Mairis Brieidis is once again healthy and armed with a new fight date.
The reigning lineal/IBF cruiserweight champion is back on track to proceed with his mandatory title defense versus unbeaten Jai Opetaia. The rescheduled bout will take place May 11 at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in the Gold Coast suburb of Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia. The fight was pushed back by five weeks after Briedis (28-1, 20KOs) had to withdraw from the previously announced April 6 date after testing positive for Covid.
Breidis hits the road for his second title defense after enjoying a home game for his previous outing. The 37-year-old cruiserweight king enters on the heels of a one-sided third-round knockout of overmatched Artur Mann last October at Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia. The fight was his first since winning his third cruiserweight title following a twelve-round, majority decision win over Yuniel Dorticos in the World Boxing Super Series Season Two cruiserweight finals in September 2020.
In his time since the win over Mann, Briedis has bizarrely set his sights on content creator and cruiserweight novice Jake Paul (5-0, 4KOs), The pursuit has included Briedis getting a leg tattoo of Paul along with dropping a diss track in response to Paul’s own callout of UFC president Dana White.
Paul responded to the callout by claiming to be unaware of ‘Mario Briedis,’ prompting the reigning cruiserweight king to don a Super Mario Bros. costume while working as part of the February 27 DAZN broadcast in London featuring WBO cruiserweight titlist Lawrence Okolie. Briedis was asked to serving on the hosting panel to discuss the possibility of a unification bout with Okolie but will first honor his mandatory title defense obligation.
Opetaia (21-0, 17KOs) is a highly credentialed former amateur standout, though who carries a thin resume in the pro ranks. The 26-year-old southpaw represented Australia in the 2012 London Olympics, doing so as the reigning Junior World Champion and—at age 16—the youngest ever boxer to represent Australia in the Olympics.
The pro run for Opetaia hasn’t been nearly as spectacular, though he has developed as a gate attraction at home. His popularity was enticing to convince Briedis—who is prompted by Wasserman Boxing—to travel down under for his next adventure. Opetaia has yet to fight a scheduled 12-round bout, while having only fought beyond the eighth round just once through six-plus years and 21 pro fights.
Briedis has won his last five starts since his lone career defeat, a 12-round loss to Oleksandr Usyk in their January 2018 cruiserweight title unification bout.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox