Justis Huni fears another hand injury may stall his end-of-year plans after the heavyweight prospect used all of his boxing IQ to beat impressive New Zealander Kiki Leutele.
Huni's boxing world title aspirations were hanging by a thread when Leutele, an $11 outsider with bookies, rocked him in the fourth round at Brisbane's Nissan Arena on Friday night.
The 23-year-old stumbled but regained his footing before the New Zealander connected with another right hand in the sixth round and the crowd sensed a major boilover.
But the Brisbane favourite gave himself some room and steadied, chipping away with jabs and body shots as Leutele tired over 10 tense rounds.
Judges scored the fight to Huni 99-91, 97-93, 98-92, as the 23-year-old moved his record to 7-0, with Leutele now 8-2-2.
The performance came despite Huni feeling pain in his right hand after landing a body shot in the fifth round, the boxer admitting he punched through gritted teeth for the second half of the fight.
Huni had been searching for a knockout blow to silence his critics, who say he lacks the power to match his elite speed and skill.
And the men both showed off their weaponry early as they stood toe-to-toe for four brutal rounds.
Huni smartened up though, his strategic shift enough to outclass the Kiwi and finish a clear victor.
"He said he was going to look to knock me out and that's what he tried to do," Huni said.
"But I was able to adjust and that's where the amateur background comes in.
"He caught me and I took it well ... I just stayed calm. Once I knew he'd be there for the long run I just boxed smart, stayed on the outside."
Huni has another fight slated for December and is hopeful of lining up three-time cruiserweight world champion Mairis Briedis early next year in an attempt to earn a top-15 world ranking.
But what happens next will depend on scans, with Huni well aware of the ramifications after he missed the Tokyo Olympics with boxer's knuckle.
"We just went 10 rounds punching each other in the face, so it's a little sore," he said.
"It might just be bruising but we'll get it sorted so we can get back out there soon as possible."