A young man destined to be Samoa’s next world champion

By Sina Filifilia Sevaaetasi ,

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FATHER AND SON: Jai Opetaia with his father and manager Tapu Opetaia.

FATHER AND SON: Jai Opetaia with his father and manager Tapu Opetaia. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Four Golden Gloves, eight New South Wales titles, the youngest Australian boxer to attend the Olympic Games and an undefeated professional record. 

These are just some of the incredible feats 21-year-old Samoan, Jai Tapu Opetaia, is bringing with him this week for the Marist International Sports Week.

He is the key attraction at the Fight for Marist II boxing tournament, which started last night. Opetaia will take on Tone Fereti at Gym 1 tonight. It’s a bout not to be missed.

Based in Australia, this is Opetaia’s first time in Samoa. His roots are in Lalomanu and Apia. 

 “ I’ve been training hard for this fight,” Opetaia told the Samoa Observer.

“I know its not going to be an easy fight because he’s a Samoan as well.  He’s very tough, talented and strong.  I’ve trained very hard and I’m pretty confident and I feel good. “

Opetaia is a proud Samoan and he plans to carry Australia and Samoa in his progression as a professional boxer.

“This is a start of many trips and we want to even come and run a couple fight nights.  Really hope Samoa gets behind me and supports me all the way.”

Opetaia’s boxing journey is an interesting one.

“It sort of ran down though the family,” he said about how he started. 

“I’m fourth generation on my dad’s side and third on my moms.  It just passed down through generations so I pretty much had no choice.”

At Hotel TanoaTusitala, Opetaiawas flanked by his greatest supporter, his manager, TapuOpetaia who also happens to be his dad.  

Tapu is ecstatic that his son is in Samoa – and fighting.

“Its amazing to come back to our roots. My dad fought here in the sixties from New Zealand and Samoa as well. To come back to our roots is amazing and we’re quite proud to be representing Samoa and Australia.”

The father/manger and son dynamic is an interesting one for Team Opetaia.  

“Its a hard journey,” Tapu said.“Obviously as a dad you don’t want to see your son getting hurt in any way but we just go along and see the journey and give him hope.”

The duo have been through the worst of times and the greatest of times together.  

One of the greatest spotlights in Opetaia’scareer isbeing the youngest  Australian boxer to compete in the Olympic Games.  Opetaiacompeted in the 2012 London Olympic Games on the eve of his 17thbirthday.

Looking back on that experience, he said: “It was a good experience. It was probably the highlight of my amateur career. 

“I was only 16 when I qualified and I was just there with all these older men and I turned 17 the week before I went into the village and It was just crazy  and just walking around these fighters who’ve had 100-200 fights and I was just there like 50 fights , it was awesome to get there.”

After the Olympics, Opetaia made an appearance in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.  Then year after, he turned pro.

Since 2015, he has had a successful career as a professional boxer with an undefeated streak of  eight fights and eight wins  with 5 knock outs.  

He remains just as hungry and passionate as ever and looks to work his way to the top to become the Cruiser Weight World Champion one Day.

“My amateur career was quite successful but now that I’ve turned pro, just work up the ranking and become a world champion. Like Joseph Parker, same sort of belt but in cruiser weight.”

Opetaia has a simple message for the youth of Samoa who desire to become professional boxers.

“It’s all there for the taking.It takes a lot of hard work and fitness. Samoans are born with natural talent and natural skill but we just have to put it in the right direction and train hard for what you want.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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