Huni captures Oz title by stoppage
By Anthony Cocks
Justis Huni 1-0 (1) has made history by winning the Australian heavyweight title from reigning champion Faiga ‘Django’ Opelu 13-2-1 (10) in his professional debut at Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane, Australia on Thursday night.
The 21-year-old amateur star dominated the fight until the champion’s corner threw in the towel at the 1:21 mark of the seventh-round to prevent their man from suffering a further beating. It was the first time Opelu has been stopped in his 16-fight pro career.
Huni, who won bronze at the World Championships last year and is considered among the gold medal favorites at the Tokyo Olympics, made the decision to turn pro while waiting for the Games to be rescheduled. Boxers with less than 10 pro fights can still qualify for the Olympics.
Speaking after the fight, Huni said his international experience in the amateurs helped him during the fight.
“I fought on an international level in amateur ranks so I’m pretty used to fighting in front of a big crowd. It just came natural,” he said.
“I got the W, that’s all that matters, so I’m thankful.”
Huni got off to a fast start, ripping in left hooks to the body and lightning-fast lead right hands. By the third round he was switch-hitting with ease and mixing in some nice uppercuts to his varied attack.
During the mid-rounds Huni looked to be breathing heavily but if there were any doubts about his conditioning, they were put to bed in a dominant sixth round.
Huni continued to apply the pressure in the seventh and was clearly finishing the stronger of the two when the fight was stopped.
“To be here, to be able to fight for the Australian title on debut, I couldn’t have done it without my team and my sponsors. I want to thank ‘Django’ and his team for this opportunity,” Huni said.
“We trained for this, we trained very hard for this so we’re ready for whatever.”
In the main event world-ranked cruiserweight Jai Opetaia 20-0 (16) won his rematch with Ben Kelleher 13-2-2 (4) by sixth-round knockout in their 10-round fight.
The 25-year-old southpaw was in control throughout the bout and had Kelleher reeling from a combination when the referee stopped the fight at the 1:50 mark.
There is already talk of a fight between Opetaia and Huni in the future.
“When that fight does happen, it will be the biggest fight in Australia,” Opetaia said. “I reckon me and this guy can create history.
“But in saying that, I’ve got a lot of boxes to tick in the cruiserweight division first, and he’s got a lot of boxes to tick in the heavyweight division.
“We’ve still got a big journey ahead of us before that fight does happen, but it’s awesome we get to make history together.”
On the undercard Miles Zalewski 7-1 (5) claimed the vacant Queensland state lightweight title with a sixth-round stoppage of Kyle ‘La Legionnaire’ Freidberg 6-2 (3). The fight featured great two-way action early on but Zalewski began to take the upper hand by the mid-rounds. Freidberg’s trainer Chris McCullen advised his fighter at the end of the fifth that he needed to show him something or he would stop the fight. The towel came in at the 2:00 mark.
Junior middleweight Ben Mahoney 10-0 (6) stopped Benjamin Hussain 2-1 (2) at the end of the sixth round of their eight-round fight on the advice of the ringside physician. Hussain clearly had a broken jaw from early on in the fight and the doctor eventually intervened to advise referee Phillip Holiday to stop the fight.
In the opening bout of the broadcast former amateur standout Clay ‘The Weapon’ Waterman 2-0 (2) had to climb off the canvas twice in the first round to stop big-hitting Dane Mulivai 6-6 (6) at 2:56 of the opening frames. All three knockdowns came courtesy of left hooks.