Australian heavyweight champion Justis Huni is set to return to the ring in February, coming up against fellow undefeated Aussie Joseph Goodall.
Huni, whose Olympic dream was ruined by a hand injury, hasn’t fought since knocking former NRL great Paul Gallen out in the 10th round of their fight in June.
Watch Boxing Live & On-Demand on Kayo. Selected international fights, classic bouts and more. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial >
The hand injury occurred in sparring before his fight against Christian Tsoye three weeks before the Gallen fight, which cost Huni the Olympic dream.
While he was potentially considering going to the Commonwealth Games and maybe the 2024 Paris Olympics, he ultimately decided go full steam ahead in his professional career.
Huni and promoter Dean Lonergan have teased up to seven fights in 2022, and the first will be a clash against highly regarded Aussie heavyweight Goodall.
The pair are set to square off on February 4, 2022 at Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre and the winner is set to move into the top 15 in both the WBO and IBF world rankings.
The 29-year-old Goodall has a 7-0-1 record with six KOs, five of which happened in the first round, while he went the distance twice with Tsoye, claiming a win on the undercard of Jeff Horn’s fight against Anthony Mundine and a draw in the rematch nine months later.
He has also started training with 1984 Olympic light heavyweight silver medallist – and the first New Zealander in 56 years to win an Olympic boxing medal – Kevin Barry, who works out of Las Vegas.
Huni and Goodall have incredible amateur pedigrees, as both claimed a World Championship bronze before going pro.
And although Huni is a generation younger than Goodall, the 29-year-old said he had sparred “hundred of rounds”.
As for who gets on top, Goodall replied: “What happens in the gym stays in the gym. That’s for the boxing tales for the books after our careers.”
There is plenty riding on the outcome of the fight as it will put at least one of the fighters on the world stage.
Fighters in the top 15 in the rankings can challenge for the world title and would at the very least give bigger fights.
“This is a big fight for my career to move me up into the top 15 with two of the sanctioning bodies,” Huni said. “I’m going to be 100 per cent ready for this as it could take me all the way. This is the first step on the way to a world title shot. Definitely a big fight and I can’t wait for it.”
As for Huni, he said he wanted to take anyone who wanted to get in the ring with him.
“I’m just happy to be able to get in the ring and be able to do what I love to do which is boxing,” he said. “Whatever opportunity I can take to get into the ring, I’ll take it.”
Justis’ father and trainer Rocki said while he wasn’t worried about the fight, but that it stands in the way of the Aussie heavyweight champion from going to the next level.
And he said the pair weren’t looking for easy fights to pad out the resume.
“I don’t believe we can go out internationally when we haven’t beat the best in Australia,” Rocki said. “That’s our whole aim.”
“We want this fight, we don’t want to fight any donkeys, we want decent credible fighters. We have a lot of respect for Joe and Kevin Barry but we didn’t take this fight because we thought we were going to lose. We are more than confident that we will win.”
Goodall has been training out of Vegas and has been sparring alongside highly regarded US heavyweight Jared Anderson.
He also got to see WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury up close as the Gyspy King trained out of Barry’s gym. It was due to his 26-year-old son Taylor sat in Fury’s corner.
“We had Tyson in our gym, he did his preparations for the Wilder fight in the gym and for me, it was not only great for my son, but great for Joseph to be in the gym with Tyson and to watch Tyson and the way he trains and talk with him,” Barry said.
“It was a great confidence booster for Joe. It’s very important for people in the young stages of their career that you put good people around you and Tyson was a great influence for Joe.”
Goodall added: “It was great to watch him spar, two days I watched him spar 10-12 rounds. It’s great to sit there and admire a great artist at work, a great fight like that.
“He’s Tyson Fury, he’s the Gyspy King, he’s going to go down in history as one of the greats so what’s not to benefit from that.”
Goodall added that there was a lot on the line ahead in the fight and he was willing to take big risks to move up the ranks.
“This is a massive fight,” Goodall said. “There are three belts on the line, I’m putting my WBC belt up on the line, it’s massive. It’s not only a top 15 ranking for him, it’s for me too, there are three belt on the line, there are three avenues there for a path to world title.
“You can’t get the rewards without the risks, so this is big risk, big reward. That is the boxing business.”
Barry added that he would be dissecting everything out there on Huni to give Goodall the best chance of winning.
“If Joseph Goodall can’t beat Justis Huni, it’s because he’s not good enough, it won’t be because he’s not prepared,” Barry said.