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Knockouts won’t define Huni title chase

Justis Huni says he’s developing a show-stopping knockout blow but won’t be sucked into chasing the Hollywood ending in his long-awaited boxing return in May.

The heavyweight talent (5-0) met New Zealand’s Kiki Leutele (7-1-2) for the first time on Wednesday, ahead of their fight on the Gold Coast on May 11.

It will be Huni’s first since a 10th-round stoppage of Paul Gallen last June, in which the 22-year-old pulverised the former NRL hard man’s ribs to eventually floor him.

A hand injury that flared in that fight kept him out of the Olympics though, where he hoped to contend for a medal, before more injuries and two separate bouts of COVID-19 have kept him on ice.

Questions about his power have also surfaced since a training camp in the United States with Justin Fortune, with promoters eager to see some eye-catching one-punch knockouts to match the speed and footwork forged during a successful amateur career.

Leutele has never been stopped and has welcomed Huni to “come at him” in what he’s tipped will be the highlight of a card headed by a world title fight between Jai Opetaia and IBF cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis.

The winner will earn a top-15 berth in the IBF world rankings, officially putting them in the conversation for a world title shot.

Huni admits he’s had to slow down his busy, “hit and move” amateur ring strategy since turning professional, but that he won’t sacrifice his status as a craftsman in pursuit of a wild knockout win.

“Everyone’s talking about power … I’ve got power man, it’s just these guys I’ve come up against, they’ve got good chins,” Huni said.

“So I’ve had to work around that and get the stoppage (in four of his five professional wins).

“The one-punch KO, I’ve been working on with Justin – he hates the amateur style, he’s more of a ‘sit-down, knock these guys out’ guy.

“But I’ve learnt my whole life to box. So if that KO comes, it comes. But I’m not going to chase it because it drains me.”

He pointed to current world champion Oleksandr Usyk, who has returned to his native Ukraine to take up arms, as proof that pure talent beats raw knockout power.

“He went up against Anthony Joshua and he schooled him, schooled him,” he said.

“So that just shows if you’ve got skills, speed and footwork you can take anyone that’s just looking for a knockout to school.

“Anyone can get knocked out in our division. I don’t buy into it. Against Gallen, he tried to suck me into it, I wasn’t buying into that trash talk.”

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