Eels’ enforcer Junior Paulo is feared on the footy field.
Come Friday his terror moves to the boxing ring, where he’ll fight former Raider Neville Costigan for the All Stars Rugby League Fight Night in Townsville.
When you take off the boxing gloves, Paulo is in fact fighting for kids and young adults with autism.
He’s raising money for Parramatta Eels community partner Giant Steps, with signed merchandise to be auctioned off.
“(Giant Steps) has been wonderful at what they do for such a long time in helping out kids and young adults with autism,” Paulo said.
“I understand it can be tough at times and they give every opportunity for the kids to learn,” he said.
It will be the second time Paulo steps into the ring for a fight and he’ll do so 10 kilograms lighter than he was last footy season.
The 27-year-old’s preparation has been relentless.
He has been deep in the Eels’ gruelling pre-season training, as well as a rigorous seven-week fight camp on top of his NRL duties.
“Overall I’m feeling great,” Paulo said.
“The off-season boxing training has definitely helped me return in better shape than previous seasons.
“They are some big days going from pre-season with the Eels and then into boxing in the late afternoon.
“The body has definitely been put through the paces,” Paulo said.
Paul Gallen got the better of him in their 2016 bout and Paulo’s hunger for victory has lingered ever since.
“It was a feeling I wanted to chase again; the challenge, nerves and excitement leading up to it, not to mention when you’re in the ring,” Paulo said.
“I turned out to be half-decent, so figured why not have another crack when the opportunity came up.
“Being able to respect the craft of boxing excites me because it’s mentally as tough as it is physically,” Paulo said.
Paulo feels he’s in the best shape he can be heading into the fight and is just trying to soak in the experience
“I’ve gotta be confident in myself with all the training I’ve been doing,” Paulo said.
“You’re always going to have that nervous feeling, but I know I’ve ticked all the boxes and I feel more prepared than I was for the last fight,” he said.
Once Paulo steps out of the ring on Friday night, it’s tunnel vision to Round One of the NRL season.