Barry Hall ahead of his bout against Paul Gallen. Photo: Dave Goudie / Supplied
Barry Hall ahead of his bout against Paul Gallen. Photo: Dave Goudie / Supplied

Hall’s plan for Gallen: ‘Knock him out’

As a kid Barry Hall started boxing to impress his dad, a tough and at times "ruthless" character.

His dad would train members of the Broadford Football Club in a makeshift gym, their family garage.

A 13-year-old Hall learnt to box there with a worn out punching bag, one speedball and a "stinky old" cupboard full of "stinky old" gloves and headgear.

"I purely did the sport to impress my dad," Hall said. "I just jumped in with the boys from the local footy club and all the sudden I was fighting."

It was clear Hall had a natural skill - he was soon no longer just training against the local footy team, he was travelling to Melbourne to spar against skilled men sometimes three times a week.

"It was quite tough, I got beat up a couple of times," Hall said. "It certainly sorts you out. You learn quickly when you cop a couple."

Hall would be left bloodied and bruised ("you've seen my nose") but aware that he had ability in this brutal sport.

As the years rolled on, Hall was fighting in suburban RSLs and pubs. By his own description, he was a fighter who relied on "skill and power". Two essential qualities for anyone brave enough to enter a boxing ring.

 

The path that could have been.
The path that could have been.

At 15, he won the Victorian title in the 52kg weight division. But his boxing career was brief. In Hall's book Pulling No Punches, he describes how his dad, who had invested a lot in his son's boxing, had the "shits" when he gave it away at 16. That is his dad "didn't utter one word" to him for about six months.

A year or so later, Hall took up footy again and soon the scouts for Australian rules football saw his talent on the footy field.

"All the sudden I caught the eye of someone and really that was it for boxing," Hall said.

Hall would go on to become an AFL superstar, notching up 289 games, captaining the Swans to a premiership and is an AFL Hall of Fame member. It was punctuated by several notoriously violent moments, including knocking out West Coast player Brent Staker in 2008. Hall later said of it: "If I could take it back I certainly would - a thousand times over."

 

Although Barry didn’t do too badly in AFL.
Although Barry didn’t do too badly in AFL.

 

TWENTY-SIX years on from those days in the Broadford garage, he is ready for his first professional fight. On November 15, he will line up against Paul Gallen, who has just retired from 19 seasons in the NRL - it's been billed as a "Code Wars" and Hall is taking it very seriously.

"I am going to try to knock him out, absolutely," Hall said. "It's not a personal thing against Paul. We are two professionals and we are going to go at it."

One of the reasons Hall is fighting at 42 is to actually put to bed the constant chatter he endured all through his footy career: that on the back of his junior foray in the sport, he "could have" been a great boxer.

"I have always wondered about it and also I am almost sick of people saying 'why didn't you box?' or 'you could have done this or that'," Hall said. "It's all crap, they see you hit a couple of pads and think you can be an Australian champion.

"It just doesn't work like that. You need to get in there and do it. The pads don't hit back.

"You need to put some gloves on and it's totally different in the ring with someone else. I was almost sick of that being brought up. Now it's time to put up or shut up."

 

The former Bulldog and Swan certainly looks the part.
The former Bulldog and Swan certainly looks the part.

 

Former world champion boxer and the fight's promoter, Danny Green, has given Hall a year-long contract. "If things don't go to plan, it's a no (to boxing)," Hall said. "But if it does, then there's other fights out there."

Green sees the potential and "so much raw ability" in the former AFL star.

"I think he's really going to surprise a lot of people," Green said. "Not just with how good a fighter he potentially is, but with his absolute dedication. He wants to knock Gallen out. He really wants to make a statement.

"He now has a chance, to say, 'I am just a fighter now, I am just a professional fighter'. He's not talking about anything else other than being a fighter, and I am impressed.

"As for me, a former multiple world champion, I look at this guy and think, 'This bloke means business, he is not f**king around one bit."

Hall has moved to his family, partner Lauren and two little boys to Kingscliff on the Gold Coast, training every day with renowned cornerman Angelo Hyder, who previously guided Green.

 

Hall definitely has a height advantage over Gallen. Photo: AAP Image/Stefan Postles
Hall definitely has a height advantage over Gallen. Photo: AAP Image/Stefan Postles

 

Hall says he's not entering this fight like he's just "off the couch". He keeps fit. Someone told Hall during his career to play football until he "couldn't anymore" and so he's been doing that. He says he helps out his local footy club playing a couple of games a year.

"To tick the competitive box," Hall said.

Green adds Gallen - who says he wants to "knock out" Hall - will be an incredible challenge for the former AFL player to take on and that the both parties have taken this fight extremely seriously.

"People in Australia might be under the presumption that this is the old McDonald's charity fight night - the NRL versus the AFL. This a professional fight between two guys that have massive profiles, who love the sport of boxing, who have been around the sport of boxing for a long time and who both want to knock each other out."

 

Gallen’s recent experience makes him the favourite. Photo: Brett Costello
Gallen’s recent experience makes him the favourite. Photo: Brett Costello

The fight is Hall's first big foray back into the public eye. Last year Hall infamously lost his lucrative radio job after making vulgar comments about a co-panellist's wife. In the wake of it, Hall apologised and asked for forgiveness. Hall also lost sponsorships and he ended up going to Melbourne to work in corporate finance.

While Hall is fighting on a personal level, he says he is also doing it to promote a charity called LIVIN, which is focused on breaking the stigma around mental health and creating supportive networks for those suffering.

"It gives me the opportunity to do what I want to do and to be able to promote the message as well for this charity LIVIN," Hall said. "It's also important to get back involved and show people we can all make mistakes - and I've made quite a few of them. But I don't consider myself a bad person."

IT is clear, and the betting markets show it, that Hall is the underdog in this bout. Gallen is the younger man. Gallen has had more fights (nine in total and in the last one he KO'd John Hopoate).

"The easiest thing to do would be to fight someone I know I could beat in my first fight and take the easy road like most guys do," Hall said. "A lot of people don't expect me to win, but I do. I think I can win the fight."

Hall appreciates the sport for the skill required. As a kid, he liked the solitude that boxing offered. Twenty-six years, he still has the same sentiment.

"I appreciate it for what it is and you sort of can't hide anywhere," Hall said. "It's a lonely sport at times and once you are in there in the ring, you can't hide behind a teammate or have an off-day.

"People think it's a brutal sport, but I think it's more of an art form."

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