Mairis Briedis has his next fight lined up, though a lower profile affair than the reigning cruiserweight king hoped to be the case.
Up next for Latvia’s Briedis is a mandatory IBF cruiserweight title defense versus unbeaten Jai Opetaia. BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the bout will take place April 6 at a location to be determined in his challenger’s native Australia. The exact venue is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Briedis (28-1, 20KOs) will make the second defense of his IBF belt and lineal championship. The 37-year-old cruiserweight king enjoyed a hometown showcase for his previous outing, a one-sided third-round knockout of overmatched Artur Mann last October at Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia. The fight was his first since reclaiming a piece of the heavyweight throne with a twelve-round, majority decision win over Yuniel Dorticos in the World Boxing Super Series Season Two cruiserweight finals in September 2020.
The win over Dorticos came after an extended delay in moving forward with the WBSS finale, in part due to the pandemic. The other part of it was Brieidis having to wait out a ruling from the WBO, who ordered the now three-time titlist to enter an immediate rematch with Krzysztof Glowacki following their controversial June 2019 clash in Riga. Briedis won the WBSS semifinal bout and the WBO title by third round knockout, though marred by referee Robert Byrd’s gross mishandling of the contest to the point.
The rematch never came, with Briedis opting to vacate as he remained committed to the WBSS tournament. Briedis was a semifinalist in the WBSS Season One tournament, losing a twelve-round decision and his WBC title to Oleksandr Usyk for his only career defeat to date.
Briedis’ third title reign has so far produced a mismatch for his lone title defense and a bizarre obsession with content creator and boxing 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.
The desperate call for attention didn’t go anywhere for Briedis, who instead settled for a mandatory title defense to keep active and free up the rest of his 2022 campaign.
Opetaia (21-0, 17KOs) enters his first career title fight without any real proof that he even belongs on the contender level, even as a former amateur standout.
The 26-year-old southpaw represented Australia in the 2012 London Olympics. Opetaia did 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. 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.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox