Justis Huni insists he has no regrets about fighting Paul Gallen so close to the Olympics despite the blockbuster bout ultimately shattering his Games hopes.
A devastated Huni on Wednesday withdrew from the Games after revealing he’d broken his right hand during a sparring session last month before aggravating the injury during his gruelling 10-round victory over Gallen in Sydney last week.
“I hurt it really early in the Gallen fight and it got worse throughout the fight and I knew it was something bad because I couldn’t clench my hand into a knuckle so I knew it was something bad,” he said.
Undefeated in his five professional fights and rated a genuine gold-medal hope for Australia, the 22-year-old bravely beat Christian Tsoye with the injury – known as “boxer’s knuckle” – two weeks before fighting Gallen.
He said he contemplated trying to fight through the pain barrier in Tokyo, but instead opted to book himself in for surgery next week.
An inconsolable @JustisHuni has lost his chance to become Australia’s first Olympic boxing Gold medallist. The towering Queensland youngster has a hand injury, and won’t be able to fight for five months. More: https://t.co/cmK61MLAEy @ChrisGarry7 #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/qWQOKxHBeZ
— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) June 23, 2021
“I’m devastated. Absolutely shattered,” Huni said.
“I’ve pretty much trained my whole life for this moment and it’s gone now.
“I’m still in shock, still trying to let it sink in. I got the news last night. I broke down in tears. It was very hard for me to take in.”
The Australian heavyweight champion conceded fighting Gallen five weeks out from Tokyo Games was a gamble.
But he felt he had no other choice, having found it difficult to get the necessary preparation elsewhere.
“It’s always a risk getting in the ring. You never know what’s going to happen,” Huni said.
“But all of it was about trying to prepare me to be the best for the Olympics. It didn’t work out that way.”
Justis Huni reportedly out of the Olympics with a knuckle injury. No specifics beyond ligament involvement, most common issue actually called “Boxer’s knuckle”. Usually involves tendon, ligaments of the knuckle’s joint capsule can also be torn. Causes joint to become unstable pic.twitter.com/JnA8QkYgsP
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) June 23, 2021
Huni pocketed more than $200,000 for the Gallen fight, but promoter Dean Lonergan in defending his charge said it was about more than money.
“At the end of the day, Justis turned professional to make sure he could get fights. Justis couldn’t get fights for a very, very long time,” Lonergan told AAP.
“It’s disappointing, but these things happen. You get injured in training, you get injured in fights.
“If you go to the Games undercooked, you’ve got no hope anyway.
“So it’s just unfortunate.”
Gallen pre-fight threatened to destroy Huni’s Olympic dreams any way he could.
“Their No.1 concern is the Olympics. That’s their No.1 concern. Well, I’m here to tell all of them – Justis you’re included – I’m here to do everything I can to make sure that you don’t go to the Olympics,” Gallen said.
“Whether it’s break your jaw, break your face, break your arm, I don’t care what it is.
“I’m going to bring everything I can to break something in you so that you don’t go to the Olympics.”
The retired rugby league great could not have known how prophetic his words would be.
“He kind of jinxed it. My Olympic dream has definitely been ruined,” said Huni, now eyeing the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“I feel like I’ve let the boxing team down and all of Australia but I’m just trying to stay positive and hopefully look forward to the next Olympics now.
“I’ll definitely be looking at trying to make that Olympics because it’s been a big part of my upbringing to represent my country on that stage.”