Lower than a month after one Australian world champion fell, one other residence grown star has an opportunity to hitch one of the illustrious golf equipment within the sport of boxing.
The one factor standing in the best way is a Latvian machine who has misplaced only one battle in his profession and that was to Oleksandr Usyk, the world heavyweight champion and the most effective pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
Watch Jai Opetaia v Mairis Briedis battle for the IBF and Ring Journal Cruiserweight Titles. Saturday 2 July from 7PM AEST LIVE with Primary Occasion on Kayo Sports activities & Foxtel. ORDER NOW>
On July 2, Jai Opetaia (21-0, 17KO) will tackle Mairis Briedis (28-1, 20KO) for the IBF and The Ring cruiserweight titles on the Gold Coast Conference Middle in what’s simply the second world title battle on Australian shores since Jeff Horn defended his WBO welterweight belt in December 2018.
With the 2 lastly set to sq. off after a number of postponements, Opetaia’s promoter Dean Lonergan could not be extra enthusiastic about what’s to return.
“From a credibility standpoint, it does not get any larger,” Lonergan advised foxsports.com.au.
“Not solely is Briedis the primary cruiserweight on this planet, he is additionally obtained The Ring journal belt which is given solely to very, only a few individuals who obtain absolutely the excellence of their division.
“With just one loss underneath his belt, which was by choice to Oleksandr Usyk, which was a southpaw and the identical as Jai. This shall be large.
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“Jai’s going to enter this battle as an enormous underdog, however I feel he’ll come out with a win primarily based on the best way he is been coaching and overcoming adversity.”
To get so far, Opetaia has needed to overcome severe battles.
The 26-year-old fought with a damaged left hand for the previous six years, however nonetheless managed to win each battle.
Moreover, Opetaia suffered a fractured rib and broken his rib cartilage in April which required instant surgical procedure.
Regardless of Lonergan’s fears that his man wouldn’t be prepared in time for July 2, Opetaia has proved him fallacious and is chomping on the bit to get within the ring with Briedis.
On his approach to the world title shot, Opetaia has gone to the judges’ scorecards simply as soon as in his final 16 fights such has been his dominance.
But it surely’s not the Gold Coast-based cruiserweight’s knockout energy that has Lonergan waxing lyrical.
“Jai is extremely highly effective, however most likely his best asset will not be his punching energy, however his chin,” Lonergan stated.
“You’ve got solely obtained to ask the likes of Jeff Fenech who skilled him for a while. I requested him what Jai’s chin is like and it is like a chin of granite. He is by no means seen him off his ft, by no means seen him even wobbled.
“I’ve seen Jai sparring guys which can be 130kg and caught flush at occasions, and it doesn’t make any distinction to him. Jai’s obtained a mix of excellent punching energy but additionally a chin of granite. ”
However there’s solely a lot a superhuman chin can do to maintain you in a battle.
Towards Briedis, Opetaia is taking a large leap into the unknown.
Not solely is Briedis his hardest take a look at up to now and a world champ, however he is nicely and really pushed himself outdoors of his consolation zone.
Opetaia has fought outdoors of Australia on simply three events.
As for the Latvian, he’s fought in seven totally different international locations and has received in each nation he has competed in.
Briedis is clearly nicely traveled and can rightly be the favourite within the Opetaia battle.
However what’s it that makes him such a scary prospect?
“Briedis is a extremely fascinating boxer as a result of he does a complete lot of issues rather well, however he does not do anyone factor that stands out,” Lonergan stated.
“He is an entire boxer and I feel you will discover Jai’s in the identical boat.”
If Briedis’ all-round skill is not sufficient to strike concern into the hearts of Opetaia’s staunchest supporters, then it’s the highest reward from Usyk that ought to have followers of the Aussie’s sweating.
Within the battle between Briedis and Usyk, one decide scored the competition 114-114 whereas the opposite two had it scored 115-113 in favor of Usyk.
It’s the closest heavyweight champ has ever come to dropping in his almost-nine-year profession and didn’t he realize it.
“These are the 12 most tough rounds I’ve ever had in my profession,” Usyk stated in his post-fight interview after defeating Briedis in 2018.
Betting markets have not been set simply but, however it will come as no shock to see Opetaia open as a heavy underdog.
But a win over Briedis would not simply have Opetaia’s supporters making snow angels amid wads of money.
It might additionally current him with a window of alternative that solely George Kambosos Jr. has carried out from the Australian boxing fraternity: unify his division.
Kambosos Jr. did that to the lightweights when he shocked the world by defeating Teofimo Lopez at Madison Sq. Backyard in November final yr earlier than a complete loss to Devin Haney at Marvel Stadium in June the place he left with none of his 4 belts.
Lonergan claims that bringing the cruiserweight division underneath his rule is Opetaia’s greatest motivation ought to he defeat his Latvian adversary.
“Jai has this want that if he does win, he desires to unify as shortly as he can,” Lonergan stated.
“I feel the smarter possibility within the quick time period could be to battle one or two Australian cruiserweights. There’s some actually good ones right here like Jason Whateley or perhaps even somebody from New Zealand like a David Mild who’s a world class cruiserweight.
“We simply have to attend and see. Jai’s actual want and want is to go abroad and battle somebody and unify, perhaps we’ll do this. ”