Jai Opetaia wins vacant IBF cruiserweight title, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk up next

Jai Opetaia wins vacant IBF cruiserweight title, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk up next

By abc.net.au
Sunday 19/05/2024
Jai Opetaia defeated Mairis Briedis by unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia. (Action Images via Reuters: Andrew Couldridge)

Australian fighter Jai Opetaia has won the vacant IBF cruiserweight title following a bloody 12-round bout with Mairis Briedis.

Opetaia reclaimed the title, which was stripped from him last year, with a unanimous decision 117-111, 116-112, 116-112.

The Australian was dominant for the first half of the fight, before Briedis made a stirring comeback to rock the Australian multiple times.

Opetaia was stripped of the belt last year after taking a big payday fight in Saudi Arabia.

The former champ was dominant in the opening six rounds, before his 39-year-old Latvian opponent wound back the clock to produce a tremendous fight back.

"We knew we were in for a tough fight. I said it [through] the whole lead-up," Opetaia said.

"We were ready for 12 rounds of war, and that's what we got."

The Australian said the turning point that led to Briedis's fight back was a head clash, which he claimed broke his nose.

After that, he said the Latvian nailed him with a few shots which hurt.

"Mairis Briedis, I'm honoured to share the ring with a champion like that," Opetaia said.

"I idolised this guy … to be here and share the ring with him, he's a true warrior."

The victory moves Opetaia's record to 25-0 (19KO) and is the second time he has defeated Briedis.

The fight was the co-main event before Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

Story By: Michael Doyle

Original Story link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-05-19/jai-opetaia-wins-ibf-cruiserweight-title/103866410

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