Opetaia to take care of "unfinished business"
Samoan-Australian cruiserweight boxer, Jai Opetaia, is ready and raring for his next fight, a rematch with New Zealander, Ben Kelleher, set for 22 October at The Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane.
The big rematch is being announced in Australia on Thursday but ahead of the announcement, the undefeated 25-year-old from Apia and Lalomanu told the Samoa Observer he could hardly wait. He said he wants to take care of "unfinished business."
The men fought in 2018 where Kelleher suffered a broken hand in the third round of the fight. Opetaia won but he said the feeling was not complete.
“I am actually really excited to fight him again because I want to beat him properly,” he said.
Opetaia explained everything has slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he adits that it is a bit frustrating with border closures stopping him from coming back to Samoa.
“It has been hard during these times. You know we are just trying to stay positive, it’s slowed everything down a lot,” Opetaia said in an interview with Samoa Observer.
“We were at the point of my career where everything was sort of coming fast, you know the big fights were starting to come up and then COVID hit."
He explained that the impact of the pandemic is frustrating but he has hopes that everything will soon go back to normal.
“It will all calm down soon hopefully and things will go back to normal,” he said.
Asked about his preparations for his upcoming fight, he said: “Training is going really well. I feel good."
"The fight has been pushed back a few times, now its finally locked in on the 22nd so I have been training really hard. I’ve been up in Queensland away from home doing heaps of training."
Opetaia said he takes Samoa wherever he goes and he appreciates the support from everyone.
“I appreciate all the love and support they have shown. To all the kids out there, just training hard, just keep going," he said.
“It’s very frustrating at this time as well but if we keep working through this it will all pay off."
Opetaia has been in Queensland for six weeks training for his next fight and according to him, he is looking forward to being back in the ring representing both Samoa and Australia.
“Flying one flag is one thing but flying two flags and having two countries behind you in every fight, it's an honour," he said.
Opetaia further stated that he is looking forward to coming back to his "second home," Samoa, to visit family, relax and do some fishing.
“I look forward to coming back real soon, I can’t wait,” he added.
Jai Opetaia (19-0) V Ben Kelleher (13-1-2)
Ben has only been defeated once in his career as a boxer and that was to Jai two years ago when Ben broke his hand in the third round. Jai offered him a rematch that night and it has taken until now (two years later) for Ben to take up the offer. Ben is a tough opponent with a stellar career in MMA before moving to boxing.
Ben holds the IBF Pan Pacific Title, while Jai is the IBF Asia Pacific Champion.
Jai is ranked at number #5 in the world with the IBF right now. So securing this fight Jai will go into number #3.
Number #1 and #2 is vacant with the IBF so this means Jai will be the next mandatory opponent to fight for the IBF Cruiserweight Title of the World.