Home Boxing News Jai Opetaia continues to improve, out to dominate Mairis Briedis in May

Jai Opetaia continues to improve, out to dominate Mairis Briedis in May

Jai Opetaia. Photo credit: The Sporting News

Ring Magazine cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia is “a different beast now” according to his manager Mick Francis.

The 28-year-old Australian southpaw returned to the ring with a bang last year, knocking out Jordan Thompson and Ellis Zorro.

Opetaia 24-0 (19) battered Thompson 15-1 (12) for four rounds in London, England in September, dropping the six-foot-six challenger twice before scoring the stoppage.

Zorro 17-1 (7) was less fortunate in his fight against Opetaia in Saudi Arabia in December. He was wiped out in under three minutes when a boom left cross detonated on his chin.

Francis says the drive, hunger and mean streak that Opetaia has exhibited in recent fights has not expired. The scheduling delay for his rematch against Mairis Briedis 28-2 (20), who he won the IBF title from two years ago, has only stoked his competitive flames.

“Jai Opetaia is a different beast now,” Francis said to Fox Sports Australia. “That’s why nobody is calling him out. The idea that all these world champions want to fight him, it’s bullshit.

“The only one who has officially said anything is Briedis and that’s because he feels he has a point to prove.

“But you see the way Jai’s conducting himself now, it’s intense.

“It’s been this way his last two fights, he’s a much more aggressive fighter than he was before Briedis and that’s why he is becoming a superstar globally.

“He’s the baddest cruiserweight in the world and his fights will mainly be over here for the next two years.

“He will dominate the cruiserweight division, unify, then move up to heavyweight himself.”

Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes Opetaia alongside Francis’ Tasman Fighters, has long been a believer in Opetaia’s ability.

“I think this is the guy that’s going to rule the division. I really do. I think he’s a monster. He fought a big guy tonight but he showed levels. He’s a special fighter,” the Matchroom Boxing chief said after witnessing Opetaia destroy Thompson.

“When you look at Australian boxing, this guy beat the best in the division Mairis Briedis — he should be a hero in his country. I hope people tuning in right now back home start to realise and put some respect on this guy’s name.

“You’ve got Tim Tszyu, who’s a great fighter, but this is a guy that’s done it, beaten champions and I think he can go on and rule the whole division. Honestly, I think he beats every man in the division.”

Opetaia will face Latvian veteran Briedis, 39, for the vacant IBF belt at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 18. The bout will takes place on the undercard of the undisputed heavyweight championship fight between Oleksandr Usyk 21-0 (14) and Tyson Fury 34-0-1 (24).

Francis has a multi-fight deal in place for Opetaia with Saudi Arabia that will see him fight almost exclusively in the Middle East over the next two years.