Home Boxing News Australian cruiserweight Jai Opetaia lands world title shot early next year

Australian cruiserweight Jai Opetaia lands world title shot early next year

Jai Opetaia. Photo credit: Getty Images

Undefeated Australian cruiserweight contender Jai Opetaia 20-0 (16) will get a shot at IBF cruiserweight championship before 14 April 2022.

The current IBF champion is Mairis Briedis 27-1 (19) who will defend his title against German Artur Mann 17-1 (9) in his native Latvia this Saturday night.

Briedis has only ever lost to reigning WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion and former undisputed cruiserweight boss Oleksandr Usyk 19-0 (13) by majorit decision.

Sydney southpaw Opetaia, 26, has not boxed for a year. His last fight was a sixth-round knockout of Ben Kelleher in a rematch of their 2018 bout that ended prematurely when Kelleher was forced to withdraw in the third round with an injured hand.

“This is what I’ve been working towards for my whole life, I’m finally going to tick the box,” Opetaia told Fox Sports.

“People are excited about getting a world title shot. But I’m going in there to win, not just participate. I’m bringing the belt home.”

Opetaia is one of the hottest young prospects in Australia. A smooth moving lefty, he glides around the ring brilliantly for a big man and has shown a vicious streak when he has his opponents hurt.

Promoter Dean Lonergan is planning to put together a proposal to bring the Briedis-Opetaia fight to Australia.

“Our initial discussions with Briedis’ promoter Wasserman suggests they would be happy to come to Australia if all the conditions are right,” Lonergan said to Fox Sports.

Lonergan added that he expects Briedis to defeat Mann this weekend.

“We expect to be fighting Briedis,” he said. “We’re looking at late January or early February, but it has to suit Wasserman and Briedis.”

The 36-year-old Briedis is expecting a tough challenge from the little-known Mann, whose lone loss came to South African Kevin Lerena 26-1 (13) by fourth-round knockout two-and-a-half years ago.

“I’m feeling good. My training has gone well and I’m looking forward to the fight,” said Briedis.

“It’s going to be a special feeling walking out in front of my supporters at the Arena Riga again. I’m not expecting an easy fight. I know Artur Mann is a dangerous boxer. I will need to be at my best to beat him but I have trained hard and I am ready to defend my titles.”

The 31-year-old Mann will be fighting on the road for the third time in his 18-fight pro career. Along with the loss to Lerena in South Africa, he bested Alexey Zubov 17-2 (9) over 10 frames in Chicago three years ago.

“My training is over and I’m ready to fight. I have been dreaming of this opportunity for a long time,” Mann said.

“Briedis is a very experienced boxer. I know it will be a tough fight but I am focused on what I need to do. This will be my biggest fight but I believe I can win. I am well trained and and I am ready.”