Australian Cruiserweight and cousin of Tim Cahill, Jai Opetaia, improved his record to 20-0 with a TKO 6 victory over Ben Kelleher.
Opetaia returns to the ring for the first time since November and takes care of some domestic business by stopping previous victim Kelleher.
Southpaw Opetaia had everything going for him: height, reach faster hands, quick movement, and youth-although Kelleher did come to fight and had the classier tattoos.
From the outset, Opetaia used his advantages to score at a distance. By the second, he brought his left into play more often and strung together some impressive combinations.
Kelleher kept rolling forward but was too slow to cut off the ring and paid for that as Opetaia bounced quick-fire light combinations and some more solid straight lefts.
If there was a fault, it was that Opetaia was mainly headhunting. A frustrated Kelleher threw Opetaia to the canvas in the fourth. Still, Opetaia upped his pace in the fifth, mixing straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts and skipping away from any counters thrown by Kelleher, who was now cut over his right eye.
Opetaia ended it in the sixth. He relentlessly bombarded Kelleher with head punches driving him around the ring for over a minute before, with Kelleher just covering up, the referee finally stepped in as the towel flew from Kelleher’s corner. A sparkling, quality performance from Opetaia.
The 24-year-old from Sydney has now won 15 of his last 16 fights by KO/TKO and is rated No 4 by the IBF. Still, since positions 1 and 2 are vacant, he is the second-highest-rated fighter behind Kevin Lerena. There is talk of a meeting of the two with the winner then being the mandatory challenger for Mairis Breidis.
Opetaia suffered an injury to his left hand, but it was not reported to be in any way serious. He was defending the WBO Global and IBF Asia Oceania titles but has yet to face a top-level opponent, with his three victims in 2019 being No’s 320, 255, and 81 in the current Box Rec ratings, but he looked imposing here.
He is talking about moving up to heavyweight eventually. Both of Kelleher’s losses have come against Opetaia as he was stopped by Opetaia in three rounds in 2018 for the Australian title.
The New Zealander had won his last six fights and gave it a try here, but the class gap was too wide.
Huni vs. Opelu
Opetaia may have been the big name on the card, but he was overshadowed by 21-year-old Huni, who set a national record that can never be beaten as he won the Australian heavyweight title in his first pro fight. The 6’3” 240lbs local fighter was much too mobile and quick for Samoan Opelu.
His movement had the stocky Opelu swishing air and open for counters. Huni poured on the punishment, scoring with heavy single shots and quick, accurate combinations catching Opelu with every punch in the book. None of it seemed to make any impression on Opelu, who continued to march forward and managed to test Huni’s chin, particularly with a wicked uppercut.
Despite the constant punishment, Opelu just spread his arms wide, goading Huni to do his worst and kept coming back for more.
He was trapped on the ropes in the seventh with Huni unloading huge head punches when Opelu’s corner finally threw in the towel. Huni is the first Australian fighter to win the World Youth Championship title at heavyweight and won a bronze medal at the World Championships, losing on a walkover due to injury in the semi-finals.
He was beaten by much more experienced 6’ 7” Uzbek Bahodir Jalolov in the final of the 2020 Asian/Oceania Olympic Qualifier but by finishing second, still qualified and intends to fight at the Olympics 2021. He aims to become the first Australian to fight for the world heavyweight title since Alex Leapai, who lost to Wlad Klitschko in 2014 and naturally to win it.
He is certainly one for the future. Samoan-born Opelu,26, was 8-0-1 before this and was making the Australian title’s first defense.