to win the WBA Super Middleweight title and became a multi-millionaire.
Like Betham, Mundine also followed his father into boxing. And the similarities don’t end there. Monty Betham senior and Anthony Mundine Senior once fought each other for the Commonwealth title.
Outstanding contribution to rugby league.
During his 9 years of professional league, Monty Betham played more than 100 games in the NRL, as well as 8 tests for the New Zealand kiwis and 24 Super League Games.
He scored 10 tries for the Warriors, two in the Super League and one for the Kiwis.
“I’ll certainly miss the game. And I’ll miss the regular contact with some great mates I’ve known through the years. But I’ve achieved all I want to achieve in the sport. The time is right for a new challenge.”
Monty Betham’s switch to professional boxing has been made possible by support from two key sponsors: the Auckland valet car wash company Car-fe and Bulgaris Training Systems.