The top two stated targets were both ringside for Jai Opetaia’s latest win.
Unfortunately, the lineal and IBF cruiserweight champion will likely have to settle for the less desirable option for his next outing.
Sydney’s Opetaia was emphatic in his fourth-round knockout of unbeaten though overmatched challenger Jordan Thompson and vocal in his desire to unify in his next fight. WBO cruiserweight titlist Chris Billam-Smith was ringside for Saturday’s DAZN main event from OVO Arena Wembley and the target of Opetaia’s respectful callout.
“I’ve been saying at all press conferences, I’ve come here to earn respect, not disrespect,” stated Opetaia after his successful title defense. “Chris Billam-Smith, I’d love to make that fight happen. I want that WBO around my waist.”
That fight will have to wait, which is just as well; the sport’s politics likely would not have allowed that fight to happen anytime soon. Opetaia is promoted locally in Australia by Tasman Fighters and co-promoted by Matchroom Boxing, who presented Saturday’s event. Billam-Smith is with UK rival promotional outlet BOXXER, whose company has not exactly raced to do business with Matchroom since its September 2021 launch.
For now, it’s a moot point.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Opetaia can soon expect a letter from the IBF to enter negotiations for a mandatory title fight versus former three-time cruiserweight titlist Mairis Briedis, who was also ringside on Saturday.
Opetaia (23-0, 17KOs) was the IBF mandatory challenger when he dethroned Latvia’s Briedis (28-2, 20KOs) last July 2 in Broadbeach, Australia. Saturday marked the first fight for the 28-year-old Australian southpaw since that night; Briedis has not fought at all but managed to elevate to the mandatory position by default.
The first title defense for Opetaia was to have been a mandated bout versus Poland’s Mateusz Masternak, who bailed shortly before a scheduled June 15 purse bid hearing. BOXXER-promoted Richard Riakporhe pulled a similar disappearing act, as he was forced to withdraw the morning of a planned August 8 purse bid.
Briedis likely won’t leave Opetaia standing at the altar. The 38-year-old Latvian is eager to become a four-time cruiserweight titlist and doesn’t have any other realistic option to lay hands upon a major title. He is promoted by Wasserman Boxing, headed by Nisse and Kalle Sauerland who have an excellent working relationship with Eddie Hearn and the Matchroom family.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox