PUT ?EM UP, HOPPA
By TONY WHITE
GRAFTON'S Xavier Sullivan has thrown his name into the ring to fight infamous former rugby league star, John Hopoate.
Channel Nine's The Footy Show opened the ropes last Thursday and Sullivan, the 130kg, 195cm fearsome front rower, took up a dare from fellow prison guards at the Grafton Correctional Centre to 'get it on' with Hopoate, 32.
And if the 25-year-old's bid to mix it with the controversial slugger is successful, he is hopeful the match-up could take place in either his hometown of Grafton or Coffs Harbour, where he plays rugby league for Group Two leaders, the Woolgoolga Seahorses.
The public challenge to Hopoate came after former league international and football commentator Mark Geyer elected to knock back a challenge from Hopoate's management.
Sullivan's wife, Clair, e-mailed The Footy Show and the challenge was read out during the program.
"I'd love to have a go at him," Sullivan said.
"A couple of mates wanted to bet me I wouldn't take him on. It's for a good cause ? charity ? and I'd love to see it happen, hopefully we could have it somewhere up here.
"Hoppa's got a reputation from league and from what I saw the other night (on the undercard to the Mundine-Green fight), he goes all right, but I wouldn't be worried taking him on.
"I've had a few muck around amateur fights, but I wouldn't mind having a proper go at boxing. It's something I've always wanted to do. If Hoppa is the yardstick, I think I'd go all right.
"He didn't do much boxing the other night, just planted his feet and started swinging."
Hopoate, who stands at 196cm and weighs 103kg, scored a first round knockout over Frank Faasolo.
Sullivan admitted, should the stoush become a reality, he'd need to work hard to get into peak shape.
"Yeah, it wouldn't be like the other stuff I've done, I'd do some serious training and hone my skills," he said.
Sullivan, who starred for the South Grafton Rebels in 2004 and 2005, has a strong ally in the shape Peter Byrne, a part-owner of the Amble Inn. Byrne, whose Corindi pub is the Seahorses' major sponsor, is a close friend of Hopoate.
"Peter is a mate of Hopoate's from when he used to live in the Manly area," Sullivan said.
"He's trying his best to get something done."