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Opetaia's plan to end Briedis reign

3 minute read

Jai Opetaia will become Australia's only current male boxing world champion if he beats Latvian cruiserweight Mairis Briedis on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

JAI OPETAIA. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Jai Opetaia has declared himself "the new generation of greatness" ahead of his boxing world title shot against storied Latvian veteran Mairis Briedis.

Briedis (28-1, 20KO) will defend his IBF and The Ring Magazine cruiserweight titles against Australian contender Opetaia (21-0, 17KO) at the Gold Coast Convention Centre on Saturday.

The 37-year-old has toiled professionally since 2009 and beaten Marco Huck, Krzysztof Glowacki, Manuel Charr and Yuniel Dorticos and was last year in the world's top-10 pound-for-pound boxers.

His only loss came in 2018 to current heavyweight champion Oleksander Usyk and he plans to fight for at least another three years as he chases unification and a lucrative date with YouTube star-turned boxer Jake Paul.

But Opetaia, who turned 27 on Thursday, thinks Briedis's run ends this weekend.

"He's been a great fighter for a long time but I'm the new generation of greatness coming through and it's time to build my story now," Opetaia said.

"He hasn't fought a boxer like myself. He's been up the top because he's the only cruiserweight with decent movement.

"He got outboxed by Usyk, but the others were heavy, power punchers

"We play the game; it's a chess match in there."

Victory would see Opetaia shoot to prominence as Australia's only current male world champion, poetically five years to the day since Jeff Horn shocked Manny Pacquiao to take his title in Brisbane.

The mandatory challenger has earned his stripes too, qualifying as a 16-year-old heavyweight to become Australia's youngest Olympic boxer at the London Games.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted international fights and stalled his rise, but he used the time to have surgery on a hand injury that had troubled him for years.

A painful rib injury that also required surgery, and a bout of COVID-19 for Briedis, forced the fight to be rescheduled twice from its original date on April 6.

"You don't just get given this ***t, you've got to go and get it," Opetaia said.

"I've got the ability and I've just added the hard work onto it."

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