Australia’s unbeaten cruiserweight world champion Jai Opetaia believes Joseph Parker will beat Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia next week to throw a spanner in the works of the American’s plans to face Anthony Joshua in 2024.
Wilder and Joshua are set to fight in separate bouts against Parker and Otto Wallin, respectively, on the huge ‘Day of Reckoning’ card in Riyadh on December 23 before potentially facing each other if they both emerge victorious.
They have reportedly already agreed a deal to fight one another in Saudi Arabia on March 9, indicating they are confident of avoiding any slip-ups.
But Opetaia has warned fans to not get too excited about Wilder and Joshua getting in the same ring any time soon, as he has tipped Parker to get the better of the Bronze Bomber.
Parker has recovered from losing to Britain’s Joe Parker last year to win all three of his fights in 2023, with his last two victories coming inside three rounds.
Jai Opetaia (pictured) believes Joseph Parker will beat Deontay Wilder on December 23
Wilder (left) is returning to the ring for the first time in over a year against Parker (right)
Wilder is hoping to set up a fight with Anthony Joshua (pictured) but Opetaia thinks Parker will derail those plans
Opetaia has been impressed by the momentum the former world champion has built, and after watching his progress closely in recent months he thinks the New Zealander is capable of shocking Wilder in Riyadh.
‘I’m backing Joseph Parker for Wilder,’ he told Mail Sport.
‘I feel he’s really picked it up a couple of notches since his last couple of bouts, I see him training hard, he’s grinding, and I’m backing him all the way.’
Opetaia has his own bout on the Saudi undercard as he is set to take on Britain’s Ellis Zorro.
His preparation has been disrupted by the news that the IBF are ready to strip him of his world title if he goes through with his voluntary defence against Zorro instead of facing mandatory challenger Mairis Briedis, who he won the belt off in Australia last year.
Despite being threatened with losing his title, Opetaia is still set to fight Zorro, his second consecutive British challenger after he stopped Jordan Thompson in the fourth round at Wembley Arena in September.
The 28-year-old hopes Zorro is capable of bringing the best out of him, as he has vowed to put on a ‘big show’ in front of the huge global audience set to tune in to one of the biggest boxing cards ever.
Opetaia is set to be stripped of his IBF world title, but is still fully focused on putting on a ‘big show’ against Britain’s Ellis Zorro (right) on the Saudi undercard
Zorro will be Opetaia’s second British opponent in a row after he dominated Jordan Thompson in September
‘It’s a massive stage, a massive audience that’s going to be tuning in. It’s going to be great for my profile, great for everything in my career. I’ve just got to go in there and do what I do,’ he said.
‘We’ve been training extremely hard, I feel like I’m prepared for anything he brings to the table so I’m hoping for his best because I’m looking at putting on a big show.
‘We’re fighting on one of the best if not the best fight nights I’ve ever seen in history so I’m expecting a good fight. I want a good fight.
‘I want to show people who the best cruiserweight is and I need a good opponent to do that.’
Opetaia has been fighting at the highest level for over a decade after becoming Australia’s youngest-ever Olympic boxer when he competed at London 2012 as a 17-year-old.
But he has endured a frustrating rise through the professional ranks at times, with injuries and postponements stalling his progress.
He is still recognised as the best cruiserweight on the planet by The Ring magazine, and a move up to heavyweight is on the horizon.
Opetaia plans to move up to heavyweight at some point, but still has goals he wants to achieve at cruiserweight first
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Oleksandr Usyk, Evander Holyfield and David Haye – who have all won world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight – is a target for Opetaia, but he insists he still has plenty more to achieve in the lower weight category before jumping up to boxing’s blue-riband division.
‘I’m only 28 so I feel I’ve got a lot of boxes to tick as a cruiserweight first. I’d love to collect some more belts,’ Opetaia added.
‘But it’s hard to say, my career has been such a rollercoaster with getting fights and there’s been so many postponements and pull-outs, date changes, I’ve had so many surgeries and stuff like that.
‘Nothing has really worked in our favour but we stay focused, we stay strong, we stay dedicated and when the time comes and me and my team feel like it’s right, we’ll do it.’