With less than three weeks before his highly anticipated rematch with Mairis Briedis on the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undercard in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jai Opetaia says he is “the new generation of great” for the cruiserweight division.

Opetaia (24-0, 19 KOs) came out of nowhere to defeat Briedis for the IBF title nearly two years ago in Gold Coast, Australia. An Aussie southpaw, Opetaia has since gone on to sign with promotional powerhouse Matchroom and score dramatic stoppage wins against Jordan Thompson and Ellis Zorro last year.

“Certain things have changed, and a lot of it has stayed the same,” Opetaia told BoxingScene. “It’s the same old, eat, sleep, train type of s***. Then, for instance, we got invited to the Tyson Fury training camp. We are rubbing shoulders with greatness now. We train hard and tick every box, and people are starting to notice now that we mean business. It’s great, to be honest with you. We’ve taken the long route, but we are here now. I feel like I’ve arrived at just the right time.”

Briedis’ career has since stalled, and he hasn’t had a fight since being relinquished of his belt by Opetaia. A rematch has been repeatedly ordered by the IBF since, but the second installment never came – until now.

“He’s still got that dog in him,” Opetaia said. “I was thinking that in that first fight where I got the victory, you can’t have a great fight without two great fighters. I broke his nose, he broke my nose, we battled it out and kept fighting. He had blood all over his face, I had my fucking jaw swinging off my face, you know what I mean?

“I’m expecting a Briedis that will be in his last fight. He wants to go out with a bang. I got a lot of respect for him inside the ring, but I’m doing the work and I’m training hard. This is my time – he’s had his time. I said before our first fight, he was a great fighter, but I’m the next generation of great coming through. Now I get to prove it again.

“I used to watch him and Usyk fight when nobody knew who I was. At the time I was just trying to climb the rankings and compete with these guys. Now I’m fighting him for the second time. Hard work pays off. Like I said, it’s my time now.”

Opetaia-Briedis II takes the chief support slot on the first undisputed heavyweight title fight in a quarter of a decade.

“To be on these stages and be on these fights that are creating history, I‘m born to do it, I’m built for it,” Opetaia said. “I’m built for this, it is a part of who I am. I don’t feel out of place, and as I’ve said before, I’ve taken the long route to get here. We haven’t taken any shortcuts. We’ve had to scratch and claw to get to where we are. It feels good, it’s an earning thing. When we walk out to the ring, I know this is where I am meant to be. Not many people get to experience that feeling. I’m grateful and blessed – the work has only just begun.

“For a person like me, I’ve been boxing my whole life. My life has been molded for boxing. I had my first fight when I was 8 years old; even before that, I was always training in the gym. I come from a gym where there is a bloodline of fighters. I’m a fourth-generation fighter on my father’s side and third on my mum’s. I was literally born to f***ing box. It’s all I’ve ever done and all I’ve ever known.”