Jai Opetaia training for title fight in Samoa

By Thomas Airey 28 January 2019, 12:00AM

Champion Samoan-Australian boxer Jai Opetaia is in Samoa for a training camp ahead of his March 22nd fight in Belgium against Bilal Laggoune for the IBF Inter-Continental Cruiserweight title.

The undefeated 23-year old is currently 13th in the IBF world rankings, and was in the top ten last year.

Opetaia said 7th ranked Laggoune is a good fighter, who is confident in the ring.

“He throws a lot of punches, he’s got a high work rate.

“But he hasn’t got too much power I don’t reckon.”

This is the third time a fight between the pair has been scheduled, with both fighters having to pull out through injury previously.

The delays have meant Opetaia hasn’t fought since June last year, the biggest gap between bouts of his career.

“In the contract for this fight, can’t fight anyone else until it happens.”

He started training to fight the Belgian Laggoune two weeks ago, as part of a ten week training camp before leaving for Belgium ten weeks before the event.

Opetaia said that leaves a lot of time to get fitter and stronger.

“It’ll be my first 12 rounder fight, so it’s just preparing for that.

“As long as the fitness is there we’ll be sweet.”

He said training under harsh conditions should help.

“It’s more humid here, but in Australia it’s been real hot too.”

Having arrived on Sunday for this week’s camp, Opetaia said he came to Samoa to get away from any distractions at home in Australia.

“Coming somewhere to just focus on training, train-eat-sleep routine.”

Getting back in touch with his heritage is part of the reason for coming as well.

“I’m real close with my Samoan side, we’re very family oriented.”

Opetaia’s father is Samoan and he has many relatives here.

“It’s good to come and learn a lot more, because I lived in Australia my whole life,” he said.

“Wednesday I’m looking forward to, we’re going fishing, so that should be good.”

He said he is keen to keep coming back to the island for training camps.

“We’re looking at locking in a fight [as well], coming to Samoa and putting on a show in June.”

Opetaia previously fought Togasilimai Letoa in February 2017 at the Faleata Sports Complex in Apia, on his first visit to Samoa.

“That was an awesome turnout, all going to plan we’ll be back.

“There’s been a lot of good boxing coming out of Samoa lately.”

He said he wants to cement a place in Samoa’s storied boxing history, and would love to experience the same support former heavyweight champion Lupesoliai Joseph Parker receives here.

“Him being such a big name in Samoan boxing, I’d like to have something similar but make my own name.

“I want to take my own path.”

By Thomas Airey 28 January 2019, 12:00AM

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