Jai Opetaia has been promised a spot in the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk card in Riyadh on February 17. Image by HANDOUT/MATCHROOM BOXING
  • boxing

Opetaia hailed as future heavyweight champ in Saudi

Ian Chadband December 23, 2023

Jai Opetaia has weighed in for his big fight night in Saudi Arabia with British promoter Eddie Hearn predicting the boxing world will be witnessing a future world heavyweight champ in action.

The Australian cruiserweight, increasingly rated one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, tipped the scales at 198.4 pounds (90kg) in Riyadh for Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) money-spinning cruiserweight battle with British underdog Ellis Zorro, who weighed in at 197.4 pounds (89.5kg).

The unbeaten Opetaia has given up his world IBF title to enjoy a reported $680,000 pay day on the undercard of the huge ‘Day of Reckoning’ card, featuring heavyweight stars Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Dimitri Bivol.

Though the 28-year-old Aussie was hardly in the most loquacious mood at the weigh-in when asked about the fight which he’s an overwhelming odds-on favourite to win, Hearn was on hand to talk him up, suggesting the Sydneysider would soon be joining the sort of heavyweight luminaries that were headlining the show.

Asked what the boxing world could expect to see from Opetaia, Hearn said: “You’ll see a future pound-for-pound star, a guy that I think is going to be a multi-weight world champion.

“He is the best cruiserweight in the world, The Ring magazine champion, and you’re gonna see a special talent, you’re going to see a great performance, and you’re going to see the future of the cruiserweight – and I believe one day the heavyweight division as well.”

Opetaia, who hasn’t fought since he outclassed another Briton Jordan Thompson in London in September, had been left frustrated he’s had to give up the IBF crown after the governing body insisted his next fight should be a mandatory defence against Mairis Briedis.

But he sounded like a man keen to take out any irritation on the splendidly named 31-year-old Zorro.

“I’m just ready to get in the ring. One more day – and I’ve waited a long time, let’s go,” he said.

“Just get in there and box smart – if the knockout comes, it comes.”

Asked how he could beat Opetaia, who’s operated at a completely different level, Zorro shrugged: “We’ll see when I get into there, man, there’s no blueprint, he’s an undefeated fighter, I’ll have to figure it out when I get in there.”

Joshua, who faces Otto Wallin, weighed in at 251 pounds (113.8kg), 5.6kg heavier than the Swedish southpaw, whose only loss so far has come against Tyson Fury.

Wilder and New Zealander Parker will also go head-to-head in the other main showpiece, with the explosive-hitting American a lean 213 pounds (96.6kg) compared to Parker’s 245.3 pounds ( 111.3kg).

Wilder, who has won 42 of his 43 victories by knockout, was adamant  Parker had “never felt the power” he possessed, but the Kiwi promised an aggressive approach.