Fury is preparing for a bout with Oleksandr Usyk on 17 February, when – barring a draw – the first undisputed heavyweight champion in 24 years will be crowned.
Ahead of that fight in Riyadh, Fury has been training in the Saudi city, with Opetaia among the Briton’s sparring partners in order to give him a southpaw opponent to practise against.
Fox Australia broadcaster Ben Damon reported on Sunday (21 January): “Jai Opetaia did five rounds of sparring with Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia but, with a lack of orthodox sparring in Fury’s camp, Opetaia has now returned to Australia to continue his own preparations for the planned Mairis Briedis rematch at #FuryUsyk.”
Damon then reported that rumours of Opetaia, 28, dropping Fury, 35, are not true, while Opetaia’s co-promoters Tasman Fighters released their own statement addressing the matter.
“Jai Opetaia has recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he sparred and trained with Tyson Fury. They were fantastic, competitive rounds and an incredible experience for Jai,” read the statement. “However, any talk of either boxer being dropped is not true. Jai is now back in Australia finalising his preparation to defend his world title and cannot wait to do so in Saudi Arabia.”
Jai Opetaia did five rounds of sparring with Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia but with a lack of orthodox sparring in Fury’s camp Opetaia has now returned to Australia to continue his own preparations for the planned Mairis Briedis rematch at #FuryUsyk
— Ben Damon (@ben_damon) January 22, 2024
Australia’s Opetaia is expected to fight Briedis, whom he outpointed in 2022, for the vacant cruiserweight IBF title on the Fury vs Usyk undercard. Opetaia was stripped of the IBF belt in December, when he rejected a mandated defence against Briedis to box Ellis Zorro on the Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin undercard in Riyadh.
Opetaia knocked out Zorro in brutal fashion in round one to stay unbeaten at 24-0 (19 knockouts) and retain the Ring magazine title.
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