If there’s one group of people Paul Gallen’s proven wrong, it’s boxing purists who questioned him ever getting involved in the sport.
“I constantly get ridiculed on social media, by not so much boxing coaches… but the general boxing fan still says I’m no good for the sport,” he said at the pre-fight weigh-in.
“Well the fact is I am good for the sport. I bring attention, I bring eyeballs.
“I don’t really care about the boxing public or the recognition from people. People boo me, people cheer me for one reason; they want to be me. I don’t really care what they want to do, I’m doing things they can’t do.”
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Gallen was being slightly creepy when he said without him some of these fights would be in front of a tiny crowd at a leagues club, but there’s more than a kernel of truth to those words.
The mainstream interest in the sport had steadily declined in Australia since the days of Kostya Tszyu, with the likes of Anthony Mundine, Danny Green and Jeff Horn providing moments of cut-through in an otherwise apathetic landscape.
But you speak to anyone around the world of boxing right now, and the future couldn’t look much brighter. Not only are packed cards coming in quick succession, there’s genuine interest and hype around boxers for being boxers, rather than ex-footy stars or celebrities.
It’s not just the fighters on show in Newcastle, either. Michael Zerafa, Tim Tszyu and George Kambosos are moving the needle. Ebanie Bridges and Skye Nicolson are making waves in the female fight game – and the future is only getting brighter.
Gallen said that there was no doubt that he and other crossover fighters had helped build boxing back up – an opinion that was supported unanimously by the other stars on Wednesday night’s card who were asked.
“I honestly do think it’s helped, and I’ve said that from the start. I want to promote the sport because I love this sport, I’ve loved it since I was a kid,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“It takes people to fight, and it takes promoters – who are going to put their balls and their money on the line to make sure these fight cards are high quality, and that’s what No Limit has done.
“We’ve got these boxing people saying it’s a gimmick for me to be involved but they should go out and support their fights. And to their credit, they have.
“Things are definitely on the up for boxing in Australia and I believe myself and No Limit have played our part in that.”
Gallen headlines Wednesday night’s event in Newcastle against Kris Terzievski, with the likes of Harry Garside, Sam Goodman, and Nikita Tszyu on the undercard.
But Nikita won’t be the first of his kin to fight under the Sharks legend.
“Tim Tszyu fought under me at the start – he realized it,” Gallen said.
“They embraced it, they’re smart and got behind it and look at him now, look at these other guys now.
“Harry’s on half the magazines in Sydney at the moment, he’s all over the place. It’s smart from them for embracing them for what it is and the publicity they get from it. I take my hat off to all of them fighters there today for embracing it and doing their best with it.”
Gallen puts Garside through both the Olympian’s manager, Peter Mitrevski, and Garside’s friend and Commonwealth Games medallist Jason Whateley, who sparred with Gallen last year.
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Mitrevski also introduced him to Goodman, and he’s become friendly with Tszyu through boxing.
“I really want to help promote these guys – these guys unfortunately don’t have the platform that I have, so to be able to help them and bring eyeballs to what they can do – that’s my job and that’s what I’m doing, “Gallen said.
Garside, whose star has been rising since Olympic glory in 2021, has said outside interference has only been a good thing for boxing.
“People like Gal, the other NRL and AFL boys and people like Jake and Logan Paul, they bring the eyeballs,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“People criticize them but at the same time, they’re bringing new people to the sport, which is exciting.
“Boxing lost its way a little bit in terms of competing for attention with the UFC, but I feel like it’s competing with, if not surpassing the UFC at the moment.
“It’s an exciting time for boxing worldwide.”
The old adage ‘if you see it, you can be it’ definitely springs to mind.
“The more people watching the sport, the more people who’ll get into it. We need young people to watch the sport or they’ll never start doing it,” Garside said – adding that he was extremely fortunate to not even be near his prime yet, with how the sport was progressing.
“I feel very blessed to be 24 at a time like this,” he said.
“It’s very much the golden era of boxing, and it’s an exciting time – I want to keep fighting as much as I can.”
Nikita Tszyu fights the undefeated Mason Smith in the co-main event, in a city that has already embraced both his father and brother.
Like Garside, he’s part of the new breed – in the right place, at the right time.
“There’s a new set of talent coming through – boxing’s come back on the map. I wasn’t really too much into boxing back in those days [the late 2000s to mid 2010s] so I couldn’t comment on that, but I can see what’s going on now.
“There’s world champions in Australia again, there’s Olympic medallists and there’s a whole lot of titles being won.”
And then there’s Sam Goodman – as legitimate a fighter as they come, with as rowdy a fanbase as any athlete in the country.
A win for him over Japan’s Fumiya Fuse means a spot on the world rankings, and title shots in the future. But even he knows what that outside help has meant.
“Blokes like Gal, they’ve done massive things for the sport – even with Timmy, he helped get eyes on him,” he said.
“He’s been in the ring with the who’s who of Australian boxing, you can’t call him a boxer anymore.
“It brings new attention, new eyes that probably wouldn’t watch boxing. I think there’s a place for it, maybe not every card, but when it’s done properly it works.
KING OF THE CASTLE FIGHT CARD AND WEIGHTS
Wednesday, Newcastle Entertainment Center
Paul Gallen 103.86kg vs 102.26kg Kris Terzievski (10 rounds for Australian and Australasian heavyweight title)
Nikita Tszyu 69.06kg vs 69.48kg Mason Smith (six rounds at super-welterweight)
Harry Garside 61.04kg vs 61.06kg Layton McFerran (10 rounds for Australian lightweight title)
Sam Goodman 55.00kg vs 55.20kg Fumiya Fuse (10 rounds for IBF inter-continental and WBO Oriental super-bantamweight titles)
Hassan Hamdan 64.40kg vs 63.82kg Trent Girdham (six rounds at welterweight)
Amber Amelia 58.34kg vs 58.48kg Sara Jalonen (five rounds at featherweight)
Hironiri Mishiro 61.06kg vs 61.04kg Francis Chua (eight rounds at lightweight)
Linn Sandstrom 51.94kg vs 52.18kg Floryvic Montero (eight rounds for WBC Australian super-flyweight title)
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Here is who NRL legend Paul Gallen has fought during his colorful boxing career
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