In 2017 Paul Gallen was the Dally M lock of the year.
In 2018 Gallen was still near the top of his game as his beloved Cronulla Sharks went within one game of the NRL grand final.
In 2019 he was done.
“Some guys became hard to handle,” the footy star turned boxer told Wide World of Sports.
“And that’s just attrition, you get older.
“And that’s when I knew it was time to retire.”
Now 39, Gallen knew within himself that it was time to hang up the boots and he reckons Mark Hunt does too.
Gallen has repeatedly taunted the 46-year-old about being washed in the build-up to next week’s Sydney Superfight and even took the dangerous step of declaring Hunt’s once fearsome power as wildly overrated.
Only Gallen doesn’t view it as dangerous.
He sees it in Hunt’s eyes and when he huffs and puffs in the training ring.
Father Time is undefeated, after all.
“You can’t beat experience but there comes a point when experience tips over the edge and you become done,” Gallen said.
“He’s done, he’s had his time.
“I learnt that in rugby league.
“He talks about himself as the best fighter in the world.
“He’s been very good for a long time and I’m a huge Mark Hunt fan but when you start talking about some of the blokes he’s fought, Junior dos Santos and guys like that, they’re at another level.
“He’s had a wonderful career and done amazing things, been a K1 world champion and all the rest of it, but they’re just at another level.
“And if you haven’t got it inside you to just train that extra bit, you’re going to get found out.”
Work ethic and toughness were Gallen’s calling cards on the footy field.
Never the most talented, consistency and mental strength allowed him to play a ridiculous 348 games for the Sharks across 19 NRL seasons.
That inner drive and determination is why he decided to press on, not give up, when he tore his bicep in training.
“The arm’s fine now.
“I haven’t missed a beat for the last two or three weeks.
“Obviously not sparring for six weeks with the bicep injury is not ideal at all but I’m as good as I can be at the moment.
“After I had my slip up I had a drink because I thought I was gone but the last two months have been all concentration for this fight.
“I’ve been really disciplined with my whole life.”
While Gallen has played the trash talking game when the cameras are rolling, he’s much more subdued and introspective one-on-one with a humble voice recorder.
He genuinely believes that Hunt’s powers are greatly diminished but is smart enough to respect the immense danger those battle scarred hands present.
Traditionally a push forward fighter, Gallen (9-0-1) will have to adapt his tactics if he is to cause a boil-over against the UFC veteran at Bankwest Stadium on Wednesday.
“I’ve got the edge in fitness but as he said, getting punched takes gas out of you.
“So I’ve got to be careful not to get punched.
“That’s the way it’s going to be, just not get caught.
“Because I’m going to get hit, in boxing everyone gets hit, but I just can’t get caught with something big.”
Conversely, Gallen knows he is unlikely to drop Hunt to the canvas.
“I think far more likely is probably points but it doesn’t matter, a win’s a win.
“That’s one thing that Alex Leapai talked about when we sparred – a win’s a win.
“It’s a not about proving how tough you are, you’ve got to win the fight and that’s all I’m here to do.
“I don’t give a s*** about his legacy or what people think of me.”
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