Last June, Joe Goodall was left questioning what was next for him after he lost a one-sided unanimous decision to Justis Huni in a pay-per-view main event in Brisbane.
This Sunday (AEST), just three fights later, the Australian heavyweight has a chance to put himself in the frame for a world title shot when he faces highly rated Nigerian, Efe Ajagba, in a headline slot in Lake Tahoe.
It’s been an impressive turnaround for the 31-year-old, who credits good old-fashioned hard work for his recent results.
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“It was a tough slog back,” Goodall told Sporting News.
“I just had to keep it rolling, I wanted to get back in the winners’ circle.
“I worked my arse off to get back and have some success.
“I just kept at it, kept plugging away and one opportunity led to another.”
Following his loss to Huni, Goodall tasted that winning feeling with a third-round stoppage victory over Arsene Fosso before came the bout which launched him onto world level.
The Aussie took a fight with heavily favoured American Stephen Shaw on the undercard to George Kambosos versus Maxi Hughes in July.
Shaw had only suffered one loss in 19 fights, a points decision to, coincidentally enough, Ajagba.
At odds of more than $5, Goodall sent Shaw to the canvas for the first time in his career with a thunderous three-punch combination in the sixth round, knocking him down once more en route to a corner stoppage in the same round.
That victory earned Goodall a deal with Hall of Fame promoter Lou DiBella and now, a shot at Ajagba.
“It came out of nowhere but I had a long time to think and prepare for that fight,” Goodall said.
“I just trained my arse off for that fight.
“It was kind of make or break, honestly. Every fight seems like that in this sport, it’s high risk-high reward.
“I’m just thankful I got a perfect result to crack the scene over here and get another big opportunity.”
While Goodall had plenty of time to train for the Shaw fight, the Ajagba one came more suddenly.
“We got this fight on five-weeks’ notice,” he explained.
“It was a little bit touch and go when I received the offer from my manager, Steve Scanlan.
“We eventually had a team meeting, sat down and talked about everything and decided to proceed with it and here we are in Lake Tahoe, three days out and ready to go.”
Goodall had been in the gym anyway, sparring cruiserweight world champion Jai Opetaia, while he also got some work in with Huni once he’d made the call to accept the fight.
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The pair’s timelines worked out well, with fights just one week apart – Huni made his international debut a winning one when he defeated Andrew Tabiti via unanimous decision in Cancun at the weekend.
“We’ve got a strong rivalry, both being top heavyweights in Australia,” Goodall said of the work with Huni.
“It’s very professional of us to put it aside.
“It was a bitter pill for me to swallow, given we fought and the result and to come back and spar him, you’ve just got to put all that aside and move on.
“We have a great relationship and the sparring’s been good. It’s top level.
“I’ve always said Justis is world class, I believe I’m world class. It’s been great preparation for this bout.”
Goodall will be going into the fight with a sense of familiarity, having previously shared the ring with the six-foot-six Ajagba.
The Aussie defeated him in the semi-finals of the 2014 Commonwealth Games as an amateur and, last year, while living and training in Las Vegas under Kevin Barry, sparred with the 29-year-old.
“He’s got a long reach and he has a big right hand. He’s flattened a lot of guys coming up with that big right hand,” Goodall said.
“There’s some things that I feel like I can capitalise on and things that I know I need to avoid too.
“It is a big guy versus a small guy in there. I’m looking to use my movement in the fight to kind of throw him off a little bit.
“He’s going to try and line me up from the outside. I’m going to have to move and use all my skills, the whole range.