Evander Holyfield, David Haye, Oleksandr Usyk: these are the names Jai Opetaia could join in boxing history as his team plans his path to stardom.
Opetaia is set to challenge for a world title early next year after the IBF mandated a bout between the Central Coast product and cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis by April 14, 2022.
Talks are underway to bring the bout to Australia as soon as late January-early February, with Opetaia's promoter Dean Lonergan keen to lure the bout to Sydney or Canberra.
Latvia's Briedis [28-1] defended his crown inside three rounds against Artur Mann on Sunday morning [AEDT], with talks now set to accelerate.
Lonergan's grand plan has Opetaia winning a world title on home soil and then unifying the division before a move up to heavyweight. That would see him follow in the footsteps of Holyfield, Haye and more recently Usyk, who have won titles in both divisions.
"It's not out of the realms of possibility that Jai could move up to heavyweight if he can win this world title," Lonergan said.
"I think you'll find Jai will say he'd want to unify the WBO and IBF belts if he can win this one first up, but you've got to get past the first test and that's to win the world title.
"I would love to do that. I would like to see Jai follow in the footsteps of David Haye, who jumped from cruiserweight and went onto win the heavyweight title, the same as Evander Holyfield and Oleksandr Usyk.
"From cruiserweight, it's not that many kilos to move up. If you have a look at Usyk, he only weighed in at like 105 kilos for his fight against Joshua. Deontay Wilder fought most of his career at 99 kilos. This is not a huge weight jump for Jai.
"If you look at the height of Usyk, he's only 6'3. Jai is 6'2, 6'3. While Tyson Fury is an absolute monster and hard to beat, Anthony Joshua has proved susceptible to smaller guys, he was knocked out by Andy Ruiz and now beaten by Usyk. Ruiz is not that big, he fought Joseph Parker in Auckland so I know exactly how big Ruiz is."
I think you'll find Jai will say he'd want to unify the WBO and IBF belts if he can win this one first up, but you've got to get past the first test and that's to win the world title.Dean Lonergan
Briedis' promoter Kelly Sauerland of Wasserman is keen to bring the bout to Australia in what would mark the country's biggest title fight since Jeff Horn stunned Manny Pacquiao in front of more than 50,000 fans in Brisbane in 2017.
Opetaia is unbeaten in 20 professional fights and members from his camp are confident he will go to another level following surgery on a hand injury which has hampered him for years.
"The money has got to work, but if the money works, they'll be quite keen to come to Australia and show off the No. 1 cruiserweight in the world down here," Lonergan said.
"If we can get them down here, they're going to be in for a rude awakening because that's what Jai Opetaia is."
Meanwhile, rising Australian star Brock Jarvis secured a fifth-round TKO victory over Alejandro Frias Rodriguez in a rollercoaster US debut in Fresno on Sunday morning.
Jarvis entered the bout a short-priced favourite but was seemingly on the verge of being stopped during the second round, only just managing to survive an onslaught before going on to win the IBF Intercontinental lightweight title.
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