Dean Lonergan hopes Justis Huni will be ready to take on Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua in two years.
But there is one crucial missing piece to his boxing repertoire: a knockout punch.
In the hours before Huni took down Paul Gallen in the 10th round in Sydney, former three-division weight champion Jeff Fenech had this to say.
“Skill level, you’ve got to say he’s got as good a skill set as anybody out there,” Fenech told foxsports.com.au.
“He’s got a skill-set as good as Tyson Fury.
“He throws more punch combinations than any of those guys out there.
“But when you’re punching someone, and you’re not punching them hard, and somebody punches back at you, like [Anthony] Joshua or Deontay Wilder … it’s lights out, brother.
“So someone’s either got to teach him to sit down on his punches and punch hard or he’s going to do it hard as moves into the top ranks.”
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Say what you like about whether the fight should have been called off earlier, Gallen hung tough. He never looked like winning, but rarely did he look like he was seeing stars.
Early in the ninth round, Fenech bemoaned Huni’s knockout ability.
“He’s just done eight very hard rounds,” Fenech said.
“I know he is winning the fight, he’s landing more punches, [but it] is a little bit disappointing at the heavyweight division he can’t really hurt this guy.
“It’s a sad reflection on Justis’ performance because he’s hit Gal with so many punches, but Gal’s still there.”
Huni knows it too.
Speaking to reporters following the win, the 22-year-old, who is bidding to become Australia’s first gold medallist in boxing at the Olympics, said as much.
“After I come back from the Olympics, we’ll tune my style up, start sitting down on my punches a bit more and change my style to more of a professional boxing style,” he said.
Ahead of the fight against Gallen, Huni’s camp told foxsports.com.au the bout would be over within six rounds.
Huni didn’t want to put a number to it.
But he said if the opportunity came, he would try to finish Gallen off.
“If it comes, it comes,” he told foxsports.com.au ahead of one of his final practise sessions.
“If the opportunity is there and I’ve got Gallen rocked, I’m going to jump on it. Whereas last fight I never really had the opportunity, but at the same time I didn’t want to jump in and then get careless and get caught.
“There’s a big difference between my last fight and this one. Last fight I went in there and got the job done, I did what I said I was going to do which was stay long, so I didn’t take any head punishment or any heavy hits to the head that would knock me around leading into the Gallen fight.”
Yet, there were countless moments Huni had Gallen on the back foot.
But the knockout blow was not delivered. Not at least until the final round.
It remains Huni’s biggest weakness going forward.
Speaking after the contest, Lonergan said Gallen lasted longer than he expected and believed the boxing gloves used might have led to the former NRL champion lasting as long as he did.
“Paul lasted longer than what I thought,” he said.
“Justis and Rocki wanted to fight in horsehair gloves and the one’s we presented to them were very, very thin and I think if we had of been wearing them the knockout would have come a lot, lot quicker.”
The reality is though that we have been hearing about the “supposed” power Huni has for some time.
Even Gallen ripped Huni on the eve of the fight at their weigh-in, where the amateur star weighed almost seven kilograms heavier (106.35 kgs vs 99.4) than his opponent.
“He hasn’t dropped one similar opponent,” Gallen said.
“Even in all of his amateur fights – people don’t think I know about this bloke – he’s had one stoppage since he was an amateur – one – in all his fights.
“He’s clearly not a puncher, clearly not a puncher, so I don’t see that happening.”
Gallen was made to eat his words by losing, but he made a point.
It remains to be seen whether Huni has the necessary power at his disposal to be able to compete against the world’s best.
“Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua are our targets and realistically they’re two years away, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but this is going to be one helluva ride,” Lonergan said.
“At the moment you’ve got [Deontay] Wilder and Fury fighting, if that comes through the right way, Joshua and Fury go into a two-match thing that’s going to tie them up for 12 months and in the meantime what we will do is pick very good fights to have. Justis and Rocki have told me they want to fight up to eight times next year, that takes a lot of organisation … getting the right opponents, but it’s do-able, it’s what they did in the old days.”
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