Paul Gallen has hung up his boxing gloves after 18 professional fights.
Gallen’s unanimous decision victory over Justin Hodges, 60-54, 60-54, 59-55, brings down the curtain on his second sporting career, which he ends with a 15-2-1 (8 KOs) record.
It’s worth noting that Gallen’s only two defeats came against full-time professional heavyweights: Justis Huni and Kris Terzievski, with the draw against ex-AFL star Barry Hall the only other blemish.
Admittedly, the rest of his rap sheet can only be described as mixed in terms of opposition, with a collection of former footy stars dominating the list.
But that small fact not withstanding, as far as second sporting careers go it’s been a decent — and lucrative — one for the 41-year-old Cronulla great — as well as Australian boxing as a whole.
Gallen told reporters this week that he had earned $25 million in the ring over past three years — an amount comfortably in excess of what he would have earned in his 19-year, 350 game NRL career.
It is a career that has also helped launch — or at least offer a helping hand with — the careers of the growing number of Australia’s top pugilists, including Tim and Nikita Tszyu, Harry Garside and Huni.
That’s because Gallen, with his profile as a top NRL player and media personality, sold fights.
The shows that he has headlined, or at least been the co-main event on, have helped pack arenas and offer a profile — and inflated prize purse — to those boxers coming up from the amateurs.
Gallen knows this and has not been afraid of saying it either, even offering Huni advice on how to sell himself and his fights after his TKO defeat in their Australian title fight in 2021.
“I constantly get ridiculed on social media,” Gallen said prior to meeting Terzievski.
“The general boxing fan still says I’m no good for the sport.
“Well the fact is I am good for the sport.
“I bring attention, I bring eyeballs.”
It’s impossible to argue that he hasn’t done so.
After Gallen beat former Manly prop Darcy Lussick in December last year, he called out boxing fans as hypocrites for denigrating his events as novelties, despite an apparent reluctance for those same fight fans to attend “pure” boxing shows.
Gallen’s fight was the headline act of two nights of boxing, the first featuring two of Australia’s best on the world stage, Andrew and Jason Moloney.
The crowd for Gallen’s footy-focussed card was close to a sell out.
Yet the crowd at the same venue the night before for the “genuine” boxers was paltry.
“I watched last night when a former world champion [Andrew Moloney] fought in front of deadset 100 people,” Gallen then said in the ring.
“Where’s all these people who want to bag me for boxing? [Why aren’t they] watching the Moloney boys?
“It really frustrates me.”
Gallen has described himself as a “prize fighter” — i.e. not in it for belts (although he has twice fought for the Australian heavyweight strap) but for money.
He has, though, stepped up and proven himself against some of Australia’s best heavyweights.
He also spectacularly stopped Lucas Browne, the former WBA (Regular) heavyweight champion who may have looked shockingly bad on that night, has since knocked out worked-ranked Kiwi boxer Junior Fa on the undercard of George Kambosos vs Devin Haney.
And yet some of his contests have been borderline farcical.
The precursor to Wednesday night’s meeting with Hodges could even have been described as dangerous, when he fought two, four-round contests on the same night against Hodges and Ben Hannant in Brisbane, back in September this year.
His three, two-minute rounds against a woefully out-matched Lussick could also be considered a desperate example of the genre.
But after that same show, Gallen shared a $20,000 bonus from promoter George Rose with young pros Sam Goodman (13-0, 7KOs) and Harry Garside (3-0, 2KOs).
“I don’t know what these guys are getting paid, but I got a good bonus tonight,” Gallen said at the time.
“I’m getting paid well. So I’m happy to share the joy with them.”
Garside, the 25-year-old lightweight who became Australia’s first boxing Olympic medallist in 33 years in Tokyo, has credited Gallen with helping to raise his profile on the national stage.
Both Garside and Goodman are on their way up the ranks, unbeaten fighters hoping to follow in the footsteps of another of Gallen’s former show-mates.
Tim Tszyu twice fought on the same card as Gallen: At the Hordern Pavilion in 2019 against Denton Vassell as Gallen beat John Hopoate by TKO in the second round, and in December 2020 against Bowyn Morgan at Parramatta stadium when Gallen surprised plenty by beating former champion kickboxer and UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt by unanimous decision.
Tszyu is now lining up a shot at the undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo in Las Vegas on January 28.
Tszyu’s domestic rival Michael Zerafa could yet face Gennady Golovkin for the WBA middleweight title next year after unconvincingly beating Danilo Creati on points in the co-main event on Wednesday night.
Gallen’s sojourn into boxing was never going to result in world title bouts.
But as Australian boxing continues to go from strength to strength, those boxers who are rising through the ranks would do well to remember the role that Gallen played in helping put them into the limelight and keeping them there, as he bows out.