Jai Opetaia’s successful return to the ring after injury kept his 2022 world title aspirations on track, while Issac Hardman called out Michael Zerafa after extending his spotless record.
The pair both avoided upheaval on Saturday night at Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane, while NRL forward Tevita Pangai Jnr secured a second round victory in his professional boxing debut over heavyweight Gerico Cecil.
Opetaia’s date with Daniel Russell was considered the biggest risk, however, with IBF World No.3 and WBO No.10 back in the ring after nearly 14 months due to surgery. by hand.
Mandated to fight IBF heavyweight world champion Latvia, Maries Briedis, by April next year, a loss to Russell would have wiped that off-table opportunity.
A third-round stoppage ensured some nervous moments as the 26-year-old improved his record to 21-0.
Hardman took four rounds to defeat Adam Stowe.
In doing so, he avoided an expensive scream at the bar after predicting the fight would be won in five rounds.
“I hit him with caps and he was good at it,” said Hardman, who improved to 11-0, after the fight.
“He was deprived of the opportunity to fight the big names and he took it on the downside, so credit to Adam.
“It almost cost me my paycheck; I almost screamed everyone, but you don’t get anything.
“Everyone here knows what’s next … I’m going to smash Michael Zerafa’s head.”
Earlier in the evening, 42-year-old Lucas Browne rallied to beat fellow heavyweight veteran Django Opelu in a seventh round knockout.
The well-deserved victory was Browne’s first fight since losing to Paul Gallen in April.
Associated Australian Press