2023 State of Origin - QLD v NSW: Game 1
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Blues looks on after defeat during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Tevita Pangai Junior has dropped a bombshell on the Canterbury Bulldogs, deciding to retire from the NRL to take up a full-time career in boxing.

While the club said he would "like to focus on family and pursue other options", multiple reports on Tuesday suggested the forward is headed for the ring.

Pangai Junior, who was a surprise debutant for the New South Wales Blues this year in the State of Origin series before being cut after a single appearance, has struggled to hit anything near his potential during his time at the Bulldogs.

The 27-year-old has played 34 games with the Bulldogs since making the switch ahead of the 2022 season. That came after a short six-game stint at the back-end of 2021 with the Penrith Panthers and prior to that, 96 games with the Brisbane Broncos between 2016 and 2021.

The barnstorming prop, while inconsistent, at his best has always shown the potential to turn into one of the best forwards in the game.

The Bulldogs have confirmed Pangai Junior will finish the 2023 season with the struggling Bulldogs before fulfilling the decision to leave the sport.

"We would like to thank Tevita for his contribution to the Club," Bulldogs director of football Phil Gould said in a club statement.

"He has been a valuable member of the team and will remain to be so during these final few Rounds.

"We are well aware of his talent as an athlete and are fully supportive of his decision to pursue another sport at the Season's end. We wish him and his family all the best for the future.

"Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog."

In his 15 games so far this year, the forward has averaged 121 metres per game and tackled at just shy of 90 per cent, with the Bulldogs currently sitting in 15th spot on the table and unlikely to have that change until the end of the campaign.

The move will free up approximately $750,000 per season from the Bulldogs' salary cap and open a roster position, with the club having few remaining for 2024 as head Cameron Ciraldo and director of football Phil Gould look to turn the struggling Belmore-based outfit around.

If he does make the move across sports, the Bulldogs will likely forward pay salaries in 2024 and launch a bid for major names coming off contract in 2025 - the club are set to chase forwards and a first-choice number seven unless Toby Sexton fills the jersey strongly in 2024.

Pangai Junior has had just two career fights, winning by knockout in the second of those.

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