Paul Gallen says the build-up to his fight with Mark Hunt has stepped up a notch, with the pair trading “personal” barbs ahead of the December 16 bout.
9-0 in his professional boxing career, Gallen will meet the 46-year-old combat sports great at Bankwest Stadium as the co-main to Tim Tsyzu’s fight with kiwi Bowyn Morgan.
The former Cronulla and NSW skipper said, given his admiration for Hunt, he had hoped for a respectful lead in, but that had now gone out the window.
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“It was a respectful build-up. I think things have certainly changed in the past week, we’re into it now and things are getting a bit personal,” Gallen told Sporting News.
“I was hoping at the start it would remain pretty respectful because of the respect I had for him, but things have changed now and we’re getting pretty pumped up.”
Hunt has labelled Gallen a “grub” in recent days and declared the 39-year-old won’t make it out of the sixth round.
Despite his confidence, Hunt says hes taking the challenge seriously and training hard after falling out of love with fighting in recent years.
The former K-1 Grand Prix champ finished his time in the UFC with three straight losses amid a legal battle against the promotion.
“I try to take every fight seriously because he’s a serious competitor,” Hunt told Sporting News.
“I didn’t say I’m going to finish him early, I just said he’s not going to make the sixth round. It’s boxing. I’m gonna batter him until he submits.”
Hunt said his body has been feeling the effects of the camp but his mind was persevering.
“I’ve got the fire back. I’m a lot happier now than when I was working for other companies,” he added.
“I’ve been fighting for over two decades at the top end of different sports, I eat this up. I love fighting.
“I’m back to loving it. I love what I do, especially when you’re happy with the people you’re working with. If you’re unhappy where you work, nothing goes well.”
Gallen, sporting a few cuts and bruises courtesy of some competitive sparring, backed the work he’s put in to help him get his hand raised but acknowledged Hunt’s renewed enthusiasm.
“I don’t think he’s training as hard as me, I don’t think anyone trains as hard as me, but I think he’s taking it as serious as he’s taken a fight for a long time,” Gallen added.
“At the back end of his UFC career, he didn’t like them and he probably didn’t go that extra mile that he needed to go when he was finishing his UFC career off.
“I think he knows this is last opportunity and I think he’s training as good as he can at the moment and I do think he’s taking it seriously.
“I’m just worrying about myself and preparing to shock everyone when I get there.”
Hunt’s heavy hands and walk-off knockouts turned him into an international superstar, but Gallen thinks he may be the one scoring a stoppage win if he can weather the early storm.
“I’ve said that from the start, that’s his chance – to knock me out,” he said.
“I know he’s got that knockout power. I know he’s got that one-punch power. That’s his only way of winning.
“I think I can outpoint him. I think even if it comes down to it, if I fight the way I want to fight, I think I can overwhelm him by the fourth of fifth round and maybe even get a win myself.
“I’m not really concerned how it ends, I just want to win the fight.”
As for the g-word, it’s water off a duck’s back for the former rugby league hardman.
“I’ve been called a grub plenty of times. It won’t be the last time I get called a grub, I can tell you that,” he said.