Code War draw leaves everyone feeling flat

Margaret Court Arena mightn't look anything like Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden but the familiar tones of announcer Jimmy Lennon Jnr gave it that big event feel.

He announced Paul Gallen to rings of booing around the stadium. Whether it was planned or otherwise, Gallen was 'fashionably late' into the ring. By the time he appeared, those boos were less prominent.

Then there was the entrance of 'Big Bad Barry'. The big screen replayed some of his greatest 'hits' - including the infamous one on West Coast's Brent Staker more than a decade ago and only three years before Hall's footy career came to an end in 2011.

Barry Hall didn't just have his backing from Aussie Rules diehards -- some wearing Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs paraphernalia - he seemed to have the vast majority of the venue behind him.

For Gallen, a lonesome Cronulla-clad fan showed his colours. Perhaps a good effort, too, in unfamiliar AFL territory.

As expected, stars of other sports made an appearance. Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke kept a lower profile under a black peak hat among a sprinkling of current AFL stars, but it was former great Sam Newman who made the fashion statement of the night wearing black leather gloves. He cut a swathe through the crowd with Shane Warne. Neither passed by unnoticed.

When 'showtime' arrived, as Lennon Jnr put it, Gallen's career introduction was drowned out by more boos. Solid cheers accompanied a determined looking Hall as his credentials were recited.

To be expected, it was a scrappy beginning. Hall looked to have the advantage in the first round. His reach superior, similarly anticipated.

Gallen needed to stand up and by the third round he dulled the Hall-dominated crowd support. A lone voice in the crowd shouting "C'mon Gal".

Gallen predicted that he would knock Hall out in the fifth or sixth round. That wasn't to be.

They might have been classed as heavyweights but this wasn't a dull slow-moving contest. Hall, at 42 years-of-age, and Gallen recently retired from NRL at 38, they lasted the distance and landed their share of 'beauties' which earned arena-round applause.

While Gallen barbed Hall with packets of two-minute noodles in the lead up, the shortened six rounds was probably in both of their favours. The final bell rang and the sell-out crowd rose for a standing ovation.

But it wasn't all about the Code War novelty. A poignant ten bell tribute to the recently deceased Dwight Ritchie preceded a rare period of silence, and a timely reminder that despite all the bravado often associated with the bright lights of boxing, and indeed this particular event, that fighters however sharp and swift are fallible.

As ESPN featured earlier this week, Australian boxing did need this event. Homegrown rising stars and identical twins Andrew and Jason Moloney fought in their respective bouts for genuine titles, or chances towards them. Both were highly favoured but their stars shone even brighter with the hype around Hall and Gallen.

Back at the Wednesday press conference, Gallen's "NRL is the toughest sport in the world " attempted swipe at Hall was smacked right down by Andrew Moloney.

"Boxing is the toughest sport in the world", he interjected.

After six rounds in the ring together, tired and bruised, that's one thing that both Hall and Gallen might just agree on.