Paul Gallen is ready to retire. You reckon he could do without the chaos, the shots that “rocked my brain”, the line of people calling him out in search of a payday.
Here stands a 41-year-old who has been in a professional sporting system since he was a teenager wearing Cronulla jerseys that hung loose around his biceps.
An athlete with a phenomenal engine that carried him to an NRL premiership, State of Origin success, Test rugby league, a 14-2-1 professional boxing record and two shots at the Australian heavyweight title, Gallen is ready to walk away.
He has earned the right to walk away on his own terms. That’s what he will do, right after he takes one last shot at Justin Hodges.
Gallen on Thursday achieved what few others have by winning two professional boxing bouts in one night; he beat Ben Hannant via unanimous decision over four rounds, and returned an hour later to stop Hodges in three, despite being knocked down during the second round.
Perhaps the only thing that could rival the chaos at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena was the Wallabies’ heartbreaking Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks in Melbourne. The main event in Brisbane was a cocktail of insanity.
Paul Gallen defeated Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant on the same night.Credit:Getty Images
Hodges came out firing and won the opening exchanges. The roof was nearly lifted off the arena minutes later when he dropped Gallen during the second round, before the former NSW Blues captain rallied to batter the Queenslander against the ropes in the third until the bout was called off.
“I’m 41, I’ve definitely had enough. I’ve been doing [professional sport] since I was 18 years old. I’ve got one fight left on my contract, and Hodgo just asked if I would give him a rematch,” Gallen said.
“That’s up to No Limit, but Hodgo has asked for a rematch. It won’t be over two-minute rounds though, it will be six threes which is fair enough, and we’ll be doing it in Sydney.”
Hodges is adamant the stoppage was “bullshit”. Some will wonder if Gallen was lucky to escape the second round without at least being docked a point for an illegal shot, but there can be no disputing the finish.
Even Hodges’ cornerman Adam Copland was ready to call an end to the contest.
“I know the ref has got a job to do but there is no way in the world I was hurt. It was absolute bullcrap,” Hodges said. “I’m an ultimate professional, I’ll take it on the chin. If Gal wants to do six three-minute rounds, it’s up to [promoters] Matty and George [Rose]. I want a rematch because that was bullshit.”
No Limit chief executive George Rose is happy to oblige, with an agreement on a rematch effectively struck inside the ring.
“The job is done. I asked for entertainment from them tonight and they absolutely brought it,” Rose said. “They want a rematch, we’ve got a show in mid-November. If they’re ready to go in mid-November, I’m happy to put that on as a headliner because I want some more fireworks like that.”
Gallen’s plans to fight Hodges before retiring will hardly be welcome news to Brisbane heavyweight Joe Goodall, who came out with an expletive-laden callout of the New South Welshman following a win over Arsene Fosso earlier in the night.
Goodall declared he is the man fit to give Gallen a hiding, saying: “Excuse my French, fight me or f— off and go away and live the rest of your life as a p—-“.
Gallen later replied: “I can’t understand boxers fighting a 41-year-old bloke who is about to retire. Everyone wants a payday but I don’t know what fighting me will do for his career. I’ve got one fight left on my contract and it won’t be against Joe Goodall.”
It won’t be against Sonny Bill Williams. Nor will it be against Hannant, the father of eight who was up at the crack of dawn for breakfast radio duties yet gave it everything in his second fight with an eye on adding a pool to the house his family is building.
Hannant won a legion of fans on this night. Few could question his ticker, given he stepped into the ring nursing a rib injury suffered in park football a month ago.
“I’m a front rower. We’re not smart,” Hannant said. “Wayne Bennett used to say to us front rowers: ‘If you thought, you’d be dangerous.’”
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