JUSTIS Huni was on the cusp of realising a passionate dream when he entered the ring to fight Paul Gallen in June.
The fight against the former footballer was his second bout in less than a month, after having beaten Melbourne-based wild card Christian Tsoye in May.
Both fights were about getting the 22-year-old in fighting condition ahead of what would’ve been a dream realised by competing at the Olympic Games.
But Huni had actually picked up a hand injury in sparring, which he then aggravated in those next two fights. After being officially named to represent Australia in Tokyo, an MRI scan then ruled the Australian heavyweight champion out of his Olympic debut.
Huni has admitted that he ‘broke down’ when he received the news that his chances of competing in Tokyo were over.
“I just started thinking about everything that I had done to get to that stage and to qualify for the Olympics,” he told Aus-Boxing.
“All of the international training camps and tournaments I’ve fought at, I just felt like in that moment that it was all for nothing. I was shattered, it was devastating news.
“I don’t have any regrets on the fights I took. It’s just unfortunate, it’s just unlucky. But life goes on and we keep moving forward.”
But Huni, who has a 5-0 professional record, isn’t giving up on his Olympic dream just yet, instead setting his sights on Paris in 2024.
“It’s still there and I’m still chasing it,” he explained.
“It’s just a disruption to my dream [the injury] and I still plan to live out that dream and goal that I set myself which is competing at [the] Olympic Games.”
While Huni was seen as a potential gold medal contender by some in the lead-up to Tokyo, lightweight Harry Garside was instead the boxer to create history at the Games.
The Victorian claimed an historic bronze medal, this being the first Olympic medal by any Australian boxer in 33 years.
Even though he was clearly very proud of what Garside managed to achieve in the Olympic ring, Huni did mention how tough it was that he wasn’t there with him.
“We’ve done a lot of international travel together, fought at a lot of international tournaments together,” he added.
“Every time we’ve travelled we’ve always been roomies and we’ve always had the conversation about us two competing at the Olympic Games.
“To see him competing in the Olympic ring and pretty much doing what he said we were going to do throughout the years, it definitely made me a little bit teary that I wasn’t there with him.”
Huni is well and truly on the road to recover after his surgery in July, but still can’t use his hand in training for another five weeks.
“I don’t want to move too fast and rush things and injure my hand again,” he continued.
“So first things first is just getting my hand back to 100 percent and then going from there.
“If I’m able to get fit and get the training in before the years out, I’d be happy to fight in December but if not, early next year is definitely going to go ahead.”
As for who his next opponent could be, there’s been some back-and-forth between Huni and New Zealander Junior Fa.
The 31-year-old Fa has suffered just one loss as a professional, in his most recent bout against Joseph Parker in Auckland.
Although the fight is far from finalised, Huni welcomes a clash with the fan-friendly Fa.
“I think that fight is definitely going to go ahead,” he concluded.
“It’s an awesome fight for myself, challenging myself to go up another level. I think it’ll be an awesome fight for the Pacific nations.
“We’ve both got Tongan in us so I know the Tongan crowd is going to love this one. I’m really excited for that fight and I can’t wait.
“I know he’s a really good athlete so he’s always going to come prepared and I am also. You just have to wait and see come fight night.”
Words: Finn Morton