Victorian sports fans will get a chance to see one of this country’s best world title prospects in action when Australia’s youngest ever Olympic boxer Jai Opetaia fights in Melbourne for just the second time in his pro career when he faces international opponent Frankie Lopez at Hosking Promotions’ “Punches at the Park 6” at the Melbourne Park Function Centre on Saturday 21 October.
“I fought in Melbourne for my second professional fight,” says Opetaia. “I’ve been to Melbourne plenty of times for training and other things and I love it there. I’m looking forward to fighting there again and putting on a show for my Melbourne followers.”
The 10-round contest will pit Opetaia against highly-credentialed Californian Lopez 9-0 (7 KOs) who is trained by four-time world champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Virgil Hill. On the line will be the vacant IBF Youth cruiserweight title.
“To be honest I haven’t seen much of my opponent at all but I’ve been sparring top boxers and been training well so I’m ready for any style he comes out with,” says Opetaia, who claimed gold at the 2011 AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana.
The 22-year-old Sydney southpaw has been boxing professionally for just over two years but has already been turning heads with his silky smooth boxing skills and explosive power that have seen nine of his 12 opponents fail to hear the final bell.
“I just do my best to box smart and if the knockout comes, it comes,” says Opetaia. “But at the same time I’m confident that my power is there when I need it.”
In his last bout Opetaia claimed both the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) and Australian cruiserweight titles against the normally durable 43-fight veteran Daniel Ammann with a TKO in the ninth round.
“Looking back on my last fight I know it wasn’t my best performance,” says Opetaia. “It was my first ten round fight and I let that play in my head to save energy. When the fight finished I felt like I could’ve done a lot more and stopped him earlier.’
Opetaia, who is cousins with Socceroos great Tim Cahill and former Parramatta Eels playmaker Ben Roberts, says that he is only getting better with every fight.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve felt like I’ve gotten stronger as I’m not a kid anymore,” says Opetaia, who was originally scheduled to fight Lopez in his ancestral home of Samoa last month before the fight card fell through.
“And now in the professionals, we throw to hurt, not throw to score points. But I’m 22 and improving every day.”
This spells trouble for his opponents, starting with Lopez on Saturday night.