Justin Hodges continues his boxing career in Sydney next week.
Justin Hodges continues his boxing career in Sydney next week.

How NRL prepared Hodges for brutal world of boxing

JUSTIN Hodges has been bashed, smashed and crashed playing rugby league and says he's prepared for anything in his second professional boxing bout at Sydney's Star Casino next week.

He says his greatest fear is not so much being knocked out in his new career as a professional boxer but losing badly in front of a big crowd.

On paper, opponent Troy McMahon from Auckland should go the way of Hodges' first opponent, Rob Baron, a game furniture removalist from Ipswich with a kamikaze style who was shot down in round one.

But Hodges knows one punch can change everything.

"I'm not scared of being knocked out,'' said the 36-year-old Broncos great and Queensland assistant coach.

"When you go into boxing you have to realise that you can get hurt. In footy sometimes you would have to run at guys 10 times your size and you'd get hurt, but that's all part of the game.

"I've been hit really hard playing footy and concussed. Back in the days when you could shoulder change I got blindsided a few times.

"And I've been bit hard in boxing, too. I spar with Jack Bowen, who is an Olympic hopeful, and I spar Lote Tuqiri as well. He doesn't move that quick now but when he hits you there's 120kg behind it and he knows how to punch.

"Having been a professional athlete I know that while you have a really big desire to win, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.''

Justin Hodges knocked out Rob Baron in his first fight.
Justin Hodges knocked out Rob Baron in his first fight.

Hodges says he doesn't know much about McMahon but likes that part of the challenge.

"It's part of the excitement facing the unknown and that's why I took up boxing to test myself in a sport I've always loved,'' he said.

Hodges' opponent claims a record of three wins from four corporate amateur fights and is said to be a "Paul Gallen clone'', a chunky 180cm slugger.

While Hodges says he's still a long way from a league battle against Gallen, promoter Matt Rose is trying to build their showdown along State of Origin lines.

Gallen knocked out former Australian heavyweight champ John Hopoate on the same night Hodges stopped Rob Baron in February.

Tim Tszyu could be in line for a fight with Jeff Horn.
Tim Tszyu could be in line for a fight with Jeff Horn.

Brisbane's former world champion Jeff Horn will be ringside for next Wednesday's fight with a keen eye on the Tim Tszyu-Joel Camilleri main event.

Tszyu-Horn could be a huge bout next year, though Horn believes he has the physical strength and the movement to derail Tszyu's ambitions.

Hodges says he will be a better fighter after his crushing pro debut, where he overpowered Baron as though his opponent was a Blues defender trying to stop him from a runaway try.

"I was so nervous before that fight,'' Hodges said.

"It was different than the nerves before a big footy game because football is in my blood and you have teammates all around you.

"Boxing is still very new to me and I was there all by myself with a bloke a few feet away trying to take my head off.''

News Corp Australia


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