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After a lifetime of head-butting, Paul Gallen begins to become seriously concerned about the health of his brain.
Later this week, the 41-year-old NRL star turned boxer will become the first Australian boxer in 132 years to face two opponents on the same night, when he takes on Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant at the Nissan Arena in Brisbane.
Gallen is already considered one of Australia’s toughest athletes ever, but the NSW Blues legend has admitted he needs to retire from boxing soon before it’s too late.
Paul Gallen (center) pictured with Ben Hannant (left) and Justin Hodges (right). Gallen takes on both ex-NRL stars in a historic double-header on Thursday night
Gallen has admitted he wants to quit boxing because of concerns about brain damage and his long-term health
“I have to get out of this sport before I get major brain damage,” Gallen told News Corp.
“I have no doubt that I have some damage, but hopefully it won’t bother me too much.
“It’s funny, I never thought about brain damage until the last six months. I’ve never worried about it. I never considered it. But suddenly it dawns on me.
“I look after my children and I want to be a good father to them for a long time to come.
“We don’t know if you have CTE until you’re dead, but I know a lot of boxers in their 40s and 50s – they’re a bit slower mentally and physically and I can’t be that person with the media roles I have (commentary to Channel 9) .
‘There are always athletes who fall victim to Alzheimer’s and CTE, but also people who have never played contact sports in their life can have the same problems.
Gallen has had a successful boxing career beating UFC legend Mark Hunt and former world heavyweight champion Lucas Browne
“The reality is that what I’ve been doing for over 20 years, processing the hits I have in football and boxing, could make me more susceptible to brain damage or CTE.
“It’s time to stop.”
Gallen has earned a lot of respect throughout his boxing career, with victories over UFC legend Mark Hunt, former Australian heavyweight world champion Lucas Browne and many others.
But the man who had 348 NRL games says he is ready to step out of the fighting game.
Gallen played 348 NRL games and represented Australia and NSW
“I’m sparring,” he says.
“I’m really ready for the end to be honest. I’ll be relieved when it’s all over in a few months.
“I really enjoy the fitness work and the weights, but I don’t want to spar anymore. I don’t want the damage.
“I’ve been told that any impact hard enough to break an egg can damage your brain.
Gallen says 20 years of damage from football and boxing is starting to worry him and he should stop
‘Think about how often you get hit in the head during a sparring session, a boxing ring or the heavy blows you get on a football field.
‘Until now, I’ve never worried about brain damage. I think it’s a sign of getting old, growing up and thinking you’re not invincible.
“My brain function is something I have to pay attention to. I talk for a living in the media and on the radio. What will happen in five years if I start to stutter and don’t remember things?
‘That’s something I have to watch out for.
Gallen insists he will be fit and ready to take on Hannant and Hodges in Thursday night’s historic double header
“In general, as you get older in boxing you get discovered by a younger guy like Justis Huni, but luckily Ben Hannant and Justin Hodges are the same age as me.
“It would be embarrassing to lose to two guys who can’t fight, so I’ll make sure I’m fit and ready, but I won’t miss the sparring.”
When Gallen takes on Hodges and Hannant on the same night, he repeats the exploits of Australia’s first-ever World Champion, Young Griffo.
He fought two fights in one night in 1890 – repeating the feat three times that year.
The double-header will be shown live on Thursday’s Main Event.