While it may have come at the cost of a hand injury, Australian heavyweight star Justis Huni’s win over Kiki Leutele has seen him elevated into the rankings with the World Boxing Organisation.
The Queenslander enters the rankings at number 15, making it significantly easier for Huni and his team to chart a course to a potential world title.
Huni defeated Leutele via unanimous decision after a brutal 10 rounds in Brisbane last Friday.
Despite a clear win on the scorecards, the 23-year-old was made to earn the victory by the tough Kiwi, eating some big shots as the pair traded at close range.
Huni’s promoter Dean Lonergan spoke about what the update in the WBO’s rankings means for his fighter.
“It’s significant for Justis to be ranked with the WBO after only seven fights because normally they won’t even look at anybody until they’ve had a minimum of 10 fights,” Lonergan told Sporting News.
“What this means is that to move up the rankings, you don’t have to go and fight King Kong every single fight, you just have to fight very, very good guys on the way through who qualify for the belts that you’ve got.
“This ranking would see Justis within the heavyweight world title frame in no more than five or six more fights, which could be no more than 12 months away.”
Lonergan’s plans have been thrown a potential curveball by an injury suffered to Huni’s left hand in the bout with Leutele.
Huni mentioned it to his corner between rounds and was clearly hampered as the fight went on, although subsequent scans have cleared him of any fracture.
The 7-0 heavyweight had his right hand operated on last year, ruling him out of the Olympics.
Huni and his team are hopeful they won’t have to go down that path this time.
“At the moment, Justis has to have one month off boxing,” Lonergan said.
“After that month he’ll then go in and see the hand specialist and see exactly what’s going on with his knuckles. I’d expect a late March return for Justis.
“The aggressive plan that we did have is going to have to be dialled back a little bit while Justis overcomes the hand injury.
“We’re going to have to have a look at the gloves that he’s wearing in fights.
“At the moment, he’s wearing a composite horse hair and foam glove, I think he’ll probably end up going to a full foam glove to protect his hands during the fights.”
Huni raised some eyebrows with his tactics in the Leutele fight, getting into a close-range slugging match in the opening few rounds.
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Lonergan believes Huni may return to a more familiar style next time out.
“Justis was trying out a new style and it means he was getting hit a bit more than what he’d like,” he said.
“I think you’ll find that Justis will go back to what Justis was doing and that will be the superb boxer that he is and avoid getting hit.”