Paul Gallen’s retirement fight could be a multi-million dollar showdown against UFC legend Rob Whittaker.
On the eve of his double-header against Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant tonight in Brisbane, News Corp can reveal that Gallen’s promoters No Limit Boxing have held talks with Whittaker for a crossover fight blockbuster before Christmas this year.
Gallen still has one fight on his contract with No Limit – and the boxing promotion powerhouse wants the NRL legend out in a blaze of glory against Whittaker.
The Auckland-born former UFC world champion would be a dangerous opponent for Gallen, who recently turned 41 and is wary of the beatings he has dealt Justis Huni and Kris Terzievski over the past 15 months.
Whittaker beat Martin Vettori a fortnight ago in France and No Limit boss Matt Rose confirmed he had several discussions with the 31-year-old, who was formerly in a development program at Cronulla, the very NRL club where Gallen won a premiership in 2016.
Rose said if Gallen got rid of Hannant and Hodges at the Nissan Arena in Brisbane – as planned – he would speed up plans for a swansong showdown with Whittaker.
“A fight between Hannant and Hodges stands in the way of a huge crossover fight between Gal and Rob Whittaker,” Rose said.
“I was in France recently to watch Rob’s fight and after he won I sat down to chat with Rob about the fight against Gal.
“We have been talking about this with Rob and his team for two years and now we are at the stage where we seriously want to move the negotiations forward to make this fight a reality.
“Rob says he would like to do it, but he has contractual commitments to the UFC that we have to meet.
“In terms of size, there is not much difference. Rob is around 95kg and Gal is around 100kg so this would be a great crossover fight and we’d like it to happen if Gal is ready for one last major fight.
Gallen would need a mammoth payday to consider fighting Whittaker given the heavy punishment he absorbed in his brave losses to Huni and Terzievski.
The biggest payday of his career was the $1.6 million windfall he pocketed in his 10-round slugfest against Huni, more than triple the estimated $500,000 he will receive for fighting. Hannant and Hodges.
Gallen admits he’s ready to hang up the gloves after a remarkable 21-year professional sports career.
“I can’t wait for this to be over,” he said.
“I’m in the background now and I’m tired of promoting things. I’m sick of being the guy who wears the show, I’m a little over the top and I’m sick of the sparring.
“There is no doubt that I drank a lot. I’ve trained really hard over the years and landed some big punches.
“Physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my NRL and in my boxing career was my fight against Terzievski.
“I don’t know if it was my age, but I’ve never been so exhausted as that night.
“In round nine I almost stopped him, then in round 10 I tried to grab him, he was running away from me and I just couldn’t chase him, I was completely gone. I had nothing .
“I had never felt so tired at any other time in my career, but maybe that was me showing my age at 41.
“I was totally f****d.”
Wife’s orders: Hannant battles Gallen for the family pool
Ben Hannant said “no” three times to a fight with Paul Gallen before giving in to someone he had no chance of defeating…his wife.
“I kept saying no, but we’re building a new house and my wife (Emma) kept saying if I took this fight we could put a pool on,” Hannant said.
“You know what they say – happy wife, happy life – so here we go.”
This yet-to-be-built pool — let’s call it the Paul Gallen Aquatic Center — is ready for a major workout.
Hannant is a father of eight and while the new home is being built on his Gold Coast acreage, Hannant, Emma and their eight children have crammed into a three-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage at the back of their property.
Hannant is expected to fight the warrior Gallen in the first of two Gallen fights at Nissan Arena before former Bronco compatriot Justin Hodges takes on the 41-year-old about an hour later.
The night has become to boxing what the Big Bash is to cricket – an unusual sight that some (Hannant) regard as an entertainment event while others (Gallen) take it seriously.
“I really think what I do is all about entertainment,” Hannant said at Wednesday’s weigh-in.
“I would be wrong – and that’s the mistake I made when I fought Hodgo – if I thought I could do in four weeks what boxers take 10 to 20 years to learn. You can’t do that .
“I’m a stupid rower. We can absorb one or two key points, that’s all. We are going to throw masses. It only takes one or two to connect…”
Hannant, who really should change his nickname from polar bear to grizzly bear if he’s to be treated seriously by the boxing world, showed his ready smile the day before the fight, but it’s a dangerous night.
Boxer Gallen is nobody’s idea of Australia’s Tyson Fury, but he’s tough, experienced and ruthless.
It will be in his interest to try and finish off Hannant as quickly as possible to save Hodges’ energy.
Hannant may consider it entertainment, but there’s nothing entertaining about eating a leather sandwich for dinner when your kids are at ringside, so he has to be prepared to take some heavy treatment.
When Hodges was knocked out by Darcy Lussick, he said the most scolding part of the whole night in the ring was making his son Carter cry on the phone as he returned to the locker room.
It raises the question of how boxers can protect their children from the fallout, but Hannant has no reservations about bringing his clan.
“It’s real life. As parents, we often protect our children and protect them. It’s the real world. You are going to have people who go against what you believe.
“The older kids come for the fight. It’s late at night for them, but it’s a win-win. They are proud of their father for coming in and having a crack. If I win, they’ll be proud and if I lose, they’ll piss me off. We are a family. We go together and we lose together and we have fun.
“I did iron mans and marathons. I think if you face challenges and run towards them, you are never the same again.
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