Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Jai Opetaia hopes to seize the momentum of his title defense to put his career on track

Jai Opetaia poses during a portrait session at Wickedbodz on April 26, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Fighters Network

On Saturday, Jai Opetaia successfully defended his Ring and IBF cruiserweight titles against Jordan Thompson with a comprehensive fourth round stoppage at Wembley Arena, London.

Coming into the fight Opetaia hadn’t fought in 14-months since claiming the titles against Mairis Briedis in a physically demanding, high impact fight in which he suffered a badly broken jaw.

Some fighters aren’t the same after such an injury. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Opetaia try to work his way into the bout against someone as tall and rangy as Thompson. However, any notion of ring rust was quickly dispelled when the 28-year-old defending champion hurt Thompson late in the opening round.

“I haven’t had the fights but I’ve been training very hard,” Opetaia (23-0, 18 knockouts) told The Ring on Monday afternoon. “I’ve been staying active, we got ready for a couple of fights, I’ve had five camps we’ve been through. We weren’t sitting on our arse doing nothing, we were staying sharp, staying fit and I feel I’m getting better and better, as the times comes, I’m getting more experience under my belt.”

From there Opetaia proceeded to break his opponent down and bloody his face. Thompson was down in the third round and then again in the fourth round which persuaded referee Howard Foster to call a halt the massacre at 0:20 of the round.

As well as the jaw injury, Opetaia had seen previous mandatory challengers Mateusz Masternak and Richard Riakporhe back out of fights with him at the calling of purse bids, which further extended his time out of action. It looked as though the talented Australian took his frustration out on Thompson.

“I’m happy with the performance,” said Opetaia. “He was always pretty dangerous, I felt a bit of his power. We got the job done, we fought smart.”

Although Opetaia came into the fight with The Ring championship and IBF title having beaten the previous No. 1 Briedis, there was some debate as to who was the premier cruiserweight in the world and while it’s fair to say Thompson wasn’t considered amongst them the performance from Opetaia suggested he quite possibly is the best at 200-pounds.

“I believe I am,” he said. “I knew Jordan hadn’t been on my level, he had never fought anyone on my level and his skill wasn’t on my level. He had that power but not the ring I.Q, the science. I knew I had more tools than him.”

That Opetaia won wasn’t a surprise, the way he did hinted that as well as being the best cruiserweight in the world he may just be something special.

While the only name of note on Opetaia’s ledger is Mairis Briedis, if you peer a little closer you realize he had an extensive amateur background, winning three national titles, gold at the 2011 World junior Championships, bronze at the 2012 World Youth Championships and then despite being just 17 he boxed at the 2012 London Olympics. He gained further seasoning at the 2014 Commonwealth games before turning professional in August 2015. All of which gave him an excellent grounding.

“That’s right, I’ve been boxing my whole life,” he said. “I’ve just been waiting for these platforms to showcase what I can do. I’ve always known it. It’s what my life led to. Boxing is all I do, it’s all I’ve ever done since I was a kid. It was just a matter of time.”

The performance itself left me and others judging by what the commentors on DAZN and my X time line said wanting more.

“I’m excited to get back in there, I feel like I’m yet to reach my full potential,” he said. “The more fights I get the more momentum we’re going to build and that’s what we want.

“I’m hoping for a fast turnaround, the IBF might demand I fight Briedis but I’m hoping for a unification fight next.

“We’ve just got to sit down with the team and plan out the next fight. I’m not sure, they haven’t given me any dates yet. The way things have gone with negotiates, who knows [Laughs.] I’m staying positive, I’ll stay in the gym and when the opportunity does pop up I’ll be ready.

“There’s no person I’m chasing, I’m just chasing belts. I don’t look at names, all I want is more belts. So, whoever has the belt, that’s who I want to fight.”

His co-promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom will give Opetaia the opportunity on DAZN whether it’s back home in Australia, where a stadium fight would be big business or a return the U.K. home of several top cruiserweight or somewhere is in the world to display his undoubted talents. He certainly seems worthy based on the heart he showed against Briedis and skill that was on display against Thompson.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].