Hodges delivers in brutal pro boxing debut
JUSTIN Hodges took just 75 seconds to flatten Ipswich furniture removalist Rob Baron in a lightning-fast start to the rugby league great's professional boxing career at Sydney's sold-out Hordern Pavilion on Friday night.
Baron talked a good game before the fight but with a 13kg weight advantage, Hodges simply steam-rolled him, dropping Baron three times before referee Les Fear halted the fight to save him from further punishment.
Hodges (104.7kg) had practised his fast jab and slick boxing skills for weeks leading up to the fight but copped a hard left hook on the chin in the opening seconds before he turned brawler, overpowering Baron with brute strength, bulldozing him into the ropes and bouncing him off the canvas like a yo-yo.
Encouraged ringside by his mate Anthony Mundine, who introduced Hodges to serious boxing training almost 20 years ago, Hodges, 36, showed he was still a fast and powerful athlete, just as he was in 16 seasons of first-grade rugby league and 24 Origin appearances.
When he shook Baron he went after him as though he was hurtling up the sideline in an Origin match at Suncorp Stadium with the try-line wide open.
"I was nervous once I got into the ring,'' Hodges said.
"He got me once on the chin and I thought `holy hell we're in for a fight'. My plan went out the window.
"Then, I caught him and hurt him and I wanted to get him out of there as quick as I could before he got his second wind.
"I knew if you knock them down three times the fight's over so that's what I tried to do. I caught him there nice a couple of times and I'm just glad it's finished and I've got my first fight out of the way.
"I'll just enjoy this one. I've got a full on schedule with the footy starting soon but I'm keen to go again with another fight as soon as possible.''
The 35-year-old Baron (91.7kg) was also making his professional boxing debut and although he had children Robert, 11, and Emily, 9, in his corner, they could do nothing to stop the Hodges onslaught.
Earlier, Brisbane's tough super-middleweight Adam Copland, a key figure in Jeff Horn's corner, dropped a unanimous eight-round decision to Mexican-born Sydney super-middleweight Cesar Mateo Tapia.
Scores were 80-72, 77-75, 79-72 as Tapia scored his ninth consecutive win.
Rising junior-middleweight Tim Tszyu stopped England's former Commonwealth champ Denton Vassell in two rounds.