JAI OPETAIA has been forced to make the biggest decision of his career – and it has cost him his IBF cruiserweight title.
The Australian hard-hitter rose to fame after dethroning world champion Mairis Briedis in 2022.
And since then, Opetaia has recovered from a broken jaw before securing a convincing fourth-round stoppage victory against Jordan Thompson over a year later.
But in unusual circumstances, Opetaia has lost his world title without stepping foot in the ring.
However, the decision has opened another chapter in Opetaia’s boxing journey.
Who is Jai Opetaia?
Born June 30, 1995, Jai Opetaia is an Australian boxer who was raised with a Sydney, New South Wales and Samoan heritage.
Sport runs in his family tree as the Aussie star is related to Premier League icon Tim Cahill.
And Opetaia’s name first hit the headlines when he won the Light Heavyweight title at the 2011 Junior World Championships before qualifying for the 2012 Olympics as a Heavyweight at age 18 as the youngest ever Australian Olympic boxer.
Opetaia got the bronze medal at AIBA World Youth Championships in the heavyweight division, but failed to pass the first round at the Olympics.
However, the Australian heavy-hitter hasn’t looked back since as his professional boxing record stands at 23 wins and 0 losses – most notably snatching the IBF cruiserweight title from Mairis Briedis in 2022.
Why has Jai Opetaia been forced to vacate the title?
Jai Opetaia was offered ‘life-changing money’ for a two-fight deal to box in Saudi Arabia along with facing Ellis Zorro on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s thrilling fight against Otto Wallin.
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However, the IBF would not allow permission for Opetaia to commence in battle with another opponent before his scheduled title rematch against currently injured Mairis Briedis.
As a result, Opetaia was left with an ultimatum – pull out of the Saudi fight or be stripped of his IBF cruiserweight world title.
And the Australian boxer decided to accept the Zorro fight for a reported fee of £1.5million which just leaves him with the prestigious Ring Magazine belt to his name.
Mairis Briedis’ camp had no issues with Zorro stepping in as a replacement but the IBF were not prepared to change their stance.
What has been said?
Opetaia’s team brought clarity to the situation by putting out a statement that read: “IBF world cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia has decided to vacate his world title belt.
“The move comes before his scheduled December 23 bout in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia against Ellis Zorro.
“With mandatory contender Mairis Briedis currently unavailable due to injury, Opetaia’s team were hopeful that they would be able to defend the belt against Zorro.
“However, the IBF declared that Briedis must be Opetaia’s next opponent despite the fact that Briedis’ team had also agreed to step aside to let the Zorro bout take place while the former champion recovers and a deal in place face Opetaia in February.”
Opetaia also said: “I fought through absolute agony to win that belt and it saddens me to relinquish it.
“I am the true king of the cruiserweight division and I’ll be defending that prestigious Ring Magazine title on December 23.
“I look forward to getting that IBF belt back as soon as possible and adding all of them one by one.”
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