Paul Gallen and Justin Hodges have traded verbal jabs all week but now it is time for the pair to put their differences aside in the ring.
The two rugby league legends face off in what will be Gallen’s final professional fight and that is just one of the highly-anticipated bouts on Wednesday night’s stacked card.
Headlining the event will be Australian boxing villain Michael Zerafa, who will be looking to take one final step towards a world title blockbuster when he takes on Danilo Creati.
You can follow along here at foxsports.com.au for all the latest updates from every fight!
Watch Gallen v Hodges 2 & Michael Zerafa’s return to the ring LIVE on Main Event available on Foxtel & Kayo Sports, Wednesday November 23 from 7pm AEDT ORDER NOW >
Gal & Hodges CLASH over round lengths | 01:07
NRL STAR JUNIOR PAULO’S STUNNING GALLEN REVEAL
Samoan World Cup star Junior Paulo has revealed he was the man initially signed up to oppose Paul Gallen in tonight’s hyped farewell — with promoters No Limit convinced he could not only win, but replace the retiring heavyweight as Australia’s next crossover headliner.
After leading Samoa to a shock Cup final appearance, Paulo will now be ringside tonight — alongside Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Sam Burgess, Joseph Suaalii and host of other NRL stars — as Gallen rematches Queensland arch rival Justin Hodges in his last fight.
Better, and instead of simply sitting among a big crowd, Paulo will be eyeing off likely opponents for a possible February fight.
The Parramatta enforcer said, if Gallen retires, he was now ready to take on any other player in the NRL — and before the 2023 season even kicks off.
Past or present, doesn’t matter.
The Eels prop also told Fox Sports Australia how only his World Cup commitments with Samoa had ruled him out of competing against the man he first faced back in 2016.
Despite eventually losing what was his professional debut via decision, Paulo put up an impressive showing and has since levelled up by working with the likes of Australia’s first UFC champion Robert Whittaker.
Paulo added that, with Galken retiring, he is now keen to step up and fill the void — keen to challenge Matt Lodge, Siosiua Taukeiaho or even Hodges if he secures the upset tonight.
“I was supposed to be Gal’s last fight — not Justin Hodges,” Paulo said on Wednesday afternoon.
“We had it all lined up with No Limit but then it didn’t work out with Gal’s schedule and my World Cup commitments.
“It’s a shame as it would have been a mad fight. I’m ten times the fighter I was when we first fought and Gal knows that too.”
Yet while he wont get the Gallen rematch, Paulo insisted he was happy to fight any player in the NRL or English Super League.
“There’s a heap of hype behind us NRL boys but it doesn’t matter to me,” Paulo said.
“I’m serious when I say I’ll honestly fight anyone.
“If this really is Gal’s last fight, let’s see if the rest of them want it – Justin Hodges, Lodge, anyone.
“I’ve heard Siua (Taukeiaho) can throw them too, that would be another good fight with us two representing our proud islander heritage.”
Asked for a prediction in Gallen’s farewell, the NSW Origin prop added: “Hodgo can definitely knock Gal out tonight, 100 per cent.
“This isn’t for laughs, this is boxing and people get hurt. Hodges proved that and he’s already sent him to the mat once.
“And if Hodgo does get the job done then I’m ready and waiting. I’ll take him next and we’ll get it going to start the year before footy season kicks off.”
— Nick Walshaw
‘YOU’LL HAVE TO TUNE IN’: HODGES’ CHEAP SHOT WARNING TO GALLEN
Hodges lit the fuse for Wednesday night’s fight with Gallen when he claimed at Monday’s press conference that he had been practising “cheap shots”.
“I have to,” he said, turning to Gallen and adding: “He does”.
“I heard he’s been doing it so why not? I’ve been learning off some good opponents back home and why not. If the ref doesn’t break it up. You’ll just have to tune in on Wednesday.”
The last fight between the two was marred by allegations from Hodges of an “illegal punch”, who Jeff Fenech claims would have won by disqualification should he have stayed down.
Gallen though has consistently defended himself by claiming the punch was legal if taking into account the referee’s instructions before the fight.
MORE BOXING COVERAGE
‘WEASEL HIS WAY IN’: Hodges’ scathing Lodge attack sets up blockbuster NRL bout
WHO IS CREATI? Meet the destroyer of drunk pumpkin pickers in Zerafa’s way
‘That last fight epitomises your career’ | 00:42
He also accused Hodges of hitting him “late” at one occasion in the fight but it looks like his Queensland rival is prepared to test the boundaries again.
Although tell Gallen that and he does not seem too worried, suggesting Hodges will be in for a far tougher challenge this time around as he is no longer following Ben Hannant.
“You’re in there by yourself this time,” Gallen said at the press conference earlier this week.
“What are you going to do? You must be s***ing yourself. You’re not the third man in this time. You’re walking in by yourself, I won’t be tired, you won’t have your 110-kilo front rower doing all the damage yourself.
“You’ll be f***ed. He’s in all sorts and I know he’s in all sorts.”
‘DELUSIONAL’ RIVAL IN THE WAY OF ZERAFA’S TITLE DREAMS
While Gallen and Hodges will be looking to put their differences aside on Wednesday, there is far more on the line for Zerafa.
He is looking at a blockbuster world title bout with boxing superstar Gennady Golovkin but in order to get there he must first defeat Danilo Creati, who Zerafa labelled “delusional” earlier in the week.
That came after Creati, who you can read more about here, claimed that he had watched hours of footage from Zerafa’s previous fights and been left less than impressed.
“I literally know every one of his movements, his favourite combo, what he does, when he jabs body, how many times he blinks from when he wakes up to when he goes to sleep so I think he’s not understanding the trouble he’s putting himself [into],” Creati said.
“Every fight is not impressing me.”
Zerafa though had plenty to say in response, branding Creati “delusional” and looking forward to the chance to “silence” his chatty rival.
“For me, I’m 30-4 and 30 of those fighters, I’ve stopped 20 of them,” Zerafa said.
“He’s stopped one of them. I’m excited and can’t wait to silence him once and for all.”
MORE BOXING COVERAGE
‘KNOCKS HIM OUT’: Latrell’s shock snub as Blues star tips Gallen to lose farewell
WEIGH-IN: Gal lands ‘third man in’ Hodges jab as 135kg ex-NRL beast stuns
Zerafa one win away from GGG fight | 02:29
EX-ROOSTERS STAR, RISING BUNNIES GUN MAKE DEBUTS
Elsewhere, earlier in the night all eyes will be on former Roosters front rower Sio Siua Taukeiaho as he makes his professional boxing debut against ex-NRL hardman Jaiman Lowe.
Lowe, who has one professional fight to his name — a loss to the undefeated John Maila via third round TKO — knows he is the underdog for Wednesday’s fight.
It is not a tag he necessarily believes though, especially given Taukeiaho is yet to prove himself in the ring.
“Everyone’s eulogised me, including my middle-daughter,” he said at this week’s press conference.
“She reckons I’m going to get killed. It’s interesting everyone’s got him such a heavy favourite when no one has seen him fight and very limited people have seen me fight. Let’s see what happens.
“I know what I can do.”
‘You must be s****** yourself!’ | 01:20
It seems like Taukeiaho knows what he will do too and has been planning accordingly, preparing for Lowe to come out hard but tire as the fight progresses.
“He’ll bring power, that’s for sure,” Taukeiaho said.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no speed in that, I’ll work around him and see how we go, if not I’ll close it in round two. I definitely want to win if not I’ll knock him out.”
NRL fans will also get a glimpse into Daniel Suluka-Fifita’s boxing skills when the Rabbitohs prop enters the ring to face Bryce Jones in his first professional fight earlier on the card.
Training with Johnny Lewis, who has worked with Australian boxing royalty like Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tszyu, Suluka-Fifita is ready to make his mark as the latest league product to put on the gloves.
WHAT TIME DO THE FIGHTS START?
The first fight is scheduled for 4.35pm, with the main card and pay-per-view event to officially begin at around 7pm.
Gallen and Hodges should make the ring walks at around 9pm, with Zerafa and Creati shortly after at around 9.30pm, depending how long the earlier fights go for.
FULL FIGHT CARD
Michael Zerafa vs. Danilo Creati — middleweight
Paul Gallen vs. Justin Hodges II — heavyweight
Paulo Aokuso vs. David Zegarra — light-heavyweight
Sio Siua Taukeiaho vs. Jaiman Lowe — heavyweight
Ty Telford vs. Joel Taylor — welterweight
Liam Talivaa vs. Louis Marsters — heavyweight
Daniel Suluka-Fifita vs. Bryce Jones — heavyweight
Shanell Dargan vs. Chandni Mehra — featherweight
Tommy Browne vs. Jorge Kapeen — super-welterweight
Micky Pengue vs. Ben Hussain — super-welterweight
George Peterson vs. Gary Phillips — heavyweight
Tywarna Campbell vs. Deanha Hobbs — super-featherweight
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