Paul Gallen has landed one devastating final blow after calling time on his professional sporting career with a unanimous points victory over fellow league great-turned boxer, Justin Hodges. The Cronulla Sharks premiership winner comfortably won their rematch in Sydney on Wednesday night, before taking a brutal swipe at long-time rival, Sonny Bill Williams.
Fight fans have for years hoped to see Gallen and fellow cross-code superstar SBW lock horns in the ring, only for negotiations to consistently break down between both camps. Gallen has long conceded that the fight will never happen, and he unloaded on the New Zealand dual international after ending his boxing career with a 15-2-1 record that included eight knockouts.
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“We’ve never had much beef along the way. I’ve always just said he’s scared to fight me. He called me out saying a 60-40 contract (split of money but) we’ve never had beef, Gallen declared after beating Hodges on all three judges’ scorecards (60-54, 60-54, 59-55) on Thursday night.
“And then a couple of months ago he came out and said, ‘He’s just not a good person’. That was the end of it for me. Who the f*** is he to judge me as a person? That was the worst thing.
“Like I said, there was no beef between us. It was just tit-for-tat, I want to fight you, you want to fight me. But for him to try to judge me as a person, that’s the end of it .”
Gallen made the staggering revelation before the Hodges rematch that he had earned $25 million from his boxing career after just the last three years in the sport. However, the 41-year-old rugby league great admitted that not fighting Williams will remain the biggest regret of his boxing career.
“It will be a pub debate forever. I am disappointed we didn’t do it. We should have fought twice. We should’ve fought four or five years ago when I was calling him out,” Gallen said.
“And whoever lost could’ve said, ‘We were footy players back then, we’re professional boxers’ and do it again and made more money. And then if it’s one-all, do a huge decider. And if someone has won 2-1, full credit to that person.
“But he always waits for someone to get too old to fight them, and that’s what he’s waiting for with me. I’m not going to give him that chance, now that I’m past my best. He’s done it to all his opponents, and he got caught out recently (losing to Mark Hunt in November). That’s life.”
Gallen couldn’t find the knockout blow NSW fans were hoping for against Maroons great Hodges, but the former NSW and Cronulla captain still packed too many punches for his long-time Queensland rival and was duly awarded a comfortable victory by all three judges.
Paul Gallen confirms sporting career is over
Speaking after the fight, Gallen confirmed his boxing career is over. The 350-game NRL great even paid a classy tribute to Hodges, despite the bad blood that existed between the pair in the past.
“He broke my heart plenty of times, Hodgo, so it was good to get one back at him but he’s a warrior,” Gallen said. “He’s got power. I wasn’t prepared to take too many risks tonight so I just did what I needed to do, used my jab.
But I got the win and not too many people get to go out on a victory, especially in boxing so it was good to do it tonight. I’m just glad it’s all over – I’ve had enough. I’m 41 going on 42. You’ve got to slow down at some stage and it’s hit me now so it’s time to pull the pin.”
Gallen bows out of boxing with an impressive 15-2-1 record. His only defeats came against Justis Huni and Kris Tervieski for the Australian heavyweight title. He gallantly went the distance in both bouts, only to lose on points.
A courageous victory over UFC legend Mark Hunt and a stunning first-round knockout of one-time WBA heavyweight champion Lucas Browne were the highlights of his boxing career. Gallen said he ranks going toe-to-toe with Huni as a stand-out memory.
In rugby league, the ironman achieved more than most players could dream of. Gallen captained Cronulla to their one and only NRL premiership in 2016, NSW to a drought-breaking State of Origin series win over Queensland in 2014 and also won a World Cup in 2013 amid 32 Test matches for Australia.
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