Can Jai Opetaia Go On to Reign as a World Heavyweight Champ?
More than a few boxing enthusiasts view IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia (23-0, 18 KOs) as the best in the division. The fighter from Sydney, Australia aspires to achieve greatness, which includes eventually becoming the world’s heavyweight champion.
Next up for Opetaia is a title defense against Ellis Zorro on December 23 in Saudi Arabia. Fighting on the same card that as former world heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, the IBF champion is excited about being part of such a big boxing event. During an exclusive interview with TalkSport, Opetaia said he’s ready for his moment in the sun.
SETTING NO LIMITS FOR HIMSELF
Opetaia is coming off an impressive third-round stoppage over Jordan Thompson on September 30. Some in the boxing community anticipate great things for him long-term.
He’s already getting compared to Oleksandr Usyk – the former undisputed cruiserweight and current unified heavyweight champion. When Opetaia was asked whether he would like to follow in the footsteps of Usyk and seek glory in the heavyweight division, the Aussie said the following:
“Definitely, that’s the goal.”
ALL THE PHYSICAL TOOLS
Standing 6’4”, Opetaia has the kind of frame where he could put on weight without taking anything away from his speed. Like Usyk, the reigning IBF champion is a highly skilled and athletic southpaw. Opetaia may be slightly faster and a more explosive puncher.
From a physical standpoint, modern-day heavyweights are larger than ever. But except for WBC champion Tyson Fury, they generally lack pure boxing skill and ring IQ. Usyk has proven that if you are of decent size for the division, carry enough power to gain your opponent’s respect, and can move and box at a high level, you can do plenty of damage. Opetaia has similar attributes.
In the short term, Opetaia wants a unification fight with WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith in 2024. But with a burning desire to be one of the elite fighters of his era, the fighter from Australia has a bullseye on the heavyweight division.