Sonny Bill Williams and Paul Gallen are finally going head-to-head. Well, sort of.
On Thursday night, Williams will be part of the Nine commentary team covering the Bledisloe Cup opener when, after 20 years of anguish, the Wallabies can take a big step towards bringing the trophy to this side of the Tasman, while Gallen will attempt to belt not one but two Maroons in the boxing ring on the same night.
Punters will have two chances to watch Gallen potentially get floored when he takes on Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant, not necessarily in that order, in a State of Origin-themed pay-per-view stoush in Brisbane.
It’s about as close as Williams and Gallen will get to squaring off after failing to come to an agreement on a much-anticipated fight. The time to get a deal done is over as Gallen has vowed to retire by the end of the year.
Australia and New Zealand have been battling for the Bledisloe for almost a century, with the latter dominating for two decades. It will be a very different contest at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena when Gallen fights two former footballers just an hour apart.
Paul Gallen and Justin Hodges get up close and very personal at Wednesday’s weigh in.Credit:Getty
Gallen’s double-headliner show has left boxing purists aghast, but few can sell like the former Cronulla and Blues captain.
“It’s very different, it’s entertainment,” Gallen said. “If boxing could sustain itself, it wouldn’t need me. I’m headlining the event for a reason.
“If boxing people want to shit can an event like this, then go and fight in front of 200 people at a leagues club.
“I get frustrated with those questions being put to me, that it’s a gimmick. Yeah, it’s a gimmick, but let me tell you when I’m in the ring, it’s not a gimmick.
“We’re going to try to knock each other out. Ask them, when it finishes, if it’s a gimmick. It’s entertainment, I accept that, but all of these boxing people carrying on like it’s not real, let’s see in 24 hours’ time if it’s real or not.”
‘If boxing could sustain itself, it wouldn’t need me.’
The chances of the Wallabies prevailing over the All Blacks aren’t good, but they’re better than those of Gallen and Williams getting in the ring together. The former NSW forward will have one more fight after Thursday’s festivities, but it won’t be against SBW.
“It can’t be him – [my promoters] No Limit refuse to deal with him,” Gallen said.
“I told Sonny Bill to his face that I’m retiring this year, that I’m pencilled in for [a final fight] in December, that if we want to get this done we’ve got to do it before then.
“I rang [Williams’ manager] in February or March and haven’t heard boo since; not a single piece of correspondence with them.
Sonny Bill Williams and Paul Gallen.Credit:Getty, James Brickwood
“It’s just not going to happen. I’m done with it, I’ve got no issue. I wish him all the best in his next fight and whatever he does in the future. Me and him isn’t going to happen. I’m just over it.”
Gallen has profited from being the pantomime villain, punters paying $60 in the hope of seeing him get knocked out. They will get a double chance on Thursday.
Asked about the boxing-Bledisloe conundrum facing sports fans, Gallen said: “The boxing people should tune in to support the sport.
“When I do retire, you won’t need another crossover star to support the shows. These blokes [professional boxers on the undercard] will be able to earn a decent wage and make a living because they are supported by their own.
“Let’s hope they tune in.”
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