Home Boxing News Justis Huni survives scare to outpoint Kevin Lerena in biggest win of...

Justis Huni survives scare to outpoint Kevin Lerena in biggest win of short career

Justis Huni (right) and Kevin Lerena. Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Australian heavyweight contender Justis Huni 9-0 (4) survived a late scare to defeat South African Kevin Lerena 30-3 (14) by 10-round unanimous decision at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

Huni- 24, was on the wrong end of a vicious left hand midway through the final frame of the bout, sending him reeling across the ring. But try as he might, 31-year-old southpaw Lerena couldn’t land the coup de grace.

“I’d done all the hard work in the gym and I’m glad my legs were strong enough,” said Huni. “That’s what I was expecting when I came out here, it was just a matter of time until when I adjusted to him.”

Huni was awarded the victory by scores of 96-94 twice and 98-92 in the pay-per-view opener on the ‘Knockout Chaos’ card headlined by Anthony Joshua versus Francis Ngannou.

Lerena battled through tragedy in the week of the fight after losing his mother unexpectedly.

“He’s a good competitor,” Lerena said. “There’s no such thing as good timing when someone dies, emotionally it’s tough but I don;t take anything away from Huni. It’s back to the drawing board.

“When I had him hurt, I should have finished him but kudos to him, he stayed up like a tough lion. He boxed better tonight. I probably had him hurt more, but tough competitor.”

Johannesburg’s Lerena started the fight well, jarring Huni with hard shots early on before the Brisbane product settling into a rhythm that saw him control the middle rounds.

Lerena’s trainer implored his fighter to do it for his mum and to leave it all in the ring. He came within a whisker of pulling off the upset.

“I came out here in honour of my mum,” Lerena said. “I’d like to dedicate this to my mum, my beautiful family and kids at home, and Saudi Arabia. Thank you!”

Huni said before the fight that he was expecting the toughest bout of his career against Lerena, who had been in camp with Tyson Fury for his fight against WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk before the February 17 date was pushed back to May 18 after the WBC titleholder suffered a cut in sparring.

“Tyson Fury’s been telling me that Kevin is a great boxer, is going to be tough, so I need to put on a show, perform on this stage,” Huni told AAP.

“It’ll set me up, a good show here and hopefully they’re impressed by what they see from me.

“I’m a smart boxer; I’ll just do me, won’t get in front of him, just box his ears off.”

Lerena was expecting a tough battle too, telling Boxing Social: “Justis Huni is a tough competitor. I think he had a good amateur background, he’s eight and 0 as a pro, relatively inexperienced as a professional but he’s got good amateur experience, big strong guy, explosive, so it’s going to make for a good fight.”