Saturday, December 02, 2023  |


Jai Opetaia destroys Jordan Thompson in four, retains Ring, IBF cruiserweight titles

Opetaia dominated Jordan Thompson. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
Fighters Network

Ring Magazine and IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia (23-0, 18KOs) reminded the world why he is best-in-class in the 200-pound weight division with a dominant fourth-round knockout over previously undefeated Jordan ‘Troublesome’ Thompson (15-1, 12KOs) at Wembley Arena in London, England on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Australian southpaw was making his maiden title defense on the road and was out to impress the British market in his headline fight on DAZN.

And impress he did, barely putting a foot wrong as he systematically broke down and stopped the six-foot-six Thompson while barely suffering a scratch.

From the opening bell the gap in class was apparent. Opetaia controlled center ring, gliding in and out to land straight left hands to the body and head, negating the four-inch height advantage in Thompson’s favor.

In the lead up to the fight Opetaia let it be known he was out to make a statement. The first glimpse of that came late in the opening stanza when he pinned Thompson to the ropes and unloaded with a volley of shots that shook the challenger right up until the bell.

Opetaia continued to test Thompson’s whiskers in the second, leaping in with a big overhand left early on. Blood began leaking from Thompson’s nose as he struggled to adjust to Opetaia’s speed, movement and angles.

Things only got worse for Thompson in the third when he made the mistake of landing a jarring right cross on the champion. Opetaia responded by launching a vicious two-fisted assault that sent Thompson to the canvas. The challenger beat the count but it was a demoralizing moment for Thompson, who now seemed reluctant to let his hands go for fear of poking the bear.

After finishing the round strongly, Opetaia went on with the job in the fateful fourth. In the opening seconds he stunned Thomspon with a lead left cross that sent him back on his heels. Sensing his opponent was hurt, Opetaia went in for the kill. Another lead left followed by right hook saw Thompson pitch forward, prompting referee Howard Foster to step in and wave off the one-sided contest as the challenger toppled to the canvas at the 0:20 mark.

“I felt like this entire fight week was about Jordan Thompson,” said Opetaia after the win. “It was nothing to do with me. They put me in this small ring thinking they were going to cut me off but look what happened. I got good footwork… I told them I got good power, too. Look what happened.”

Victory was always going to be a stretch for Thompson, who was taking a massive jump up in class to challenge Opetaia.

The 30-year-old Londoner stepped in to face Opetaia as the IBF’s highest ranked available contender after Mateusz Masternak (47-5, 31KOs) and Richard Riakporhe (16-0, 12KOs) both withdrew from scheduled purse bids at the 11th hour to pursue other options.

The fight was then offered to veteran Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20KOs), who Opetaia defeated in July last year to win the world title. Briedis was still recovering from an undisclosed injury and unable to take the fight. The 38-year-old Latvian is now expected to face Opetaia in a rematch next, likely in Australia.

In his post-fight interview Opetaia reiterated his desire to unify the division, starting with Chris Billam-Smith (18-1, 12KOs).

“I’ve been saying at all press conferences, I’ve come here to earn respect, not disrespect,” said Opetaia. “Chris Billam-Smith, I’d love to make that fight happen. I want that WBO around my waist.”

DAZN commentator and former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew believes Opetaia is the class of the division.

“There’s not a cruiserweight in the world who can touch him,” he said.