Justis Huni ensured his name remained in the headlines as he produced a final round knockout of Paul Gallen to hand the former footballer his first boxing defeat in Sydney last night.
But despite Gallen hitting the canvas, this was a good outcome for both guys. Gallen lost no fans with his lionhearted performance, while Huni got the stoppage win he needed.
What did victory mean for Huni?
It was an important stoppage for Huni, who was unquestionably regarded as the superior boxer coming into the bout.
He would not have received the same exposure for a one-sided points victory. Instead, he produced a YouTube-worthy highlight.
The only knock on Huni’s craft early in his career is his punching power. Quizzed by announcer Ben Damon in the ring after the fight, Huni promised to change his style after he competes at the Olympics next month.
The night provided Huni with a platform to announce himself to mainstream sporting fans, as he looks to join Tim Tszyu as the next big star of Australian boxing.
Gallen gave Huni some free advice during his post-fight interview, telling him to improve on the microphone in order to sell his fights going forward.
How did Huni’s victory play out?
Huni landed thunderous body punches in the opening rounds, with Gallen stating after the fight that he suspected he suffered a broken rib.
Surprisingly, Huni went away from the body assault in the middle rounds.
Gallen looked tired in round four, as Huni became the aggressor and started to stalk his opponent.
There were moments around the midway stage of the fight when a stoppage felt imminent, but Gallen rallied to become more competitive in rounds seven and eight before Huni pressed for the knockout.
Gallen survived the ninth, only to be startled by a right uppercut in the 10th. Huni saw his opportunity for victory — that’s when a simple left jab and straight right was the perfect combination.
What’s next for Huni?
The Tokyo Olympics. Huni delayed his second COVID-19 vaccination in the lead-up to the Gallen fight after suffering side effects, including a dead arm from his first shot.
Huni plans to have his second jab in the coming days before meeting up with the boxing team in Japan early next month.
Huni is in medal contention in the super heavyweight division, which was introduced for the 1984 Olympics.
The 91kg+ division boasts previous Olympics champions including Lennox Lewis (1988), Wladimir Klitschko (1996), Alexander Povetkin (2004) and Anthony Joshua (2012).
Before the 2016 Rio Olympics, the AIBA (International Boxing Association) allowed professionals to compete among the amateurs for the first time.
Huni’s two biggest challenges are Bakhodir Jalolov (Uzbekistan) and Kamshybek Kunkabayev (Kazakhstan).
What’s next for Gallen?
There is a rematch clause in the contract, should Gallen decide to explore it.
He has made no secret of the fact he considers himself a prize fighter.
He could still put on entertaining shows with other high-profile athletes in fights he has a better chance of winning.
A lucrative stoush with fellow footballer Sonny Bill Williams appears unlikely, however a showdown with former UFC champion Robert Whittaker is more realistic.
“I suppose going back and fighting another footy player and earning this sort of money probably wasn’t realistic,” Gallen told ABC Sport this week.
“I’ve got to push myself and test myself, and I don’t see what the problem with that is, if more people in Australian boxing did that … Australian boxing would be more relevant.”
What happened on the undercard?
Isaac Hardman fulfilled his promise to fold rival Emmanuel Carlos inside four rounds, to defend his Australian middleweight title.
He improved his record to 11-0, and while his ambition to fight WBA belt holder Ryota Murata is an improbable next step, a more viable short-term option would be entering the crowded Commonwealth scene.
Felix Cash is the current Commonwealth middleweight title holder, and was called out by Hardman after the fight.
Andrei Mikhailovich delivered a devastating performance to stop the previously undefeated Alex Hanan in their middleweight showdown.
Mikhailovich is a promoter’s dream, with an action-packed style, charisma and a human interest story you can market.
Mikhailovich was adopted from a Russian orphanage when he was just 18 months old, along with his twin brother, and has spoken publicly about his alcohol and drug use in his early teens.
Sam Goodman (9-0) won the biggest fight of his career so far, defeating Nort Beauchamp after the referee called a stop to the contest midway through the sixth round.
Meanwhile, Jason Whateley also scored a fourth-round stoppage victory over Victor Oganov after his corner threw in the towel. Whateley’s record improves to 9-0 and his knockout streak extends to eight.