Home Boxing News Jai Opetaia: “I deserve to be here, I’m the best cruiserweight on...

Jai Opetaia: “I deserve to be here, I’m the best cruiserweight on the planet”

Jai Opetaia and Ellis Zorro

Undefeated IBF and Ring Magazine cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia 23-0 (18) did not hesitate to accept a fight against Ellis Zorro 17-0 (7) despite knowing nothing about his opponent.

The 28-year-old Australian will face Britain’s Zorro, 31, at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 23. The card will also feature WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol defending his title against Lyndon Arthur and six heavyweight bouts including Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin and Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker.

Opetaia was given little time to decide if he wanted to be part of the card, but he didn’t need it.

“This stuff happened pretty quickly,” Opetaia said. “You know, I probably only got told about it 10 hours before we came over here that I was actually coming.

“And to be honest, I don’t even know what my opponent’s name is. They just told me about this card and they said I could be a part of it.

“So I just said, you know, like pretty much, where do I sign? So whoever they put in front of me is who I’ve got to beat.”

After sitting out for more than a year due to a combination of injury and a court case against his former promoter, Opetaia returned to the ring with a bang in September when he travelled to England to knock out previously undefeated Jordan Thompson 15-1 (12) in four rounds at Wembley Arena in London.

It was a brutal display of power boxing.

“We came here to make a statement (against Thompson), wanted to do some damage,” Opetaia said at Thursday’s media conference.

“This one, we want to take our time… the damage will come.”

Opetaia earned the respect of the boxing world with his gritty world title win on the Gold Coast in Australia in July last year when he battle through two fracture to his jaw to dethrone world champion Mairis Briedis 28-2 (20) by unanimous decision.

The 38-year-old Latvian veteran’s only other loss was to current WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine champion Oleksandr Usyk 21-0 (14) by majority decision in their WBC and WBO cruiserweight title unification bout in January 2018.

Opetaia’s win over Briedis proved his credentials but the Sydneysider, who now resides on the Gold Coast, wants to consolidate his position as the king of the 200-pounders by unifying the division.

Before that can happen he will have to get past Zorro two days before Christmas on what stacks up as the biggest card of the year.

“There’s a big part of me that’s so grateful to be a part of this card,” Opetaia said. “But the other half is like ‘I deserve to be here’. I earned my spot here. On the 23rd of December I will remind them that I’m the best cruiserweight on the planet.