Paul Gallen shows plenty of heart but no match for Justis Huni

Justis Huni punches Paul Gallen during their fight in Sydney. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

True to his word, Justis Huni has ended Paul Gallen's undefeated professional boxer career to retain his Australian heavyweight title in spectacular fashion.

Huni sent the rugby league great turned pugilist crashing to the canvas with a thunderous right hook in the final round of an epic encounter on Wednesday night that lived up to its blockbuster billing.

After more than a month of verbal warfare, the combatants slugged it out relentlessly for almost 10 full rounds at the Aware Super Theatre at Darling Harbour.

But, as he and his camp predicted throughout the bitter build-up, Huni - the only man in more than a century to win the national heavyweight belt on his pro debut - was ultimately too fast and skilful for Gallen.

Considered a genuine gold medal hope for Australia at the looming Tokyo Olympics, Huni was always in front on points.

Gallen, though, earned every cent of his guaranteed million-dollar-plus pay cheque for his lion's share 85 percent split for the pay-per-view showstopper after courageously withstanding a devastating half-hour onslaught from the 22-year-old.

"He put up an awesome challenge. He's very tough," Huni said.

Gallen revealed afterwards he gamely battled on for almost eight rounds with a suspected broken rib.

"I'm a prized fighter but I'm as competitive a person as there is. I really wanted to win that fight tonight," he said. "But I was never going to win the fight. I think he broke my rib in the second round. He was just too fast.

"I genuinely wish Justis all the best for the Olympics and I hope he can win a gold medal for Australia."

The plan worked a treat and now promoter Dean Lonergan believes Huni can be much, much more than a household name in Australia if he can back up the victory with a medal in Tokyo.

"We want to turn him into an Australian rock star," Lonergan said. "When he goes overseas and brings back a world title, it will be a ride not seen before and he'll be one of the biggest sports celebrities-slash-celebrities seen in this country."

With COVID-19 an obvious and ongoing barrier, Lonergan suspects it will be "two years minimum" before Huni is able to challenge superstars Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder for the heavyweight belts.

But it's only a matter of time, he believes.

"I don't think he has a ceiling," Lonergan said. "I was lucky enough to guide the career of (Kiwi) Joseph Parker, who we took to the WBO world heavyweight title and we won that title in Auckland and defended it once or twice.

"Then we ended up fighting Anthony Joshua in front of 75,000 people at Millennium Stadium. "Justis Huni is more than capable of doing that and the stakes have changed.

"When we fought that fight there was probably 10 to 15 million on the table for Joseph Parker at that stage.

"But with the heavyweight game the way it as at the moment, those numbers are doubling and trebling.

"So the world's his oyster ... I don't think anyone has any clue how big this is going to be, how exciting this is going to be."

Huni's more immediate focus is on the Olympics, not making millions.

"Very relieved, obviously. I'm happy I came out of it fit and healthy so (I'm) keen to get back to get back to training and go over there, represent my country and do my country proud," he said.

"Hopefully all my hard work and all my years of training, I can bring back the gold medal for Australia."