Monday, September 25, 2023  |



Tasman Fighters sign Jai Opetaia to Matchroom Boxing, strike deal with DAZN

Ring/IBF cruiserweight champ Jai Opetaia poses for a photo ahead of the Tim Tszyu-Carlos Ocampo fight at Gold Coast Convention and Entertainment Centre in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Fighters Network

It has been a busy week for Australian promotional outfit Tasman Fighters, who have struck a new broadcast deal with global sports streaming service DAZN and inked a co-promotional agreement between The Ring’s cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia (22-0, 17 KOs) and Matchroom Boxing.

Opetaia has not fought since claiming The Ring and IBF cruiserweight titles from Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20 KOs) by unanimous decision last July in what was this publication’s Upset of the Year. Two separate fractures to the 28-year-old southpaw’s jaw sustained in the Briedis fight followed by a court battle with his former promoter Dean Lonergan has kept him on the sidelines since.

But that is about to change with plans for him to defend his belt against Englishman Richard Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KOs) on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia on August 23.

“The deal Tasman Fighters has struck with Matchroom is a massive opportunity for Jai Opetaia to move forward in his career on a global scale. It also opens the door for all of our contracted fighters and Australian boxing in general,” said Mick Francis, Managing Director of Tasman Fighters.

“Pathways for our athletes is something we consider is the key to developing boxing in this part of the world and with Matchroom it is finally a reality. We are looking forward to the future.”

Opetaia has long coveted all four sanctioning body belts at cruiserweight. The addition of an internationally renowned promoter to the team should only help propel him towards this goal even faster.

“This is something that Tasman Fighters and myself have always worked towards and now I just want to start taking these big fights and unify all the titles,” said Opetaia.

Matchroom Boxing boss Eddie Hearn has shown interest in Australia in the past, promoting one show Down Under in October last year and signing up local talent like junior welterweight contender Liam Paro (23-0, 14 KOs) and heavyweight prospect Demsey McKean (24-0, 14 KOs).

Opetaia is the blue-chip signing for Matchroom’s Australian expansion.

“I am thrilled to welcome Jai to the Matchroom Boxing Team and delighted to be working closely once again with Tasman Fighters,” said Hearn.

“Jai’s win over Briedis was an historic moment for Australian boxing and solidified him as the number one in the cruiserweight division. There is no doubt that he can collect all the belts to become undisputed ruler and not just become a superstar at home, but all over the world.

“Australian boxing continues to rise and Matchroom wants to be a major part of that growth, and with Jai joining our other Aussie stars, we look to return there soon.”

The first card under the broadcast deal with DAZN kicks off this weekend when light heavyweight Conor Wallace (10-1, 7 KOs) meets Mat Sheehan (10-1, 7 KOs) at the Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane on Saturday night over 10 frames in a fight that is unlikely to hear the final bell.

In the main support bout hot featherweight prospect ‘Deadly’ Dana Coolwell (10-2, 7 KOs) clashes with hard-headed late replacement Manuer Matet (5-4, 3 KOs), also over the 10-round distance, after original opponent Luke Boyd (10-0, 10 KOs) withdrew due to injury.

Boxing fans outside of Australia may not recognise these names, which is precisely why the DAZN deal is so important in this country. It puts eyeballs on the emerging talent and helps them build their brand outside of their own backyard.

“This isn’t just for Tasman Fighters, this is for Aussie boxing,” Francis told The Ring. “This is an opportunity for all fighters, all promoters, all managers in Australia to be part of something amazing on a global platform.

“Every young fighter in Australia wants to fight on a platform they can be proud of to build their brand. And everyone, from the good ones to the average ones, they all deserve respect and the type of opportunity we are offering with DAZN.

“We want to work with every promoter in the country, every fighter in the country, every manager in the country. We want to share this as much as possible.”

Broadcast deals are at a premium in Australia at the moment after No Limit Boxing sewed up an exclusive deal with lone local cable network Foxtel and their sports arm Kayo to be the sole provider of boxing content.

“Our athletes deserve to have their talents shown to fight fans all over the world and I’m certain viewers are going to like what they see,” Francis said.

Joseph Markowski, CEO North America, DAZN group, is bullish about the opportunity presented in a largely untapped market.

“Australia is a hotbed of boxing talent as has been shown with so many talented Australian fighters making their mark in the professional ranks these past few years,” he said.

“DAZN are incredibly excited to be teaming up with Tasman Fighters and broadcasting these brilliant events worldwide.”

Tasman Fighters have assembled a quality stable consisting of some of the brightest talents in this part of the world, including Justis Huni, Taylah Robertson, Conor Wallace and Dana Coolwell, with plans to keep adding to their roster.  

“It’s never happened before in Australian boxing history, so this is enormous news,” said Matt Clark, Director of Boxing for Tasman Fighters. “Every boxer naturally wants to be televised, if possible, it’s the nature of the sport. You want to create a name for yourself and do things to the best of your ability. And now with this new deal, our fighters are going to be broadcast all over the world. It has never happened before and it’s a huge opportunity for anyone that’s on our books or who wants to join us.”

Francis wants to see his younger talent ride the wave of Opetaia’s success under his principle of “think locally, act globally”.

“Absolutely. That’s the idea of it. Why develop international fighters when we have our own talent here?” Francis said.

“That’s the whole point of bringing this platform to Australia, to give everyone in Australia that opportunity to fight on a global stage.

“It just makes sense.”