Fighter of the Week: Jai Opetaia

On what seemed like a relatively quiet weekend for the sweet science there was actually one star-making performance in what was a sensational cruiserweight fight in the land down under. The 27-year-old Australian native Jai Opetaia overcame a broken jaw and scored a stunning upset. He delivered a career-best performance in outpointing long-reigning two-time cruiserweight champion and potential future Hall of Famer Mairis Briedis, of Riga, Latvia,  at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Australia to capture the IBF title, move his perfect record to 22-0 (17)  and take home our fighter of the week award.

The tempo for the fight was set in the opening round with Opetaia boxing from the outside and Briedis trying to get inside and force the action. The champ got going in the second scoring with a consistent right hand and breaking the challenger’s jaw with a well-placed uppercut. The Australian stayed to the game plan and would not sit and trade with the Latvian he boxed well from the outside and began to change the momentum. Putting on a boxing clinic with his southpaw jab and precise straight lefts Opetia opened up a lead on the scorecards and had the long-reigning champ in serious trouble. Briedis dug down deep in the final six minutes. A big right by Briedis once again snapped back the head of Opetaia The champ went on to land several right hands and regained the momentum of the fight that was slipping away and closed the round with another right uppercut that again snapped the challenger’s head back. Opetaia got back to the back foot and boxed from the outside. Trying to run out the clock in the final stanza. Briedis closed the gap and emptied his tank in Opetaia fought off the surge and secured the decision victory by scores of 116-112 x2 and 115-113.

I don’t know how many Americans witnessed the sensational performance that Opetaia handed in this past Saturday. Or how big of a household name he is in America or in the UK. However, its the fight fans that are missing out. The Australian delivered a vintage performance that should be the buzz of the boxing world, but because of the location of the fight and the time it was on, not many outside of Australia saw it. He will need to step outside of his comfort zone and travel to the US or UK and battle Okolie or Dorticos and fight in the US with rising Cruiserweight prospect Adrian Taylor could help propel his notoriety in the US. Sergey Kovalev and Badu Jack are now at cruiserweight and despite being well past their primes would still offer a big name for Opetaia to help build his star off of. 

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