By Adrian Warren
Paul Gallen's boxing trainer says his charge must win his rematch with Herman Ene-Purcell in Toowoomba on Friday to keep alive the prospect of a much talked about fight with Sonny Bill Williams.
NSW State of Origin captain Gallen, 34, (4-0, 2 KOs) has had more than his share of sporting heartbreak in many previous fruitless rugby league ventures to Queensland.
He will be the visiting enemy again on Friday when he fights Toowoomba-based Samoan Herman Ene-Purcell, the man against whom he made his professional heavyweight debut in February 2014.
Gallen was knocked down in the first round but stopped his opponent in the second.
The Blues' and Sharks' NRL leader has added three more wins since then and, over the past year, talk has grown of a fight between Gallen and dual international Williams (7-0, 3 KOs).
"The Sonny Bill thing loses its lustre if if he loses this fight," Gallen's trainer Graham Shaw said.
"It's a fight he must win to get that fight."
Gallen, along with SBW and Anthony Mundine, has become one of the highest profile of the many footballers to enter a boxing ring and has thrown away his pugilistic P plates.
"I tell him I don't think of him now as a league player who does a bit of boxing. I look at him as a boxer," said Shaw, who also trains multi-middleweight world-title winner Daniel Geale.
Ene-Purcell, 21, (7-4, 4 KOs) is only marginally more experienced than Gallen going into their fight, having had just two paid bouts beforehand.
"He was so green for that fight (against Gallen), Herman had no idea the referee had stopped the fight and that's why he started punching back," Ene-Purcell's trainer Brendon Smith told AAP.
Ene-Purcell has won six of eight subsequent bouts and has a 4-2 record at the venue of Friday's fight.
"They are both tough guys, so it's a matter of the smartest one wins the fight," Shaw said.
"He (Gallen) has settled down; he's realised defence is just as important as attack.
"He realises you don't need to load every punch - that red mist sort of thing has gone."