Wollongong has the inside running to host what promises to be one of the most-watched bouts in Australian boxing history, with the WIN Entertainment Centre set to host the showdown between NRL star-turned boxer Paul Gallen and former world champion Lucas Browne.
The April bout between Gallen, one of the country's largest pay-per view draws, and Browne was locked in earlier this week after Matt Rose's No Limit Boxing paid out Browne's promotional contract with Kiwi promotor Dean Lonergan.
It opened the door for what will be giant leap up in class for Gallen, with Browne the first and only Australian to ever hold a true heavyweight world title after climbing off the canvas to stop Uzbekistani slugger Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA title in Russia in 2016.
Contracts are yet to be formally signed but it's understood the deal for the fight at the WEC is all but over the line. No Limit Boxing CEO George Rose confirmed Wollongong was at the top of the list of potential venues.
"Wollongong is definitely in the mix, as it always should be," Rose, a former Dragons prop, said.
"They have an ideal venue in the perfect location and I know the locals would get around the event if it comes to it. Sydney is also obviously always a massive drawcard for heavyweight fights like this too but we should be in a position to formalise everything inside the next week or so."
Now 29-2, Browne's last bout was a second-round TKO of former NRL bad boy John Hopoate in November 2019, a feat Gallen also managed in February the same year. The 41-year-old Browne had set his sights on further fights in the UK, where he has a substantial following, but the COVID pandemic has complicated those plans.
Gallen moved to 10-0-1 with a unanimous decision win over MMA legend Mark Hunt at Bankwest Stadium in December, a draw with former AFL hardman Barry Hall in November 2019 the only thing resembling a blemish on his record.
Gallen had been hunting a long-mooted bout with Sonny-Bill Williams - who's now tipped to meet Hall in boxing return - but has instead turned his attention to what will be far and away his toughest challenge to date.
It would be the biggest fight held in Wollongong since Anthony Mundine met Illawarra legend Shannan Taylor at the WEC in 2009. Mundine also scored the first of three wins over former IBF middleweight world champion Sam Soliman at the same venue in 2001.
With COVID complicating any plans for overseas fights, the card also promises to be stacked with competitive local bouts, with Rose having put a renewed focus on the Australian domestic scene in his promotion of rising megastar Tim Tszyu.