Boxing prodigy Justis Huni is ready to return to the ring after injury shattered his Olympic dreams

At 193cm and 109kg, Justis Huni is a beast of boxer, but the young heavyweight is nothing but a gentleman outside of the ring.

He’s shy, humble and hates trash talk – basically the opposite profile to most to-ranked modern fighters.

He still lives with his parents. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever change,” Huni told ABC Sport.

That’s despite his star quickly rising in the global sporting ranks.

His trainer Dean Lonergan has made no secret of the fact they expect him to be fighting for the world championship in the very near future – and most boxing insiders agree.

At just 23, the boxer from Sunnybank is already turning heads.

Five fights in, he boasts an undefeated record, with four victories by knockout.

In his maiden professional outing less than two years ago, he became the first fighter to win an Australian title on debut.

It’s little wonder he’s attracted such hype.

But one person’s always ensured he stays grounded.

“I’ve always been a mummy’s boy,” Justis said, while sitting alongside mum Paula in the family’s lounge room at their home on Brisbane’s southside.

“She pretty much does everything for me.

Paula Huni says she is proud of her son for remaining humble despite the hype.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Huni, the youngest of four children, lives with mum, one of his siblings, and his dad Rocki – who is also his boxing coach.

Most mornings, Justis and Rocki train before sunrise in the downstairs garage.

It’s very much still humble beginnings for the boxing prodigy.

“I feel he handles [the pressure and fame] very well,” said Paula.

“Sometimes I worry what’s really going on [in his head]… does he struggle? It is hard with social media. You know, people give their opinions, positive and negative.

“But he’s done really well, which I’m proud of, he doesn’t big note himself so I want him to stay level headed, always be humble and modest.”

Two men train in a darkened room. One wearing boxing gloves, the other pads.
Justis Huni and his father Rocki train every morning in the family’s garage. (ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

A family affair

Boxing is a family affair for the Hunis, well most of them anyway.

“[Boxing] probably wasn’t something that I liked to see my boys get into,” Paula said.

“His brother used to box in his younger years, and then they’d go to training … Justis would be there and then he would be just training around on the bags.

“About six years old, he was really starting to learn stuff and his dad got him into things and from there it was the progression.

“I just remember going to the PCYC when he was young, I would seeing him sparring these older kids and he would hold his own and I think that’s when we knew he’s gonna do OK.

“And he has, he’s done very well.”

A young pacific islander family pose around a palm tree. The photo quality is low, probably a scanned film shot.
The Huni family has always been close-knit.(Supplied)

But years on, Paula rarely goes in person because she gets too nervous.

“It’s funny because when Justis was an amateur, she didn’t mind going when they fought with headgear … it’s ever since they took the headgear off that she gets worried,” Rocki said.

But while Paula watches from afar, she still plays a crucial role in his success.

“She’s very important. She is the rock that no-one sees … She is pretty much the glue that holds all of us together for sure,” Rocki said.

Paula said she tries to stay out of his boxing world and provide the outlet professional athletes crave.

“We don’t talk about the boxing much,” she said.

“I’d rather be in the background and if I can help him, I will try and give him good advice in life and hopefully he takes it.

“I also try to make sure he’s getting the right nutrition, he goes to training, I make sure he has a good breakfast.

“I think in a lot of ways he’s a lot like me, he likes everything in order. His room is in order, he’ll make his bed nice.”

A smiling child with highlights in his hair sits on a bed with his mother.
Justis Huni says he is still a self-described “mummy’s boy”. (Supplied)

Olympics heartache

Huni was tipped to be Australia’s first gold medal winner in boxing at last year’s Olympics.

An injury known as “Boxer’s knuckle” derailed his dream, forcing the 23-year-old to go under the knife instead of on a plane to Tokyo.

Six weeks out from the Olympics, Rocki and Paula had to break the news to their son his injury had been further aggravated during a box office fight with Paul Gallen, last June.

“It was really hard,” Rocki said.

“Because I also had another doctor tell me that they could give him needles, to go and I really wanted to take that path but at the same time, he said that if he injured it even more, he probably wouldn’t have a career in boxing.

“It devastated the whole family really.”

A young male boxer looks directly into the camera, fists up.
Justis Huni is the first boxer to win an Australian title on their professional debut. (ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Justis said the Australian Olympic Committee gave him the option to try and qualify for Paris in 2023.

“But it’s just too much for me, too much pressure, going back and forth. I’ve started my pro career now so I just thought I’ll just stick to the pros and leave that chapter of my career behind me,” the young boxer said.

“I just had to take it on the chin and I’ve got to move forward now.”

Return to the ring

Next month, Huni will make his long-awaited return to the ring against New Zealand’s Kiki Leutele (7-1-2) on the Gold Coast.

“Mentally, he has that drive,” coach and dad Rocki said.

“He wants to get back in that ring so he’s got that hunger back, which is good.

“His preparations going well, he’s where he should be at this point. He had a few sparring sessions, he’s got a couple more weeks of just getting back into it, getting his eye back into seeing punches.”

Reference-www.abc.net.au

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.