Opetaia crowned cruiserweight world champion

Jai Opetaia (left) during the IBF cruiserweight title fight against and Mairis Briedis at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on 2 July 2022, Gold Coast, Australia. Photo: Getty Images / Peter Wallis

Australian-Samoan boxer Jai Opetaia sprung a major shock in snatching the IBF and Ring cruiserweight titles from Latvian legend Mairis Briedis.

The 27-year-old endured a damaged jaw which he sustained in the second round but fought on bravely in the 12-round contest to win a unanimous decision in a brutal fight in Broadbeach, Gold Coast.

The scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113 in favour of Opetaia in his 22nd fight – all of which he has won, with 17 coming by way of knockout.

Photos and videos uploaded on social media showed an emotional Opetaia with his face covered with blood, hugging his mother and partner.

The ABC said Opetaia’s jaw was so badly damaged that he was only able to mumble that he was “happy” after the fight.

“I’ve done it,” he added before saying he could talk no longer.

Breidis himself was injured in the bout, suffering a broken nose.

Afterwards, another title holder, Britain’s WBO champion, Lawrence Okolie, was said to have been in contact with the new champion via Twitter, requesting a unification fight.

Opetaia has added a world championship belt to a national crown in a stellar amateur career that included his becoming Australia’s youngest-ever Olympian at age 16 in 2012.

In 2018 he won the Australian Cruiserweight title and has since added Asia-Pacific and Oceania belts in the division.

Latvian Breidis first won the world title in 2017 and was regarded as the true world champion by the long-established Ring magazine.

Source: RNZ