Former Brisbane Broncos captain Justin Hodges has announced that he will come out of sporting retirement to become a professional boxer.
Hodges will make his debut as a heavyweight on the undercard at the bout between Paul Gallen and John Hopoate on February 8 at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion.
Hodges made a formal announcement at a news conference in Brisbane at the Broncos Leagues Club.
“It’s a tough sport and one you don’t want to take too lightly,” he told reporters. “That’s why I’ve been training very, very hard.”
Hodges played 251 NRL games, 24 State of Origins and 13 Test Matches. He retired after the Bronco’s 2015 grand final loss but has long held ambitions to box.
“It’s different from rugby league,” Hodges said. “You don’t have 16 other blokes who can help you.”
Since 2006 Hodges has been training under Gareth Williams at The Boxing Shop but over the past 12 months has ramped up plans to turn professional.
But the “hardest part” for him was convincing his wife, Gyanne.
“I took her a long time to say yes because I’ve got two young kids at home,” Hodges said.
“I’m 36. I don’t want to get to 45 or 40 years of age and think ‘maybe I could have done it’. I don’t want to live my life by ‘maybe’.
“I can’t wait for the opportunity to step into the ring."
Hodges said he was inspired by former Sydney Roosters teammate Anthony Mundine.
“What a fantastic athlete, to go from rugby league in his prime, into boxing and be a three-time world champion,” Hodges said. “I think Choc’s done wonderful things for the sport.”
Williams said he also saw some similarities between Mundine and Hodges.
“To be honest, as a heavyweight, he’s a lot bigger [but] he’s got a very similar style," said Williams.
“He’s got a good jab. He’s got some pop in his shots too, and one thing that he’s really got that people don’t know is … he’s got a bit of mongrel. The New South Wales team would know that.”
Hodges attended the recent bout between Mundine and Jeff Horn in Brisbane and said it would “be a dream” to be on the undercard of a similar stadium event.
“That’s what you want,” he said. “You want to step onto the big stage, you want to test yourself against good fighters as well.”