Jamie Soward and Billy Dib share a friendship built on polarising the masses
Shared journey: Jamie Soward and Billy DIb at Kogarah Oval lolling@5ouff$.Pic
;Gregg Porteous Picture: Gregg Porteous Source:
The Daily Telegraph
IT is a friendship built on the mutual experience of polarising the masses. As Jamie Soward explains: "The perception of me at the moment is you love me or hate me. And that relates to Billy Dib too."
The Dragons five-eighth, who tonight steers his side against former coach Wayne Bennett in the NRL opener at Newcastle
, has faced his share of critics from the canvas.
And world champion Dib
, who defends his IBF featherweight title in Hobart on Wednesday, knows the distress of being jeered from his field.
"We've spoken privately about different situations we've found ourselves in early in our careers, it's similar," Soward said.
"Billy went straight to the top, everyone wanted to be on him, then he lost his fight and everyone is like, 'Is this guy for real? Can he make it?' He fought his way back.
"I was the same, wrapped up as some sort of prodigy at the Roosters. I was trying to go after one of the greats in Brad Fittler, it was tough for me but I hung in there. Now you walk down the street and have 10 people love you and 10 people hate you."
The pair are far more vocal telling each other's stories than their own.
"The pinnacle of a footballer's career is to win a grand final, and he has already done it," Dib said. "Andrew Ettingshausen was one of the great players and never won a grand final, that's sad. Jamie Soward has already got that premiership.
"You can't please everybody. Jamie has to realise that and we've spoken about this many times, as long as you're happy with yourself who cares what people think?"
Dib (33-1, 20KO) suffered his first and only loss in a world title bout against Steven Luevano in 2008, and was widely condemned for his defensive style and dropped by promotional company Golden Boy.
He has since won 12 of 13 bouts (one no contest) and defends his belt against mandatory challenger Eduardo Escobedo (32-3, 23KO) - who has won 11 straight since 2007 - but the criticism remains.
Soward said: "Some people don't understand, you try your whole life to get to the top, and two years ago we (the Dragons) got to the top and it's hard to stay at the top because everyone is trying to pull you down."
"Last year was tough for me, and it will be tough for Billy every fight from now because he's world champion.
"He loses next week, and he's back down here. But if he wins he's building on top of Everest, which he has climbed already.
"Every time he steps into the ring, because he is a world champion, is like me last year. We risk, because we are the champions. Everyone wants to be us. That's how we relate.''
DRAGONS TO WIN