Jai Opetaia, the now two-time IBF cruiserweight champion, admits he wants unification fights over any other alternatives.

Opetaia won the IBF title a first time against Mairis Briedis in July 2022 but was controversially stripped when negotiations stalled for a rematch after the Australian had defended the title against Jordan Thompson last September. Two months later, Opetaia destroyed the overmatched Ellis Zorro in a non-title affair.

He won the belt for a second time after beating Briedis again last month, but many still identified him as a champion and Opetaia agreed that it was now business as usual rather than time to celebrate.

“The belt … it is what it is,” Opetaia said. “To be honest, after I won the fight, it wasn’t even like I won a world title. It was more just winning another fight. The belt was just a bonus.”

Latvia’s Briedis was again a handful. Despite the trajectory of Opetaia’s career since and Briedis’ inactivity, the two shared another physical battle and the champion said lessons had been learned.

“I feel good. I’m happy I got the win,” Opetaia added. “I feel like it was a good learning fight. It was good to get the hard 12 rounds in.”

Did he think he could blitz Briedis, given his form against more lightly regarded foes?

“I knew he was going to be a hard fight,” Opetaia admitted. “I honestly believe he’s still one of the best cruiserweights in the division. I personally think he beats anyone else with the belts. I knew we were in for a big fight, but I wasn’t expecting that sort of version of Briedis. 

“I was sort of expecting him to come out more aggressive, but he fought cagey. He wasn’t giving me much to work off. It was good. It was learning.”

Even though he did not like his own work, Opetaia was at least happy that he showed room for improvement because that gives him more to work on back in the gym.  

“I’m not really happy with my performance, but it’s like I’ve watched it back, I’ve seen a couple of things I want to work on, and I’m happy for that,” he explained. “I’m happy I learned the lesson with a ‘W.’ A lot of people, it takes a loss for them to realize what they need to do and what they need to fix, so it’s a big learning curve for us.”  

Modest yet determined, Opetaia is eyeing up his divisional rivals closely and says he is ready to go. Recently, WBO champion Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez declared he was a free agent, and that is a fight that entices Opetaia.  

“For sure. We definitely want that unification fight. It doesn’t matter what belt, we just want another belt,” he said.

Having boxed now in Saudi Arabia and apparently impressed GEA chairman Turki Alalshikh, Opetaia says he is ready, and despite suffering some nasal damage against Briedis he insisted he could box on the Aug. 3 card in Los Angeles if the opportunity arose.

“I’m good to go,” he added. “We’ve just got to maintain this nose, but I’m sweet. I’m good to go. I want to be back.”

He also would not mind Ramirez being in the opposite corner that night.

“Whatever, for sure,” Opetaia said. “You know I’d take it straight away, but I can’t force these guys to fight me.

“They talk like they want to fight me, but you throw the fight at them and who knows what they’re going to say? But I’ll fight whenever. 

“I can’t control everything. I can only fight who they put in front of me. That’s not my job. My job is to train hard and win the fights. But I want the unification fights. I want the big fights. That’s what I’m chasing. I stay in the gym, keep working hard, and when they give me a name, that’s who I’ve got to hit.”

After Dmitry Bivol retained his WBA light heavyweight strap against Malik Zinad on Saturday, Alalshikh named Opetaia, along with David Benavidez, as possible future foes for Bivol should Bivol unify the 175-pound belts on Oct. 12.