IN a matter of months, Justis Huni could have the boxing world at his feet.
But it hasn’t always been that way. A surprise knockdown from a March sparring session provided the Olympic hopeful with a timely reality check ahead of a career-defining year.
On the back of his second national title defence against Christian Tsoye, the unbeaten Australian heavyweight champion has opened up about the infamous session in Slacks Creek with cruiserweight prospect Ricky Esilva.
“It was just a normal sparring session. I think we did like four rounds,” he told Ben Damon on The Main Event Boxing Podcast.
“I think it was in the fourth round, I got caught clean. I got no other explanation for it. I got caught with a good punch.
“There wasn’t much on it. I wouldn’t normally get dropped from a punch like that. It was something that happened outside of the gym, out of the ring, that led to what happened there.”
The footage, which has been widely seen in Australian boxing circles, has exposed Huni to the deprecatory side of his industry.
“That’s on me being silly, getting complacent,” he explained.
“I got called out on it. Pretty much everyone has seen me get dropped, which is completely fine with me.
“I’m actually happy people seen me get dropped. It just shows, anyone can get dropped, it’s all a part of learning. It’s all a part of boxing. I’m sure a lot of boxers out there have been dropped in sparring.
“Honestly, it didn’t phase me. It happens, it happens in sparring, I just have to bounce back from that and keep a positive mindset.”
Despite the spotlight that comes with his high-profile pursuit of Olympic and professional glory, the 22-year-old is happy to take the criticism on the chin.
A dominant return to form last week has provided Huni with enough encouragement to put the session behind him.
“I’m just happy with the way I bounced back from that.” he added.
“A lot of people were saying like, ‘he’s got a weak chin, or he’s not going to go far’… but yeah, it happens to the best of us.
“I could’ve let it get to me… curled up into a hole. But bounced back from it, and tried to take it as a positive and keep moving forward, which is exactly what I’ve done.”
The fatalistic nature of social media hasn’t deterred the ascension of Huni, who faces heavyweight rival Paul Gallen in a pay-per-view blockbuster next month at the ICC Sydney precinct.
If anything, the experience has only added to the humble approach adopted by the Queenslander.
“I see a lot of it, but I don’t pay attention to it,” he concluded.
“At the end of the day, they don’t see all the hard work and sacrifices that I’ve made to get to the position I’m in today. I just don’t pay attention to it.
“I couldn’t really care less what anyone on the outside has got to say about my journey, what I’m doing, or how I got here so fast.
“Everything that happens, happens for a reason. I just try to take it as a positive, because you learn from it. For me, it’s all just character building.”
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