Home Boxing News Jai Opetaia overcomes the odds and a double broken jaw to become...

Jai Opetaia overcomes the odds and a double broken jaw to become world cruiserweight champion

Jai Opetaia after defeating Mairis Briedis. Photo credit: Jono Searle

Undefeated Jai Opetaia 22-0 (17) became the man at cruiserweight with a unanimous decision victory over IBF and Ring Magazine champion Mairis Briedis 29-2 (20) at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Australia on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old Australian southpaw got off to a fast start, showing no respect to the reigning champ as he got off first and last, using clever footwork and angles to dictate the pace and range, cutting Briedis over the right eye in the opening stanza. But it didn’t come without a cost, with Briedis busting Opetaia’s jaw in the second round.

Opetaia continued on unfazed and by the fourth round Briedis was bleeding from a suspected broken nose.

“The uppercut sailed through and did damage and busted the nose of the champ Mairis Briedis, who didn’t know where he was,” Main Event commentator Ben Damon said.

“The champion looks flustered as blood courses from his nose. Opetaia is boxing a clinic.”

Through six rounds it was all the challenger and the 37-year-old Latvian champion knew he had to dig deep to salvage a win. He showed that in the seventh round where he came on strong and continued to apply the pressure through the back half of the fight. The uppercut was a particularly effective weapon but Opetaia simply would not be bowed.

In the 11th round Briedis landed another punch that fractured the other side of Opetaia’s jaw.

But despite his facial injuries, Opetaia stayed game and boxed his way to a 116-112, 115-113, 116-112 victory.

Opetaia was unable to be interviewed after his signature victory due to the twin fractures to his jaw.

“Ringside doctor believes Jai Opetaia suffered a ‘bilateral mandibular fracture’ (fractured jaw on both sides) likely in round 2 and 11,” Damon tweeted after the fight.

“Will clearly need surgery. Mairis Briedis has visited the new champion’s dressing room to congratulate him and ask for a rematch.”

Any rematch will likely have to wait until next year as Opetaia gets his jaw fixed.

“He has shown himself to be otherworldly tough. He still didn’t go down.” Damon said.

“This is an epic fight. An incredible battle. An absolute war between two warriors here on the Gold Coast.”

Damon wasn’t the only one impressed by Opetaia’s toughness and resilience.

Jeff Horn, who won the WBO welterweight title from Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao exactly five years earlier, said: “I’m so excited for him, I feel like I’m shaking. It brings me back five years ago and winning the title and I’m so happy for him.

“He was a teammate of mine in 2012 (at the Olympics), he’s such a skilful guy and he showed that tonight. He did absolutely awesome. I’m very proud of him like everyone else is as well.”

Barry Michael, who held the IBF super featherweight title in the mid-1980s, said: “Mairis Briedis is a superb world champion with dynamite in both hands and we’ve seen that. And he’s beat him with a busted jaw.

“Phenomenal, great story. It’s life changing what this man has just done. It’s life changing for him, but it’s going to become legendary in Australian sport.”