True to his word, Justis Huni has ended Paul Gallen’s undefeated professional boxer career to retain his Australian heavyweight title in spectacular fashion.
Huni sent the rugby league great turned pugilist crashing to the canvas with a thunderous right hook in the final round of an epic encounter on Wednesday night that lived up to its blockbuster billing.
After more than a month of verbal warfare, the combatants slugged it out relentlessly for almost 10 full rounds at the Aware Super Theatre at Darling Harbour.
But, as he and his camp predicted throughout the bitter build-up, Huni – the only man in more than a century to win the national heavyweight belt on his pro debut – was ultimately too fast and skilful for Gallen.
Considered a genuine gold medal hope for Australia at the looming Tokyo Olympics, Huni was always in front on points.
Gallen, though, earned every cent of his guaranteed million-dollar-plus pay cheque for his lion’s share 85 per cent split for the pay-per-view showstopper after courageously withstanding a devastating half-hour onslaught from the 22-year-old.
“He put up an awesome challenge. He’s very tough,” Huni said.
Gallen revealed afterwards he gamely battled on for almost eight rounds with a suspected broken rib.
“I’m a prized fighter but I’m as competitive a person as there is. I really wanted to win that fight tonight,” he said.
“But I was never going to win the fight. I think he broke my rib in the second round. He was just too fast.
“I genuinely wish Justis all the best for the Olympics and I hope he can win a gold medal for Australia.”
Gallen had notched a spectacular first-round knockout victory over Australia’s only-ever world heavyweight champion Lucas Browne in his previous fight, and outlasted UFC legend Mark Hunt in a brutal 10-round affair the bout before.
Yet promoter Dean Lonergan pre-fight dubbed this showdown as Winx versus Eeyore, giving “donkey” Gallen “less than zero chance” of beating Huni.
As promised, though, Gallen was in Huni’s face and on the front foot for much of the ferocious opening exchanges.
But he struggled to land any real blows as Huni upped the ante to have the underdog literally on the ropes deep in the third round following a flurry of telling body and head shots.
Gallant Gallen refused to buckle and it was Huni who was warned for a low blow in the fifth round.
Clearly being outboxed by his faster and more skilful opponent and behind on points, Gallen continued pushing forward in search of a knockout punch.
It never came and the former NSW State of Origin series-winning skipper even resorted to tackling Huni to the canvas in the 10th round.
That was the end of him, with Huni finishing the 39-year-old a second later with a big right hook.
The victory, as hoped, instantly made Huni a household name in Australia as the first man to drop – and stop – Gallen.
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