Paul Gallen has followed his win over Ben Hannant by beating ex-Queensland State of Origin star Justin Hodges in a spiteful, wild fight that prompted Aussie boxing legend Jeff Fenech to say the referee had lost all control of the bout.
The Cronulla Sharks legend was hammered early in the first round and knocked down by a strong right hand 45 seconds into the second stanza, but came back hard to make the referee save Hodges from being knocked out in the third.
Gallen stunned Hodges with an illegal right after using his left hand to bend him back over the top ropes in the second round, with the referee telling the ex-Broncos star to ‘get up’ as he remained on one knee, complaining about the punch.
Fenech said had Hodges stayed down, he could have won by disqualification.
Gallen used his left to bend Hodges back over the ropes before nailing him with an illegal right hand in the second round – with Jeff Fenech saying the Queenslander could’ve won on a disqualification if he’d stayed down
Hodges came out all guns blazing, connecting with heavy shots soon after the first bell sounded – and knocked Gallen down with a right hand 45 seconds into the second round
Then, five seconds into the third round, there was a long delay that infuriated the referee as Hodges’ corner took forever to fix loose tape on one of his gloves and Fenech said, ‘The ref has lost control of this fight.’
The end came late in the third, when Gallen nailed the Queenslander with two savage right hands punctuated by a stiff jab and the ref dived in to save him from further punishment as he looked ready to fall face-first to the canvas.
However, Hodges branded the stoppage ‘bulls**t’ afterwards and demanded a rematch.
‘I know the ref’s got a job to do, but there was no way in the world I was hurt,’ he insisted.
While Gallen has said he wants to retire, he has one fight left on his contract and said he’d get in the ring with Hodges again on the condition the clash takes place in Sydney over six three-minute rounds.
Gallen’s win came roughly an hour after he got a unanimous points decision over former Queensland and Kangaroos front-rower Ben Hannant, who surprised fans and experts by going the distance and cutting his opponent.
Gallen was expected to knock out Hannant, who was in just his second professional fight as the pair clashed at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Thursday night.
But the ex-Queensland State of Origin caught Gallen with some decent shots and managed to open up a cut in the last round that looked like it could spell trouble for the Cronulla Sharks legend against Hodges.
Hannant (right) was meant to be cannon fodder for the vastly more experienced Gallen but he shocked fight fans by going the distance – and doing some damage
Gallen landed the heavier and crisper shots but couldn’t knock the ex-Queensland star down, let alone knock him out
The judges were unanimous, with two giving Gallen every one of the four two-minute rounds on their scorecards and the third scoring it 40-37.
‘I said from day one Ben Hannant is the tougher guy [of him and Hodges], a former Australian front rower, I played at the highest level with him … he fought really well’ Gallen said straight after the bout.
Asked about the cut to his cheek, which started to swell after the bout but didn’t look deep, he replied, ‘I was OK, didn’t get stung with anything.’
Hannant received a big round of applause for his tough and surprisingly effective display.
He landed the first hard punch of the fight not long into the first round, caught Gallen with his jab and showed great durability when he was hit flush with big right hands.
‘I’m honoured to be in the ring and have a crack in front of my kids, my family,’ he said, before telling the crowd he suffered an injury playing footy a month before the fight and shouldn’t have fought at all.
‘I’m a front rower, we’re not smart,’ he joked after labelling Gallen ‘an absolute great bloke’.
‘I’m not a fighter, everyone knows that … It’s a special moment for me, I’m still a winner.’
Gallen didn’t know which of the two Queenslanders he’d be fighting until Hannant emerged from the dressing room and walked to the ring.
Hannant gave it his all and looked almost out on his feet in the fourth and final round, but rallied to deny his highly fancied opponent a stoppage win
Gallen left the ring with a cut under his left eye – and while it didn’t look deep, it could prove to be a problem if Hodges can land his right hand
Under the one-off rules for the night, he had to have a break of at least one hour before fighting Hodges, who was fresh and raring to go.
The ex-NSW Origin captain said that break has been his biggest worry going into the double header.
‘A guy who is getting on a bit like me in age, I’m worried about the stoppage,’ he said.
‘After a fight, you don’t understand the euphoria and the relief that it’s all over. To have to get back up again, that’s what I was worried about.’
Like the fight against Hannant, his clash with Hodges was scheduled for four two-minute rounds.
Two of the three judges had Gallen winning every round, while the other scored it 40-37 for him in a unanimous points decision
He and Gallen clashed physically at the weigh-in on Wednesday, when Hodges grabbed his opponent by the throat.
When Gallen told him to kiss his children goodnight in case he never saw them again at Tuesday’s press conference, Hodges stormed off the stage and left.
Hodges loomed as the more dangerous of the two opponents for Gallen, having fought six times and lost once – which pales in comparison to the ex-Shark’s 14 wins and two losses as he fought quality opposition like Justis Huni, Mark Hunt and former world heavyweight champion Lucas Browne.