NSW Origin superstar Latrell Mitchell has revealed he will be cheering against his state – and one of its greatest captains – by backing Paul Gallen to get kayoed in his hyped boxing farewell.
While Gallen’s final showdown against Queenslander Justin Hodges is being heavily promoted along State of Origin lines, Mitchell is tipping the Maroon once considered Public Enemy No.1 south of the border to not only win Wednesday’s rematch — but knock Gallen unconscious for the first time in his career.
Jetting back into Sydney on Tuesday morning after Australia’s emphatic World Cup win, the Kangaroos centre attended the Darling Harbour weigh-ins and remarked how Hodges looked better physically “than even when playing NRL”.
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Mitchell also agreed with the recent assertion of boxing legend Jeff Fenech that Gallen – after some 20 years of rugby league and boxing competition – was no longer the same fighter that scored huge upsets over Mark Hunt and Lucas Browne.
The South Sydney No.1 even suggested Gallen would not survive all six rounds against Hodges and “looked spent” after last year’s 10 round war with rising star Justis Huni.
Speaking after he weighed in however, Gallen told Fox Sports Australia he had “taken the piss” during preparations for his first fight with Hodges in September, which he eventually won via TKO.
Gallen said that despite fighting both Hodges and fellow Queenslander Ben Hannant on the same night, he had not respected either fighter or even the challenge itself enough during preparations.
Only last week however, Fenech suggested the famed chin of Cronulla’s premiership hero was gone – or had at least weakened enough to see him kayoed for the first time in 23 years as a professional athlete.
While he admitted Gallen was undeniably “a warrior”, the four-time world champion said, at age 41, the old league had carried his career one fight too many.
“Huge upset,” Fenech said when asked for a prediction. “I think Gal might have taken one fight too many … and I think Justin Hodges knocks him out.”
Speaking with Fox Sports Australia after the fight week weigh-ins, Mitchell agreed.
“Gallen is on the out,” Australia’s new world champion said.
“I know he’s said he will retire Wednesday night, and I think he’s going out on a loss.
“Gal reckons the fight won’t go six rounds, and (he’s right) … I reckon Hodgo is going to beat him before then.”
Like Fenech, Mitchell says Gallen’s run of big fights – and countless hard sparring sessions – are likely to have caught up with him on the eve of his farewell.
The Rabbitohs favourite pointed specifically at last year’s fight against Huni, when the heavyweight was stopped in the 10th and final round of a courageous but lopsided loss.
“After that Huni fight, Gal looked spent,” Mitchell continued.
“But still, he’s always going to turn up.
“Gal has got an old head on his shoulders. He knows how to win fights.
“So it’s going to be an exciting night.
“But Hodgo is in sensational shape.
Gallen v Hodges 2: Full weigh-in | 13:15
“Probably at a better weight than even when he was playing NRL.”
Seems confident too, right?
“I’d say more confident than he even was playing footy,” Mitchell laughed.
“So against Gal, he has to go hard,
“Maybe not too hard in the first couple of rounds, but just get a feel for things and then go.”
Quizzed on their first fight, and how things would be different this time, Gallen said: “Last time I took the piss.
“I didn’t give either guy the credit they deserved.
“Same as the challenge.
“But it’s definitely different this time.”