New Bulldogs forward Pangai Jr has made his professional debut in style, securing a second-round stoppage victory in a heavyweight bout against Gerico Cecil.
Cecil weighed in at 120 kilograms while Pangai Jr tipped the scales at 114 kilograms.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph ahead of Saturday’s fight, Pangai Jr revealed some simple advice he had received from general manager of football Phil Gould.
“He just said, ‘Make sure you don’t make the club look bad’,” Pangai Jr told The Daily Telegraph.
Pangai Jr will leave for Sydney after Saturday’s fight as the Bulldogs rip into pre-season training ahead of their 2022 NRL campaign.
Watch Hardman vs Stowe + Opetaia vs Russell + Opelu vs Browne. Live from Brisbane Sat 4th Dec from 6:30PM. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial >
Later, rising Australian boxing star Issac Hardman is taking a big risk while Bulldogs recruit Tevita Pangai Jr will making his professional boxing debut in a stacked card on Saturday night.
Hardman will be taking to the ring for the fourth time this year when he fights Adam Stowe in the main event of ‘Super Saturday’.
The 26-year-old former MMA fighter boasts an unblemished record (11-0, 9 KO) and is eyeing a blockbuster bout with Michael Zerafa next year.
First though he will need to make sure he does not slip up against Stowe or risk putting his money where his mouth is after making quite the promise in the lead-up to the fight.
“I’m going to walk straight up to Adam Stowe, bounce my gloves straight off his head and then shortly after that his head will bounce off the canvas,” he told the ‘Main Event Boxing Podcast’.
“I will leave, get paid and have Christmas. That’s how it finishes within five rounds. If not, I’ll buy everyone in that venue a beer.”
There is a reason Hardman is so confident though, having made a rapid rise through the ranks in the boxing world.
“11 fights in that is unheard of to be positioned where I am,” he added.
“You look at all the guys in front of me… all their first 10 to 15 fights were against people with losing records. I’m positioned where I am because I take the hard fights and opportunities that come my way.
“The people in front of me, they’re not taking the fights I am. Look where I am? 25 years old, 11 fights in and world ranked.”
One of the next fights on Hardman’s list includes rival Michael Zerafa, who the 25-year-old described as a “proper flea bag”.
But first Hardman has his full focus on Stowe as he headlines his first boxing show.
“I can’t wait to smash that guy but I’m not thinking about him, I’ve got to get past Adam Stowe first but yeah Zerafa, no-one likes that guy,” Hardman added.
Like fellow Aussie Tim Tszyu’s bout last month with Takeshi Inoue, Hardman too is entering the ring with little to gain from beating Stowe.
He does have plenty to lose though given an upset loss could impact the future bout with Zerafa.
“Imagine if I get chinned by Adam Stowe,” he said.
“He gets all the rankings, all the belts, possibly a fight with Michael Zerafa. I’m not sure. I’ve got everything to lose in this fight and that’s the risk you run when you want to stay busy.
“Just like Tim Tszyu with his mandatory world title opportunity, he ran risk of taking the fight and it paid off.”
It is all worth it though for Hardman who is confident of continuing his unbeaten run and building momentum.
WORLD TITLE SHOT ON THE LINE IN AUSSIE’S RETURN
Elsewhere, rising Aussie star Jai Opetaia is on the brink of a world title shot and will be making his comeback to the ring against Daniel Russell.
Opetaia is in line for a shot at IBF cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis with the fight set to take place in Australia.
Boasting a 20-0 record, Opetaia has soared up the cruiserweight division but has not fought since October 2020 after suffering a serious hand injury.
He has since undergone surgery and feels “unreal” ahead of Saturday’s fight.
“This is one of the best camps I’ve had,” he told the ‘Main Event Boxing Podcast’.
“I’m injury-free. As everyone knows I’ve had my left-hand operation and it’s fully healed. I’ve never felt so strong and fit.
“I haven’t had a fight this year due to the injury. It’s going to feel good [to get back in the ring]. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve taken a long road. Just when I was at the peak I had this hand surgery and it brought me straight back down.”
With a shot at the world title on the line, Opetaia admits there is pressure but he embraces it.
“There is pressure but I’ve always been searching for that world title,” he said.
“There is no extra pressure that hasn’t already been there. It was always our goal to fight these big fights.
“I don’t want people to think we’re in the business of competing for world titles. We’re winning world titles and want to make history.
“It’s probably the best card Australia has had this year and I’m excited to sort of make my comeback on this card.”
AUSSIE VETERAN’S CHANCE TO SILENCE RETIREMENT TALK
On the other spectrum, Lucas Browne is at the end of his career but still looking to prove himself in a different way.
The 42-year-old’s last fight ended in defeat to Paul Gallen and had many jumping to a simple conclusion according to Browne.
“A lot of people Australia-wide took it as ‘you should retire’ but if he didn’t hit me in the back of my head five times and pop my eardrum, it would have been a lot better,” he told the ‘Main Event Boxing Podcast’.
“He’s the cash cow of that event so I’ve got to keep moving forward. I’ve trained my a*** off and now it’s time to prove myself again.
“People look at my last fight with Gallen and say I should retire. Previous to that I won a world title so how do you judge it.
“Being 42, everybody is going to look at me and think he’s not the same, something’s changed, he’s too old. At one point I was just cruising but that is not a good place to be.
“The fact there is a little bit of fire underneath me and a level of fear to prove myself is a very good place.”
WHAT TIME DOES IT START?
The fight card will begin at 6:30pm (AEDT).
HOW TO WATCH?
All the action will be broadcast live on Kayo and Fox Sports.
FULL FIGHT CARD
Isaac Hardman vs Adam Stowe – middleweight
Andrew Hunt vs Ben Kite – welterweight
Jai Opetaia vs Daniel Russell – cruiserweight
Faiga Opelu vs Lucas Browne – heavyweight
Dana Coolwell vs Miles Zalewski – super featherweight
Ankush Hooda vs John Ake – middleweight
Tevita Pangai Jnr. vs Jericho Cecil – heavyweight
Taylah Robertson vs Kylie Fulmer – bantamweight
Termoana Jnr vs Hunter Sam – heavyweight
Adam Copland vs James Honey – super middleweight