Young, brash and talented, Jai Opetaia is the face of the future in boxing.
The rising star started off this year with a big bang as he punched his way up the ladder going from #15 to #11 in the World Boxing Organisation ranks in just a few months.
Born in Australia Jai was raised on the floors of a boxing gym where he first learnt to crawl then walk around in a playground of boxing bags. His first memories are that of his father training hard and sparring in the ring – a place Jai now finds as familiar as his own home.
“I’m a fourth-generation boxer on my Dad’s side and third generation on my Mum’s side, it is in our blood. My Dad, his Dad and great Grandfather were all professionals so I was born into the gym,” he said.
“When my Dad was training, as a baby I would be crawling around the gym, and then swinging off the bags and it was a natural progression into the ring. It is only fitting that I am now a professional boxer being trained by my Dad and mentored by my Grandad.”
The love of boxing runs deep in the Opetaia family, a passion that is deeply embedded in their traditions.
As Jai builds on their legacy, his patriarchal figures have laid their professional boxing gloves down for a spell in order to guide and mentor their next boxing warrior.
“Without a doubt my Grandad Billy Opetaia is my greatest influence in and out of the ring. I have grown up in the sport, seeing firsthand the discipline it requires to succeed, the highs and lows and just how tough the sport can be, has been beneficial to my career.
“My first fight was at 8 years old so the love for the sport runs deep but aside from family my all-time favourites would be Mike Tyson and David Tua, both very exciting to watch.”
Team Opetaia will be keeping the 22 year old busy this year with his management team ensuring that while they keep up with the momentum of Jai’s quick-burst rise - they will also be doing their due diligence and taking things step by step.
“Preparation is key, we work hard on everything. I’m only 22 and getting much stronger, we spend a lot of time on my fitness and strength conditioning. My Dad does the boxing side of things, he analyses what I need to work on and then we put it together in the gym.”
“This year the plan is to keep as busy as possible, fighting on quality cards against quality opponents to continue my progression through the ranks.”
Last year Jai touched Samoan soil for the first time last year when he was invited to participate in the Fight for Marist II boxing tournament. The trip left a lasting impression with the young fighter hoping to one day fight a title match on his ancestral home ground,
“It was an honour to travel to Samoa, paying homage to my heritage, visiting my family’s villages, exploring its beauty, rich culture and getting to do what I do best, boxing. I came away with a deeper love for Samoan Culture and it has made me more determined to return and fight there again.”
“Ideally, I would love to have a Title Fight in Samoa, I have a big Samoan following on my Athletes Page and it would be great to share it with my family and all Samoan’s as a thank you for the support. My management are currently working on this and we hope to make an announcement within the next couple of months.”
The proud Samoan boxer recently met up with the Samoa boxing team at the Common Wealth Games to show his support and solidarity with his ‘Samoan brothers’
“I have been following my Samoan brothers in their boxing quest at the Commonwealth Games. It was great to catch up with the team and spar with the boys in the lead up to the games and for them to come out and support me at my fight last Saturday night. God Bless Team Samoa.”
Opetaia first turned heads at 17 years old when he created Olympic history in 2012 by becoming the youngest boxer to compete as a heavyweight.
As a 19 year old, it was reported that when Boxing hall of Famer, Jeff Fenech first sighted the then 19 year old heavy weight Jai Opetaia in the ring the moment left him covered in ‘goosebumps’ as he realised the power and potential of the young boxer.
Now at 22 years, the champion in the making is hungry to see how far and fast he can get to the top. If the attitude of high expectations and impatience, characteristic of Generation Z, is anything to go by - we may very well see that eventuate in the near future.
“I have a great Management Team and support crew now along with Stuart Duncan the best Match Maker in the business working with me to achieve my goals.
“God willing, I hope to become world champion within the next 2 years, so I can take care of my family and leave a legacy.”