Jai Opetaia insists he is ready for literally his tallest order to date.
The challenge of 6’6” cruiserweight Jordan Thompson awaits the division’s reigning lineal and IBF king, who attempts his first title defense this weekend on DAZN from OVO Arena Wembley in London. The bout is the first for Sydney’s Opetaia since he won the crown in a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over three-time champ Mairis Briedis last July 2 in Broadbeach, Australia.
It’s been a load road back for the unbeaten Opetaia (22-0, 17KOs), who had to overcome a broken jaw in that fight and subsequent shoulder surgery which left him unable to get in the ring until early spring.
Withdrawals from the mandatory title defense process by back-to-back challengers left Opetaia out of the ring nearly 15 full months in all.
“It was a long recovery and we had a few things didn’t go to plan getting back in the ring, but we’re here now,” Opetaia noted during Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference for the event. “We’ve grown outside the ring and inside the ring, I am just ready to show it on September 30.”
Opetaia had to endure several delays to finally get to Briedis last summer. A seven-month gap preceded his first championship challenge, as he hadn’t fought since December 2021 prior to that night. In fact, the 28-year-old Australian southpaw went more than 13 months before his 2021 ring appearance, and another 11 months from a November 2019 win to his December 2020 sixth-round stoppage of Benjamin Kelleher.
The win over Briedis cast an entire new light for Opetaia, previously best known as the youngest ever Australian boxer to compete in the Olympics at just 16 years of age during 2012 London. A stiff challenge awaits him this weekend in London’s Thompson (15-0, 12KOs), though Opetaia claims to have long ago trained himself for a show like this.
“We’re ready, we deserve to be here,” insisted Opetaia, who makes his U.K. debut this weekend. “I have earned this spot. I’ve earned the right to headline these stadium fights. and I am excited. I want to earn respect for my team and my country, I’m ready.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox