23-year-old Australian / Samoan Jai Opetaia cracked the WBO’s top 10 in their November ranking positioned at number 9 in the world – up 2 places from 11.
Opetaia made a name for himself as an amateur winning the world juniors at light heavyweight before becoming the youngest in Australian boxing history to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics at the tender age of just 16.
Since turning professional in 2015 he has racked up 16 wins collecting numerous titles along the way including the NSW State & Australian and a number of Regionals including the WBC’s ‘OPBF’, IBF Pan Pacific and the WBO Asia Pacific titles.
Last year he won the IBF World youth title when he KO’d undefeated American Frankie Lopez in devastating style with a 1st round KO handing him his first loss in his 10-fight career.
He was scheduled to face IBF Intercontinental Champion Bilal Laggoune in Belgium as his mandatory challenger on December 15, however this fight has now been moved to early 2019 after Laggoune suffered an injury in camp.
Laggoune has a record of 24-1-2 and is ranked # 9 in the IBF’s current world rankings.
He will be the toughest opponent Jai has faced to date, though his team are confident they can travel to his backyard in Belgium and secure the title.
Opetaia’s promoter Michael Francis head of Xtreme Sports said he was pleased to see his charge enter into the WBO top 10 and that 2019 will be a big year as we continue to step up the level of opposition with a goal of sharpening up his skills while edging him closer to a mandatory position.
Firstly, we have to get Jai across the line with Laggoune, however we are confident. Our matchmaker Stuart Duncan identified Bilal September last year, so he has been on our radar for quite some time.
We were originally scheduled to face Bilal on October 20 when Jai suffered an injury while sparring in camp and the date was pushed out until December 15 and now sadly Bilal has suffered an injury while in camp in Germany and now we’re looking at March.
‘I suppose the positive to come out of this delayed fight is that while we have been looking at Bilal for over a year, we now have more time for the team to better prepare him for battle.
The good thing with Jai is that he is young and we have time on our side. We are not in any hurry to get him his world title shot and have a plan mapped out for 2019 that will properly prepare him for a world title shot hopefully in 2020.
Stuart has a ‘long list’ of top 15 ranked opponents he feels Jai is ready for now, so for now our focus is purely on Bilal Laggoune and if things go according to plan, which we are confident off, 2019 will be a big year ahead!