Home Boxing News Jai Opetaia’s inaugural title defence sent to purse bids

Jai Opetaia’s inaugural title defence sent to purse bids

Jai Opetaia. Photo credit: Tasman Fighters

IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia 22-0 (17) is looking to return to the ring later this year after purse bids were ordered for the Australian southpaw to defend his belt against mandatory challenger Richard Riakporhe 16-0 (12) of England.

The 28-year-old has had a rough run of luck getting back in the ring following his title winning effort against Mairis Briedis 28-2 (20) on the Gold Coast in Australia in July last that saw him claim not only the IBF strap but the prestigious Ring Magazine belt too.

Opetaia won by unanimous decision but had to battle through two fractures to his jaw to get the win, leaving him on the sidelines for some time.

This was followed by a contractual dispute with his former promoter Dean Lonergan that went through the courts.

When the court rule in his favour, it finally seemed like Opetaia’s career would get back on track. Negotiations for a fight with IBF number one contender Mateusz Masternak were ordered, but the Polish veteran withdrew at the 11th hour to pursue another path.

“No one wants to fight Jai and that’s the problem – they know they’re going to get beat,” Opetaia’s manager Mick Francis told AAP.

“It doesn’t matter if they fight on the Gold Coast, the UK or on the moon. He’s the baddest cruiserweight we’ve seen and we’ve never had anyone genuinely call out Jai, ever.”

In steps Riakporhe, who Francis has tried to convince to come to Australia to challenge for the world title.

If an agreement cannot be reached by August 8, a purse bid will be held that will pit Riakporhe’s promoter BOXXER and broadcaster Sky Sports against Opetaia’s promoter Matchroom Boxing and broadcaster DAZN.

“You’ve got two of the biggest boxing powerhouses in the UK going at it now, plenty of pride on the line there to get this fight,” Francis said.

“Eddie has made it clear he wants to do it in Australia and put [heavyweight] Justis [Huni] on the undercard.

“He’s got Stevie Spark at Matchroom too, Conor Wallace… we could put on a massive, high-quality card and I know Gold Coast wants to be the boxing capital of Australia.”

Toowoomba product Spark 16-3 (14) burst on to the world scene last year with a DQ win over highly touted prospect Montana Love in November.

He backed this up with a strong showing in a 10-round split decision loss against Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela in Mexico in May in a bout that many fans and pundits thought he deserved to win.

Just this week the 26-year-old announced he would be moving up to welterweight after campaigning at 140-pounds since turning pro nine years ago.

Southpaw Wallace 11-1 (8) was on show to an international audience earlier this month when he knocked out Mat Sheehan in the opening round of a light heavyweight contest in Tasman Fighters’ first show on DAZN.