Australian heavyweight rising star Justis Huni’s first major fight overseas has sensationally collapsed after the world-title hopeful broke down in a freak training mishap.
Huni is “absolutely gutted” after Australia’s most talented heavyweight tore a ligament in his ankle just days before he was due to leave Australia for his maiden offshore fight on Sunday week (AEDT).
The Brisbane-born slugger (7-0, 4KO) was primed to face classy American Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti (20-1, 16KO) on June 17 in New Orleans in his debut appearance for his new promoters, world boxing giant Matchroom.
Huni was due to fly out on Tuesday morning, but the biggest fight of his career is over after scans confirmed a grade three rupture of his anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL).
Ironically, Huni suffered the injury during sparring on Saturday with fellow heavyweight rival Joe Goodall, whom he beat comprehensively last year in a 10-round masterclass that rubber-stamped the 24-year-old as one of Australia’s most promising boxing talents.
Huni hasn’t fought since beating Kiwi Kiki Toa Leutele last November and faces months on the sidelines.
“I’m just devastated that this has happened so close to the fight,” Huni said.
“I was packed and ready to go, I was a day away from flying out and now this has happened.
“I’m absolutely gutted.
“This was a massive fight for my career, there would have been a lot of new eyes watching me overseas in front of an American audience, but now I’m back to square one.”
The setback evokes painful memories of Huni missing the Tokyo Olympics after he broke his hand fighting NRL legend Paul Gallen two years ago.
Ranked No.14 with the WBO, Huni was putting the finishing touches on preparations for his showdown with Tabiti, who was stepping up from cruiserweight, when he hit the deck over the weekend.
“I was sparring Joe Goodall,” Huni recalled of his ill-fated injury.
“It was in the second round. I was wearing some new shoes and the rubber gripped into the canvas and all my body weight went over on my ankle.
“I heard a pop straight away.
“We got the scans back (on Monday) and it was a complete rupture of my ATFL.
“The initial pain was so bad, straight away I thought, ‘No, this is like the Olympics all over again’.
“I tried to ice it straight away and walk on it.
“The inside and outside of my ankle is all purple, black and blue.
“I had some physio on it but when I tried to do some work on it to test my ankle out, I couldn’t even put weight on it.
“I have put in so many rounds of sparring and hard rounds in the gym and for this to happen so close to the fight, I’m devastated.”
Huni’s Australian management company hopes the unbeaten heavyweight can avoid surgery.
“While it’s a rupture, Justis’ doctor isn’t sure yet if he will require surgery,” said Tasman Fighters spokesperson Fran Bradford.
“The fight isn’t for another 12 days, so we thought about going ahead with the fight.
“We put a brace on Justis and they gave him painkillers to see if he could somehow move around the ring, but he was in too much pain.
“Justis has had setbacks in the past missing the Olympics with his hand so this is another blow for him.
“We’re all shattered.”
Originally published as Justis Huni injures his ankle and is forced to call off fight with American Andrew Tabiti