Hodges says Gallen fight not out of the question
Justin Hodges won't be calling out Paul Gallen after his "first or second fight", but that doesn't mean the two former rugby league rivals won't touch gloves in the future.
The former Broncos and Maroons great announced on Wednesday that he's agreed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of the Gallen-Hopoate charity bout at the Hordern Pavilion on February 8.
And while he insists he's not looking past his first two opponents (neither of which have been confirmed), and taking his new career one scrap at a time, the 36-year-old also admits he sees himself on a collision course with the Sharks enforcer and undefeated heavyweight.
"Gal's had nine or 10 fights, he's been a terrific role model not just for the rugby league community but the boxing community as well," Hodges said.
"I think he's done a fantastic job and you've got to give him the respect that he deserves and I'm not going to call him out on my first or second fight.
"I'll just take it one fight at a time and maybe further down the track the fans, myself and Gal will want it.
"But like I said I'm just taking baby steps at the moment and we'll make that decision if I'm successful later down the track."
He says he was drawn to the ring through his close friendship with three-time world champion Anthony Mundine, and the "buzz" of a fight night.
And while rugby league took priority until retirement in 2015, he always envisaged himself taking to the canvas once he hung up the boots.
"I've been to all these fights and I've seen great mates Anthony Mundine and Alex Leapai and all these guys and it's something different," he said.
"It's just that buzz you get, you walk in and see this ring and think 'Geez, I'd love to get in there one day and have a go.
"You see the best of the best in the ring and you always want to try and prove yourself against that... it's something I've always wanted to do."
He also revealed he's been sparring with Mundine for the best part of two decades.
"I've been training with Choc even when I was with the Roosters back in 2002," he said.
"I'd go over to his house and we'd do some boxing, so it's always been in my blood, and even when he's preparing for a fight when I could, even during the season, I'd go for runs with him... he's always been an inspiration."
League fans will remember Hodges isn't afraid to throw one, but has he actually got any ability?
Well, former Australian national amateur coach and respected trainer Gareth Williams thinks so.
Williams said there's a "lot to improve" but his charge has certainly shown a natural ability in the ring, including "good hand speed".
"He's not going to be fighting Lucas Browne and he respects that. He's 36-years-old he's only going to take it one fight at a time," he offered.
"To be honest as a heavyweight he's a lot bigger than Choc but he's got a very similar style.
"He's got a good jab, he's got some pop in his shots too, and he's got a bit of mongrel in him as the NSW team would know.
"I noticed once we made our mind up that this fight was going to happen, I saw the training and the attitude change from training generally just for health and fitness, and a bit of fun with the boys, to 'Right it's business time now'."
The initial plan is for Hodges to find his range against boxers yet to make their pro debuts, and even kickboxers.
But a State of Origin clash between Gallen and Hodges would be a promoter's dream.