It’s been tipped for years and finally its come to fruition. AFL’s poster bad boy, Barry Hall, is becoming a professional boxer.
Hall’s decision will surprise few. The former forward has a decent teenage boxing career, after moving to Melbourne at the age of 12 to pursue his interest in the sport. Hall won the Victorian junior bantamweight title in 1992 before switching to AFL.
The question now is, nearly 20 years after winning that title, can Hall make it in boxing? Will his return to the ring be good for the sweet science down under?
Hall’s choice to become a pugilist will be good for media coverage for the beleaguered sport. Boxing in Australia has struggled for more than a decade and it desperately needs high profile people to be involved. Hall is certainly that.
From his decorated AFL career to his handy jabs aimed at West Coast Eagles on the football field, Hall is a human headline.
But the reality is, apart from the extra media attention and increased TV scrutiny, Hall’s decision isn’t the kind of news that boxing needs.
Hall’s age, his years out of the ring and a lack of time to train into a real fighter will work against him achieving anything great in the sport.
I wouldn’t put Hall’s move alongside the sideshows that are Sonny Bill Williams and John Hopoate, but it’s not light years behind.
At 34 years old, and he turns 35 in February, can he really be expected to win a world title? Hall will at need at least a year, maybe more, to train and rediscover his skills. Then he will need a series of opponents to build a decent record and earn a shot. You could see this taking anything from 4-6 years.
What he really needs is a world-class trainer to guide him in the sport. And there are none better in Australia than Johnny Lewis.
According to some media reports, Lewis believes the former AFL star might not have enough fight left in him.
Had Hall made the decision to become a boxer 2-3 years ago, his chances of success would have been greater.
It’s hard to tell if Hall can take a punch, not from a rival AFL player but from a 100kg brawler who is battle hardened and who has been schooled as a boxer for years.
And it’s true that some fighters – look at Bernard Hopkins – can go on long into old age and have good careers.
Heavyweights are no exception, with the great George Foreman becoming the oldest fighter even to win the world heavyweight crown, after he beat Michael Moorer back in 1994 when he was 45 years old.
But every fighter is different. And Hall hardly has the pedigree or experience of a Hopkins or a Foreman.
Many media reports are comparing Hall’s move to that of Garth Wood, and hailing Wood as a successful footballer-to-boxing conversion. This is folly.
If winning a reality TV competition and beating a disinterested Anthony Mundine is now a success in the boxing world, the sport has bigger problems than I thought.
Local promoters might be dreaming of a Hall v Sonny Bill Williams fight, but Hall v Brad Pitt (the heavyweight), Hall v Bob Mirovic or Hall v Kali Meehan is more of what he should be eventually aiming for. Fights against decent local opposition.
As a local boxing fan, I’d rather see Daniel Geale v Anthony Mundine, Michael Katsidis v Will Tomlinson or Billy Dib v Chris John ten times out of ten if I had the choice.
It would be great to see Big bad Barry prove the doubters, me included, wrong. If he can defy Father Time, defeat some world class opponents and win a legitimate world title then Hall will have climbed the summit in two professional sports. His comeback will up there with Rocky, only real. More power to him.
And if he can snare the services of a Lewis, or a Freddie Roach (but that’s probably as likely as Joe Frazier coming back from the dead to train him), then you never know.
But its already round 10 in Hall’s boxing career and he’s yet to land a single punch. The clock is against him, and once the bell is rung there will be no helping hands and no shortcuts to help him find his way.