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Jai Opetaia relocates to Queensland to kickstart career

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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World-rated Australian cruiserweight Jai Opetaia 19-0 (15) has relocated from his home in Gosford to the Gold Coast in a cross-border move designed to reboot his career during the coronavirus pandemic.

The undefeated 25-year-old southpaw, who hasn’t fought since his impressive eighth-round stoppage of Mark Flanagan in November, believes the Queensland move will give him the best opportunity to fight again in 2020.

“It seemed like just when it was about to start getting more important for us that’s when it all just sort of cut out,” Opetaia told AAP.

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“If I focus on the negative too much it’ll just keep eating me up.

“So we’re just focused on the positive, when we just work out our next move forward instead of what could’ve happened.”

Opetaia is ranked in the top 10 of all four major sanctioning bodies but his options at the moment remain limited.

According to The Ring ratings, half of the top 10 cruiserweights in the world hail from Europe with another three fighting out of South Africa and the remaining two from Cuba and the USA.

The plan for Opetaia at this stage is to secure a rematch with Queenslander Ben Kelleher in October in Brisbane.

Opetaia won their first fight in 2018 when Kelleher retired in the third with a broken hand.

It’s a far cry from the fights Opetaia thought he’d be preparing for, but getting himself into the ring during the pandemic is important for ensuring he can pursue international opportunities in the future.

“I want a world title shot but with this whole COVID-19 it’s so hard,” he said.

“The main sort of cruiserweights and stuff are all over Europe, the world-ranked ones, and just to get over to Europe or get someone over here is just a big headache at the moment.

“Every fight I have to treat like a world title fight… if I can’t beat this guy then it’ll sort of put me back so much more so, I’m focused, I’m ready.”

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