Fightin’ footballers hog the limelight

Friday night saw the much hyped fight between 38 year old recently retired Rugby League player Paul Gallen, and 42 year old former AFL player Barry Hall.

It has been in the media for months now, with Gallen doing his best to talk up the fight with a bit of trash talk.

Hall retired from the AFL in 2011, and despite being a junior amateur boxing champion, has not played professional sport since.

Hall agreed to the fight, but insisted on two-minute rounds rather than the traditional three minutes.

Gallen decided to nickname Hall “Noodles” in reference to two-minute noodles.

Despite all  the hype, what we had was a 38-year-rugby league player fighting a 42-year-old AFL player.

Gallen had nine fights prior to Friday. Four of those fights were against former rugby league players, two of them making their professional debuts.

So while Gallen had a perfect 9 and 0 record, you could hardly call his opponents quality boxers.

Good on Gallen for stepping into the ring, but if his name wasn’t Paul Gallen, hardly anyone would have watched the fight — much less paid to watch it.

The fight was on the undercard of a title fight between unbeaten Andrew Maloney and Elton Dharry.

Funny thing is, for the last three months, I hadn’t heard about the title fight, all I’d heard about was the grudge fight between Hall and Gallen.

And that folks, is a huge problem for Australian boxing. Since the glory days of Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tszyu, we’ve lacked a genuine world champion.

We’ve had a couple who have won one of the many world championship versions, but none who could consistently defend their titles.

Daniel Geale, Jeff Horn, even Anthony Mundine held a title — but not for long.

So now, boxing is reduced to promoting fights between a couple of retired footballers.

On Saturday afternoon, in my new home town of Newcastle, there was a Legends of League tournament.

It featured legends such as Gordon Tallis (46), Julian O’Neill (47), Robbie O’Davis (47), Michael Buettner (46), and Cliff Lyons who is 58!

The difference is that the Rugby League tournament was promoted as entertainment, a chance to see the skills of some our legends — but the same quality as an NRL match was not expected.

In a similar match earlier this year, Newcastle Knights legend Tony Butterfield had a heart attack in the dressing room and nearly died.

That is what happens when older people try to relive their glory days.

Boxing, on the other hand, promoted this as a serious boxing match, and charged punters $49.95 to watch the fight.

I was one of them.

The sad thing is, the fight between Maloney and Dharry was worthy of promoting.

While Hall and Gallen looked exactly like a couple of ageing sportsmen, with lots of aggression but not much talent — Maloney looked sharp.

Dharry rocked him early, and should have had a knockdown early, but the referee didn’t notice that Maloney’s knee hit the canvas.

Maloney recovered from that early blow to slowly but surely dismantle Dharry, until the doctor stopped the fight at the end of the eighth round.

Then on Saturday night in Sydney, there was a fight featuring unbeaten Aussie Cruiser weight, Jai Opetaia.

I had heard nothing of this fight, and only stumbled across it while I was channel surfing.

Opetaia has a perfect record of 19 wins from 19 fights and took on Mark Flanagan, who has a reasonable record of 24 wins and 8 loses.

Opetaia is star of the future and has all the skills.

Despite that, there was very little promotion of his fight.

Instead, the media concentrated on promoting a match between a could of old footballers.

Opetaia slowly dismantled Flanagan, dropping him a couple of times before Flanagan’s corner threw in the towel at  the end of the 8th round.

Flanagan was no slouch, and based on his performance, would have beaten both Hall and Gallen, possibly both on the one night.

Opetaia would not have been troubled by either fighter.

Tim Tzsyu is another young boxer who looks to have all the skills of his father, but doesn’t get much media attention, despite also being unbeaten early in his career.

Hopefully one of these fighters can put Aussie boxing back in the headlines for all the right reasons some time soon.

Until then, we will wait for the next has-been footy star to call out another has-been footy star to a so-called grudge match.

Oh, by the way, the much hyped fight finished in a majority draw, so there were no real questions answered anyway.

And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport!

CHECKOUT: Proud moment for Proudfoot too!

CHECKOUT: It’s just footy, or is it something more than that?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *