Promoter George Rose teased the idea that the winner of an ex-NRL showdown in a fortnight’s time could potentially be an opponent in Paul Gallen’s final professional fight, set for the end of the year.
Ben Hannant and Justin Hodges will get in the ring on the undercard of Liam Wilson’s fight against Argentina’s Matias Rueda for the vacant WBO International super featherweight title.
“There’s a lot on the line at the end of it – if they can put on a great performance, who knows what comes next? Paul Gallen hasn’t got an opponent,” Rose said at a press conference on Thursday.
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Gallen told Wide World of Sports back in May that he would retire at the end of this year no matter how his fight against Kris Terzievski went – and while after the loss he said he may not ever fight again, he looks set for a December swansong, as planned.
The Hannant vs. Hodges card is set for the Brisbane Exhibition Centre on June 29, just a couple of days after State of Origin II – and two of Queensland’s favourite sons will be letting their hands, rather than their footy, do the talking.
Hannant said that was how the fight was initially offered to him, while Hodges said the opportunity to fight Gallen was a “huge carrot” for either man.
“The winner of this fight, supposedly, it’s going to be an Origin duel,” Hannant said.
“That’s what got sold to me four weeks’ ago.”
Now a radio host, Hannant said he was looking forward to the competitiveness that only professional sport can bring.
“One thing I miss from retiring from footy was that challenge of pushing yourself to the limit, constantly trying to be the best version of yourself,” Hannant said.
“I’ve got a pretty cushy job now doing brekkie radio, the one thing I miss most about rugby league is always pushing yourself every day, to reach your full potential.”
Hannant joked that it was smart of Hodges to only give him a few weeks notice on the fight, confessing that he was sitting on the couch eating pizzas and weighing in at nearly 120 kilos.
“I was a fat mess, to put it lightly,” he said.
“In the space of two weeks I’ve dropped eight kilos and while Hodgy’s sleeping, I’m up working.”
The pair played together at the Broncos from 2006 to 2008, and again from 2011 to 2014 – and remain good friends, every barb traded coming with a bit of love behind it.
“He’s a Ferrari,” Hannant said of his opponent.
“He’s an athlete, he’s powerful, he’s skilful. He may be a Ferrari, but we’re in a sport where we get banged up and I’m happy to be a 200 Series Landcruiser.”
Hodges scoffed at a claim from Hannant that the latter would knock him out.
“He ain’t gonna put shit to sleep,” he said.
“For me, it’s either going to be my second-last fight or my last fight.”
Hodges said he was training just as hard as Hannant – and he was going to make short work of things.
“I don’t have to get up at 3.30 and do that work because he’s the silly one that sits on radio and talks shit and eats fatty foods so that’s his problem, not mine,” he said.
“We’re good friends, but once that bell rings, I’m going to try and take him out as quickly as I can.”
Hannant was narrowly defeated by Josh Papalii in his only fight to date, while Hodges beat ex-Newcastle winger Nathan Ross after consecutive losses to Darcy Lussick and Sandor Earl.