In the heavyweight division, all it takes is one punch.
Justis Huni is one of the best heavyweight talents to come out of Australia and is as little as a year away from a shot at a world title shot, according to his promoter Dean Lonergan.
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But that could all change with one perfectly timed, perfectly directed punch from the likes of his opponent on Friday night Kiki Leutele.
Leutele is 8-1-2 in his career, his only loss coming at the hands of world-ranked Aussie Demsey McKean in a controversial points loss last year.
Arguably the most impressive part of the Kiwi’s resume is how he’s won his eight fights, seven of which were finished early.
“Realistically, we’ve got the fights lined up that can probably put them in the top two or three and the next four fights,” Lonergan told news.com.au.
“It’s really important that he shows us skills tonight. Kiki Leutele’s a fighter at 112 kilos and six foot three, you don’t have to go looking for him.
“So all the skills that Justis has been learning over in the States, you should see them on show tonight.
“We’d all like to see a stoppage before around six or seven if that’s possible because Kiki Leutele’s purpose built for this.”
Although Huni and his team aren’t looking past this fight, Lonergan’s job is to line up the future and he’s teased some big fights on the horizon.
The next on the Huni hit list is Kazakhstan’s Zhan Kossobutskiy, who is at 18-0, 17 of which have been knockouts. The KO artist is ranked 10th in the WBC rankings and ninth in the WBA rankings.
Nigerian star Efe Ajagba, who is 16-1, his only loss coming to WBO and WBC world No. 3 Frank Sanchez last October, is also in the crosshairs.
Having come from training in the US with legendary trainer Justin Fortune, Sporting News reported Huni had just one sparring session with Sanchez.
“He was all over Frank Sanchez,” Fortune said.
“After the first sparring, Frank Sanchez didn’t really want anything to do with him.
“Justis was all over him. Too many punches. He throws too many punches and he’s too fast. That’s it.”
There is also cruiserweight great Mairis Breidis, who lost his title to Aussie Jai Opetaia earlier this year in an absolute war. He is eager to move up to heavyweight and Huni could be his debut at the new weight.
Lonergan said: “If we win those next three fights, we’re seriously in line at the end of the year for a heavyweight world title fight”.
He said he believes the heavyweight belts could become vacant soon with Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk seemingly circling an enormous money undisputed bout next year.
But while the future seems bright, the Huni camp can’t look past the fight in front of them.
“The heavyweight division is the riskiest division of all because it only takes one punch to change a fight,” Lonergan said. “There are no guarantees in this sport. You can go from winning a fight to losing a fight in the space of one punch.
“If we were to take a loss tonight, you’d have to take a serious look at what we’re doing. Isaac Peach, who’s training Kiki and who I class as a world-class trainer and exceptional at what he does, he says if he can catch Justis with the right punch at the right time, he’s going to be in a power of hurt, a power of pain and a power of trouble.
“A loss would be devastating to the future. We don’t expect it, you don’t expect to go into any fight expecting to lose but at the end of the day, these things can happen.”
Huni has spent his career exceeding expectations, having won a world junior championship, bronze at the world championships in 2019 and became the first Aussie to win a title on debut when he defeated Faiga Opelu in 2020.
His most recent trip to the US was no different.
He spent six weeks in the country working with Fortune and although he was ignored early, it didn’t take him long to be recognised for his talent.
“They all thought Justis was some donkey walking in to be bashed,” Justis trainer and father Rocki told Fox Sports.
“But after that first sparring session, all the other boxers, the trainers, they all came up to shake his hand.”
Lonergan added America was the ultimate proving ground to get respect.
“Like everywhere in America, when you go there for boxing when they first see you, if they don’t think you can fight, then they don’t want to talk to you,” he said. “The second you go in there and show you’ve got ball, you can fight and you’ve got skills, then they sort of accept you.
“It’s fair to say I think Rocki and Justis are keen to get up to America on a more regular basis. And the American scene is quite keen to see more of them as well, both from a training and sparring perspective, but also from a fighting perspective.”
And if Huni can land these big scalps he’s looking at and get into world championship contention, Lonergan believes “he’ll not only become the number one sportsman in Australia, he’ll become the number one known person in Australia.”
But first things first, he has to beat Kiki Leutele.
How to watch
Huni v Leutele will be LIVE on Kayo Sports and Fox Sports channel 505 from 7pm.
New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Justis Huni vs Kiki Leutele — heavyweight (IBF Pan Pacific Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation WBO Orientaltitle titles)
Jerome Pampellone vs Faris Chevalier — light heavyweight (vacant IBF Australasian title)
Clay AJ Waterman vs Mitchell Whitelaw — light heavyweight
Benjamin Bommber vs Ankush Hooda — super welterweight
Ben Horn vs Campbell Somerville — super welterweight
Billy Polkinghorn vs Broby Martin — lightweight