Home Boxing News Richard Riakporhe wonders whether Jai Opetaia’s face can withstand his punching power

Richard Riakporhe wonders whether Jai Opetaia’s face can withstand his punching power

Richard Riakporhe. Photo credit: Getty Images

Cruiserweight contender Richard Riakporhe 16-0 (12) says he is ready to challenge IBF and Ring Magazine champion Jai Opetaia 22-0 (17) anywhere in the world.

Australian southpaw Opetaia, 27, was locked in to a purse bid with number one contender Mateusz Masternak 47-5 (31) before the Polish veteran withdrew at the 11th hour to pursue a shot at newly crowned WBO titleholder Chris Billam-Smith 18-1 (12) instead.

As a result the IBF has ordered negotiations to begin negotiations with the next highest ranked contender, Riakporhe. If a deal cannot be reached by July 14, the fight will go to purse bids.

“We have a goal and that’s to get the title by any means necessary. It doesn’t matter where it is,” the 33-year-old Riakporhe from London told Boxing News.

“If it’s over there then we just have to work strategically to make sure that we’re in the best situation so we can perform and that’s all it is.”

Opetaia became world champion with a unanimous decision victory over Mairis Briedis 28-2 (20) in Australia last July, but he didn’t exactly come through the fight unscathed. He suffered two fractures to his jaw in the bout, one early and the other late, requiring surgery and a lengthy spell on the sidelines while the injuries healed.

Riakporhe openly pondering if that would make Opetaia apprehensive in the ring.

“I think it’s intelligent to be cautious,” he said. “I think his coach would definitely be cautious. For a jaw to break like that you don’t really hear about injuries like that. Maybe his bones might be a little less dense.

“I could see by the shape of his face he might have soft bones, but I don’t think about that. I’m thinking of a perfect Jai Opetaia and ready to perform better than he’s ever performed before.

“Me personally, I know that you know once you break bones it’s never the same again. I know that for a fact. The worst thing you want to break is bones in your face because whether you take a shot in the same place or another place it might alter everything or everything may cave in.”

If Riakporhe is successful against Opetaia and Billam-Smith comes through the Masternak bout victorious, a unification bout between the two would be a natural with a built-in storyline.

The lone loss on Billam-Smith’s ledger came against Riakporhe by split decision early on in their careers when they were both 9-0 four years ago.

“Richard Riakporhe, it would be brilliant if he can win a world title and we can unify,” the 32-year-old Billam-Smith from Bournemouth said to The Daily Mail.

“I think that would be a fantastic fight. He’s a good guy really but he likes to talk a lot and we’ve spoke a lot over the years since the first fight and he knows how dangerous the fight is for him.

“I think now it’s about him getting a world title and us unifying against each other. I think that would be the biggest fight that I could possibly have in the near future. Let’s hope we can get that one over the line.”