NRL legend Paul Gallen's latest boxing victory has certainly polarised fight fans.
The former Cronulla Sharks NRL premiership winning captain extended his unbeaten professional boxing record with a commanding unanimous points win against UFC legend Mark Hunt on Wednesday night.
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Gallen marked the win by swatting aside questions about a potential fight with former All Black Sonny Bill Williams, before calling out Aussie UFC icon and former middleweight world champion, Robert Whittaker.
It's an age-old ploy that's been seen time and again in the boxing world, with Floyd Mayweather's bout against Conor McGregor just one example of a massively lucrative, but severely mismatched showdown between two fighters.
Gallen has been criticised in the boxing world for calling out another UFC great - one that at 84kg is nowhere near the same weight class as the 104kg former league star.
The suggestion from many is that if Gallen is really serious about furthering his boxing career - rather than simply chasing an easy payday - then he should be targeting other boxers in his weight class.
Former UFC fighter Damien Brown led the criticism of Gallen over his Whittaker call-out on Wednesday night.
“Paul Gallen is a f***ing flog,” Brown tweeted.
“He’s 100+ kg calling out guys who fight at 84kg. That’s what’s wrong. Call out Lucas Browne or someone and test yourself. Maybe (Justis) Huni.”
Both men have since laid down the challenge to Gallen, with former world title challenger Browne and 21-year-old heavyweight sensation Huni both offering to fight the 39-year-old.
Well Paul Gallen has one hell of a chin, that’s for sure! 😮 pic.twitter.com/A6sCsPvhLM
— Submission Radio (@SubmissionRadio) December 16, 2020
“Paul Gallen – stop calling out UFC fighters who are under contract and you know they can’t fight,” Browne said.
“He (Whittaker) is also nowhere near in your weight class so it would just be stupid. Why not fight a proper fighter?”
The ball is certainly in Gallen's court, with the suggestion that neither opponent will generate as much publicity as a showdown with a Whittaker or a Sonny Bill for Gallen.
Huni's camp reckon if Gallen wants to be taken seriously as a boxer he should face the Olympics-bound Australian heavyweight champion in February.
Young star’s team lay down challenge to Gallen
The offer was put on the table by Huni and manager Mick Francis in Townsville on Thursday, the day after former NSW State of Origin captain Gallen improved to 10-0-1 with a tough points decision victory over Mark Hunt.
"If he wants to be a fighter, step up and fight Justis Huni, if he's got the balls," Francis said of the potential match-up.
Huni is headlining a Townsville event on February 12 in which Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii will fight alongside a host of current and former rugby league talents in an entree to the NRL's All Stars game a week later.
The 21-year-old Huni won bronze at last year's super heavyweight amateur world championship and made history to win the Australian belt in his professional debut earlier this year.
His next fight will be his third in the professional ranks while he prepares for a medal tilt at next year's Olympics, and he wants Gallen to fill the vacancy.
"I look at is as another stepping stone," Huni said.
"If he wants to fight the best I've got the Australian strap at the moment - if he wants it, I've got it."
Huni's representatives hope Gallen takes them up on an offer they think would truly legitimise his post-league pursuit and provide a handsome purse.
"Paul Gallen, if he makes it past the first round I'll give him huge respect," Huni's father and trainer Rocky said.
"We want to keep Justis's development going; everyone knows what Paul brings to the table."
Regardless of what Gallen decides to do, he's accepted the fact that his detractors will invariably have their say either way.
“I can already see the haters on social media,” Gallen said after the win against Hunt. “They’ll say ‘oh, you only beat a 46-year-old’.
“Yet in the lead up they were saying that Mark Hunt was going to kill me. Telling me ‘Rest In Peace’ and stuff like that.
“I learned a long time ago that I can never win. So I’ll just keep doing what I do for myself and my family. I also have a group of great people around me. So I don’t have to worry about everyone else.”
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