Boxing: WBO International belt on line between Junior Fa, Newfel Ouatah

The stakes just got a little higher for Kiwi-Tongan heavyweight Junior Fa, when he contests the WBO International belt against Frenchman Newfel Ouatah in Columbus, Ohio.

The Aucklander will put his unbeaten (16-0) professional record on the line on Sunday, in the main event on the boxing card at the Arnold Sports Festival, an annual event sponsored by former bodybuilding movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not only will this be Fa's first lead role on a US card, he now stands to gain a piece of silverware that has eluded NZ rival Joseph Parker.

The WBO International belt was previously held by Dillian Whyte - he successfully defended it against Parker last July - but the Briton vacated his title, when he became top-ranked challenger to WBO champion Anthony Joshua.

Promoter Lou DiBella has secured that title as the prize for this weekend's 10-round showdown. 

"This changes the pressure," said Fa's manager Mark Keddell. "The better the belt, the better the ranking. 

"It's extra pressure, being the main event and now the belt, there are now a couple of big things on the line.

"At the end of the day, sport's not just about being fight and punching hard and making good decisions - it's about pressure and the pressure just went up.

"That's great. because we're wanting to step up and we're definitely doing that from a pressure point of view."

While Ouatah is unranked, boasting a 17-2 professional record, he presents a stern challenge for Fa (1.96m), who has never fought anyone as big as the two-metre Frenchman.

"He's come all the way from France to win, we know that," said Keddell. "We're not fighting at home with our own judges and crowd, so you can't have any 50-50 rounds - you've got to win them.

"But preparation has been good. Junior's in great shape - very fast hands, very fast feet moving in and out.

"His mobility is at another leve from where it's been - I think it's the best we've seen - and his power is bang on."

Earlier on the card, training mate Hemi Ahio rekindles his 12-0 heavyweight career against American Ed Fountain (19-3) over eight rounds.

"It's going to be a real exciting fight," predicts Keddell. "I don't think it will last very long, either way.

"Hemi's a potentially devastating puncher and when you see him throw combinations in training, you think you're watching Mike Tyson at times.

"He's got a style that's really exciting."

More to come

Join us at 2pm Sunday for live updates of the Junior Fa vs Newfel Ouatah fight from Columbus, Ohio.