Huni international debut success moves him within range of world title shot, Fury down but not out after split decision

Influential promoter Eddie Hearn believes Justis Huni is only “three or four fights’ away from a world-title shot after the undefeated Australian heavyweight made a triumphant international debut in Mexico.

In his first bout in almost a year, Huni claimed the WBA international title with a unanimous points win over well-credentialed, big-punching American Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti on Sunday.

Huni’s critics will again point out his inability to produce a definitive finish over an opponent who stepped up from the cruiserweight division.

But Huni’s class was once more evident, with one of the judges in Cancun giving all 10 rounds to the 24-year-old as he improved his record to 8-0, with four of those wins coming via knockout.

???????????? ????????????@justisjphhuni defeats Andrew Tabiti on points to win the WBA International Heavyweight Title ????️

???? 100-90, 98-92, 98-92 #HuniTabiti #FosterHernandez

— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) October 29, 2023

“It was a different style to what I’m used to but it was good to get the ring-rust out,” Huni said, having only fought twice since June 2021 because of hand and ankle injuries, and after being floored by two bouts of COVID-19.

“I’m just happy that I got the ‘W’ and I’m on to the next one.

“I’ve just got to stay busy and continue my winning spree. Keep working and work my way up to the top.”

Tabiti (20-2, 16 KOs) trains out of the famed Mayweather gym in Las Vegas and counts former heavyweight world champ Anthony Joshua among his sparring partners.

But he was no match for Huni, who delivered on his intention to showcase his skills to the boxing world.

The Queenslander had Tabiti on the back foot throughout and peppered the American with a beautiful mixture of combinations, right hooks, uppercuts and body shots.

Despite not putting Tabiti down, the result was never in doubt. One judge awarded Huni the high-tempo contest 100-90 and the other two 98-92.

Unbelievable action through three rounds ????????????#HuniTabiti | @DAZNBoxing | #FosterHernandez

— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) October 29, 2023

The winner certainly impressed Hearn, who signed Huni to a multi-year deal with Matchroom Boxing in February.  

“Justis Huni will be a real force in the heavyweight division,” Hearn said on Sunday.

“Huni is already top 15 in the world. He wants a shot at the world heavyweight title.

“He’s three or four fights away from that but you’re talking about a special kid in Justis Huni.”

Huni, who enjoyed one of the most exciting amateur careers in Australian boxing history before having his Tokyo Olympics dream shattered by a broken hand, says he wants another fight “as soon as possible”.

“I’ll be good to go in December,” he said. “I’m going to stay active now, stay in the gym. So I’m ready to go.”

Fury down but not out against UFC’s Ngannou

Former UFC champion Francis Ngannou has gone the distance in his boxing debut, knocking down world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury before losing on a split decision.

Two judges gave Fury the fight 96-93 and 95-94, with the other favouring Ngannou 95-94.

WBC champion Fury remains undefeated at 34-0-1 with 24 knockouts. Ngannou’s UFC record was 17-3.

Fury’s world title was not on the line at the fight in the Saudi capital Riyadh – and that was a good thing for the champion because Ngannou showed early he was up for the scrap.

The 35-year-old Englishman relied on his jab early and switched to left-handed briefly in the second round when Ngannou made some headway, opening a cut above Fury’s left eye.

With 43 seconds remaining in the third round, Ngannou sent Fury to the floor with a left hook – the seventh time the self-styled ‘Gypsy King’ has been knocked down in his career.

“That definitely wasn’t in the script,” Fury said.

“He’s a hell of a fighter and a hell of a lot better boxer than we thought he would be.

“He’s given me one of my toughest fights of the last 10 years.”

Ngannou staggered Fury again early in the fourth, but the champion stayed on his feet.

Fury found himself hanging on at times, and fans chanted “Francis, Francis” in support of the challenger early in the 10th round. The fact the fight went the distance was an upset in itself.

.@Tyson_Fury‘s immediate thoughts after the win.#FuryNgannou | #BattleOfTheBaddest

— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) October 28, 2023

Taking on Ngannou was the latest venture for the charismatic British fighter, who has appeared in the WWE wrestling series and been the focal point of a Netflix reality show.

The money, a reported $US50 million ($A79 million), to open Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Season entertainment festival also likely piqued his interest.

It was definitely a move out of the comfort zone for Ngannou – a Cameroon native, Las Vegas resident and former UFC heavyweight champion more accustomed to fighting in an octagon cage.

Former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, who also made the trip to Saudi Arabia, helped Ngannou get ready for his boxing debut.

This not only was his first boxing match, but Ngannou hasn’t competed at all since beating Ciryl Gane in January 2022, following a falling out with the UFC earlier this year.

“Now I know I can do this … get ready,” an unbowed Ngannou said.

“The wolf is in the house.”

Fury has the chance to unify the heavyweight division. He has agreed to fight Oleksandr Usyk, a Ukrainian who is in possession of the other three championship belts, on December 23 in Saudi Arabia.

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