He may be Australia’s No. 1 ranked heavyweight but Justis Huni has not yet cleared out the local market.
That is at least according to Australian heavyweight champion Kris Terzievski who is the latest to blast the 23-year-old for putting the cart before the horse as he already has eyes on world championship-calibre opponents.
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While Huni hit the ground running, winning the Australian title on his professional debut and racing to the top ranking in the country according Boxrec, Terzievski went the hard way.
With a professional record of 11-1-1 including eight KOs, Terzievski’s only loss came at the hands of Faiga Opelu for the Aussie title in 2019.
But context is everything in the fight game and Terzievski had never fought more than four rounds before his fight with Opelu, having finished his first nine fights all in under four rounds.
Since then, two of Terzievski’s last three fights have gone the distance as he became the first man in 100 years to unite the Australian and Australasian heavyweight belts following wins over Waikato Falefehi, who knocked down Sonny Bill Williams in his return to the ring, and Paul Gallen in an epic 10-rounder in May.
The Gallen fight added the Australian title, which had been vacated by Huni due to a 12-month absence from the ring.
The win had Terzievski eyeing off a fight with Huni in October but the Melburnian is set to wait in line as Huni faces New Zealand’s Kiki Leutele at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on November 4.
But negotiations broke down, leaving a “sour taste” in Terzievski’s mouth.
It’s the start of a busy dance card for Huni, who is scheduled to fight again before the end of the year and is looking at former cruiserweight champion Mairis Breidis, who lost an epic title fight to Aussie Jai Opetaia in July, early next year.
It’s not the first time Huni has booked back-to-back events, fighting Christian Tsoye three weeks before he fought Gallen, then missing the Olympics with a hand injury.
“At the end of the day, I take it as a sign of disrespect,” Terzievski told news.com.au.
“His handlers and whoever’s looking after him, they’re looking too far ahead and he keeps getting pulled in different directions.
“I’ve got one vision and one goal and that was to be the best in this country and move on to a world level. He’s a guy in my way.
“I beat Paul (Gallen) and I made history to become the first man in 100 years to hold an Australian and Australasian title simultaneously. He had a little bit of history himself being the first person to win the Aussie title on a pro debut.
“All these things stack up and I believe it’s the fight the Australian public would love to see.
“I think it’s a disrespect to both of us. He’s looking past Kiki and he obviously thinks I might be an easy touch for him as well in the sense of he only needs another four weeks and he can jump in and fight me and if that’s the way they want to go about it, as long as I get the fight, I’ll make sure they learn the hard way that it’s a mistake.
“I was overlooked in the in the Paul Gallen fight when those when the bookies brought their odds out, I was a 6-1 underdog. I’ve shown before I can upset the party.”
Terzievski added it was “disrespectful to Jai” if Huni fought Briedis, trying to piggyback off Opetaia’s historic win against someone who’s never fought at heavyweight before.
The 32-year-old Terzievski added he believes he gives Huni a match for skill and is also a southpaw, meaning a left-handed stance, a style Huni has not yet fought as a pro.
Huni’s last loss in amateurs came to Uzbeki Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Bakhodir Jalolov in the Asia/Oceania final of the 2020 Olympic Qualifying tournament.
Terzievski also downplayed Huni’s opponents, including Joe Goodall, who he claimed were “essentially sparring partners”, rubbishing claims the Queenslander has cleared out the Aussie market.
“Justis has sort of tried to separate himself but that’s behind the backup of a big promotional network getting behind him,” Terzievski said.
“That’s another chip on my shoulder, this bloke has had the red carpet rolled out for him since he’s turned professional, even as an amateur.
“For me, I’ve have to come up on small time shows, just getting in and competing and building myself up. Coming from my biggest performance dominating a guy like Paul Gallen, who was one of the biggest names in Aussie boxing, to now just being glossed over, it’s a sign of disrespect.
“And I want to let these guys know that I am the fighter I say I am, and I didn’t come this far just to come this far. I want to prove that I am the best in the country.
“I believe I could knock him out as well because I believe he’s a reactionary type fighter. He’s not so much of a thinker, he’s got great reactions, but I can give him something to react to and walk him on to a big shot.
“But the one thing that separates me from all these other guys is I honestly believe I’ve got the ability to outbox Justis.
“I’m a boxing fan and a boxing purist. It doesn’t take a lot of intellect and a lot of skill to go stand there and say ‘let’s go toe-to-toe’. But to out-think, outsmart and out-position a man and beat him at his own game, that draws a lot of interest. And that’s what I feel like I can do.
“He has not by any means cleared out the division. He’s beat a couple of names that have been his sparring partners previously. I’m the guy that is going to present the first legitimate challenge to him.
“There’s many ways this fight can go down. If need be, we can stand and bang but you know, you’re gonna see two boxing purists go out and try and help beat each other at the name of the game.”
While Terzievski has been plying his trade on smaller cards, almost exclusively at the Melbourne Pavilion during his professional career, he hit the big time when he fought Gallen for the Australian title in Newcastle.
In a 10-round slugfest, Terzievski won 97-92 on all three cards as Gallen proved once again he doesn’t know the word quit.
He earned plenty of respect from the Australian public despite the loss, and Terzievski said it was the fight which took him to the next level.
“I’ve spoken to Gal and I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for him but he messaged me after that fight and he said ‘I’ve never felt like how I did after I competed against you’ — and that’s after being in there with Huni and the rest of them,” Terzievski said.
“I took that as the great sort of achievement and I fought Paul on a four-week preparation. To go 10 rounds with someone who throws that kind of pressure in your face and with that kind of engine to dominate for eight rounds and to be able to dance around in the tenth, through those experiences, you only grow and get better.
“I feel like I showed 70 per cent of what I can do in that fight. There’s still a lot more layers to my game, and there’s some things there that I’d like to show and execute on Justis’ face.
“Some of those shots that I was hitting Gal with, I thought I could have put down a horse so he’s definitely very tough and durable.
“One thing my coach always says to me is the money’s got to be worth a punishment you’re receiving in the sport and I think he’s been well looked after in that department. And this is why I want this fight (with Huni).
“This could potentially set up my future and getting a big win over someone like Justis, I’m on the way to bigger way better things. I just need it to happen and I finally need Justis to stop dancing around and hand-picking and dodging people and let’s just get in there and sort it out. I believe I’ll beat him.”