Huni can be a 'rock star' after Gallen win

Tokyo Olympics gold medal contender Justis Huni could become a household name after retaining his Australian heavyweight title with victory over Paul Gallen.

PAUL GALLEN.
PAUL GALLEN. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Justis Huni's minders believe the 22-year-old has taken the first step towards becoming one of Australia's richest and most recognisable athletes with his spectacular TKO of Paul Gallen.

True to his word, Huni shattered Gallen's undefeated professional boxing record on Wednesday night with a 10-round masterclass to retain his Australian heavyweight title.

Gallen had vowed to break Huni's jaw, face, or arm - "whatever it takes" - to spoil the gold medal contender's Tokyo Olympics dream.

Instead, Huni broke Gallen's rib in the second round before dominating the wounded but courageous rugby league great until the referee finally stopped the fight in the 10th round.

"All the things he said and stuff didn't get to me, and I showed that tonight. I pretty much came out there and made him bite his words," Huni said.

Unheralded outside boxing circles despite being the only man in more than a century to win the Australian heavyweight belt on his professional debut, Huni strategically used the fight to showcase his talents to the country.

The plan worked a treat and now promoter Dean Lonergan believes Huni can be much, much more than a household name in Australia if he can back up the victory with a medal in Tokyo.

"We want to turn him into an Australian rock star," Lonergan said.

"When he goes overseas and brings back a world title, it will be a ride not seen before and he'll be one of the biggest sports celebrities-slash-celebrities seen in this country."

With COVID-19 an obvious and ongoing barrier, Lonergan suspects it will be "two years minimum" before Huni is able to challenge superstars Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder for the heavyweight belts.

But it's only a matter of time, he believes.

"I don't think he has a ceiling," Lonergan said.

"I was lucky enough to guide the career of (Kiwi) Joseph Parker, who we took to the WBO world heavyweight title and we won that title in Auckland and defended it once or twice.

"Then we ended up fighting Anthony Joshua in front of 75,000 people at Millennium Stadium.

"Justis Huni is more than capable of doing that and the stakes have changed.

"When we fought that fight there was probably 10 to 15 million on the table for Joseph Parker at that stage.

"But with the heavyweight game the way it as at the moment, those numbers are doubling and trebling.

"So the world's his oyster ... I don't think anyone has any clue how big this is going to be, how exciting this is going to be."

Huni's more immediate focus is on the Olympics, not making millions.

"Very relieved, obviously. I'm happy I came out of it fit and healthy so (I'm) keen to get back to get back to training and go over there, represent my country and do my country proud," he said.

"Hopefully all my hard work and all my years of training, I can bring back the gold medal for Australia."