Battered, broken and beaten for the first time, Paul Gallen admits he may have had his last professional fight after suffering a savage belting from budding heavyweight star Justis Huni.
Boxing commentators are calling for Gallen to put away the gloves for his own health and wellbeing after Huni put the 39-year-old through a 10-round onslaught on Wednesday night. Gallen was courageous, defying a broken rib sustained in just the second round to soldier on but even Gallen concedes enough may be enough.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do it,” Gallen said when asked why would he put himself through such torture again, having already made millions from his premiership-winning NRL career and now genuinely successful 13-fight boxing expedition. “Every time he went to the body, it just killed me … all he had to do was touch it. He did it a couple of times and it hurt.”
Gallen earned upwards of $1.275m for his lion-hearted effort and a rematch remains on the table after Huni returns from the Tokyo Olympics, where the 22-year-old is among the gold medal favourites.
Before the brutal beat-down in Sydney, former NSW State of Origin captain Gallen said he had no plans on leaving the ring any time soon and said other Australian boxers should learn from his “have a dig” attitude.
“You lose, you get up, you brush yourself off and you go again,” he said. “People are afraid to test themselves and are afraid to lose and that’s the whole problem with Australian boxing.
“That’s why you see people cherry picking opponents, so they can all have a 10-0, 11 0 record. That’s why boxing is where it is [in the sporting popularity stakes]. If people had my mentality and my attitude to challenges, to push yourself, more and more events like this would happen.
“But unfortunately you see them fight in RSL clubs in front of three people because they’re fighting fights they know they’ll win. That’s the whole problem with Australian boxing.”
It is that fearlessness which both worries Gallen’s supporters, who want him to stop, and enthuses Team Huni, who hope the stubborn veteran goes around for a sequel. Promoter Dean Lonergan said Gallen remains boxing’s biggest drawcard in Australia and Huni needs to continue riding on his coat tails.
“If he [Huni] can [win a] medal at the Olympics, turn around, come back and do this again to Paul Gallen we’re going to have a bona fide pay-per-view star,” Lonergan said. “That was our fifth fight. It’s probably the toughest fight Justis has had. Gallen proved incredibly tough.
“And is it a step backwards? No. Don’t forget we’re limited by Covid and it’s an issue. We’re in the entertainment business and we’re in the media business and Paul Gallen brings media big time.”