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Opetaia wins, world title bout on track

Jai Opetaia’s successful return to the ring from injury ensured his 2022 world title aspirations remained on track, while Issac Hardman has called out Michael Zerafa after extending his unblemished record.

The pair both avoided upsets on Saturday night at Brisbane’s Fortitude Music Hall, while NRL forward Tevita Pangai Jnr secured a second-round stoppage victory in his professional boxing debut against heavyweight Gerico Cecil.

Opetaia’s date with Daniel Russell was viewed as the biggest risk though, the IBF world No.3 and WBO No.10 back in the ring after almost 14 months due to surgery on his hand.

Mandated to fight Latvia’s IBF world cruiserweight champion Maries Briedis by April next year, a loss to Russell would have wiped that opportunity taken off the table.

A third-round stoppage ensured few nervous moments though 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 shout at the bar after predicting the fight would be won inside five rounds.

“I hit him with some corkers and he was good for it,” Hardman, who improved to 11-0, said post-fight.

“He was starved of the opportunity to fight the big names and he took this at the drop of the hat, so credit to Adam.

“He nearly did cost me my pay cheque; I nearly had to shout everyone, but you get nothing.

“Everyone here knows what is next … I’m going to smash Michael Zerafa’s head in.”

Earlier in the evening, Lucas Browne, at 42, rallied to beat fellow heavyweight veteran Django Opelu in a seventh-round knockout.

The well-earned victory was Browne’s first fight since a loss to Paul Gallen in April.

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