When the final bell sounded for his most recent and hellacious eight round contest with Kiki Leutele (11-2-2, 8 KOs), Toese Vousiutu (5-1, 5 KOs) felt a sense of pride within.
The heavyweight prospect had not only more than doubled his total number of career rounds, but did so without one of his most valuable assets.
After injuring one of his hands early in the bout, Vousiutu was faced with adversity for the first time as a professional. The equation, one that all fighters face at least once, quickly became clear for the 32-year-old – should he stand and fight or surrender?
Though he concedes the latter option was a real possibility, the power of will won out.
“I was just literally trying to survive in there,” Vousiutu told The Inner Sanctum.
“It was the third or fourth round. I didn’t break it (hand), I just sprained it. I threw a punch and it landed awkwardly on his body.
“When I came out of there, I was proud of my performance regardless of what I was going through.”
In defeat, Vousiutu also took a number of tactical lessons on board. Specifically, the need to stick to the fundamentals that he has honed over a number of years.
Having represented Australia at amateur level, including at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, ‘the Boss’ is known as much for his movement and skills as he is his power punching.
Yet, it was a willingness to stand and slug with Leutele that formed a central part of the game plan on the night.
The error of judgement, while costly, now serves as a stark reminder going forward.
“When I went home and I watched the fight back, I saw that towards the end of the fight, he was more of a boxer,” Vousiutu recalled.
“He was boxing more than me, because I was just trying to punch him out.
“Like they say, the boxer will always beat a puncher. At that time, I was just being a puncher and he was just boxing me smart, conserving his energy well. I learned a lot from that.
“I’ve taken it all in and I’m going to come back better and stronger.”
The opportunity at redemption is a sizeable one to say the least.
Vousiutu will look to return to the winners column in the undercard of Tim Tszyu’s (23-0, 17 KOs) world title clash with Brian Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs) on October 15.
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While incredibly grateful for a place on the card, the Victorian admits that the call-up came as a surprise.
“(No Limit Boxing Promoter) Matty Rose came up to me straight away and was like, ‘you’re back on in six weeks’,” he said.
“I went back to the change rooms, I came back to Melbourne, I had the weekend off and I went straight back into training.
“He called me the week later and he’s like, ‘we’re going to put you on the Tim Tszyu card’. That’s coming off a loss.
“I wanted to get the win so I can get an opportunity again, but they must’ve seen potential in me in that fight.
“I’m just happy they’ve given me this platform I can use.”
Although a rematch of the August barnburner was offered, a second meeting was turned down by Leutele.
Still, Vousiutu is hopeful that he can avenge the loss, perhaps even in a title fight further on down the line.
For now though, he is set to face New Zealand’s Julius Long (18-26-1, 14 KOs), a 46-year old-veteran with over two decades of experience and is acutely aware of the task in front of him.
Keeping the lessons of the recent past at the front of his mind, the Australian will approach Long, a former sparring partner with a healthy level of respect.
Ultimately, focus centers on maintaining control and commitment to detail.
Toese Vousiutu is ready to fight his fight.
“I can’t wait to get in there and showcase my ability. I’ve been training hard, I’ve lost about three kilos since my last fight and it’s coming down nicely,” he concluded.
“He’s a big task for me, it’s not going to be easy. He’s tough, he’s big and I’ve seen the way he fights too.
“I’ve seen his tactics, he tries to get in your head and play mind games with you. He tries to put you off your game.
“But it won’t work with me, I’m not going to get sucked into these games.
“I just want to get in there and get the job done.”