IBF and Ring Magazine World Cruiserweight champion, Jai Opetaia’s (22-0, 17 KOs) road back to the ring has been tumultuous to say the least.
Since capturing the crown from Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20 KOs) in June 2022, the 28 year old has had to deal with a plethora of hurdles, all unique in form but equally as damaging.
Whether it be legal disputes with promoters, multiple injuries or the seemingly never-ending revolving door of potential opponents, drama has been the one constant over the last 14 arduous months.
It is with little wonder then, that Opetaia is eager to make a statement in his September 30 (October 1 AEDT) clash with unbeaten contender, Jordan Thompson (15-0, 12 KOs).
“It was a long recovery and we had a few things that didn’t go to plan getting back in the ring, but we’re here now,” Opetaia told the media.
“We’ve had so many camps, we’ve grown outside the ring, inside the ring and I’m just ready to show it.”
With resilience at his core, Opetaia will undoubtedly be hoping to wrestle back any momentum he has lost through his hiatus.
After 12 rounds with Briedis, a majority of which he fought with a broken jaw, the Australian seemingly had the boxing world at his feet.
Not only had he defeated the consensus best fighter in the division, he had also exhibited an exorbitant amount of heart and bravery in doing so. As a result of such heroism, Opetaia’s stock as a global boxing brand grew tenfold.
In his eyes then, the upcoming Thompson meeting will also serve as a reminder of his stature within the fight game.
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“We deserve to be here,” Opetaia added.
“I earned this spot. I earned these headlines for these stadium fights. I’m excited.
“I want to earn respect for my team, my country. I’m ready.”
The challenger in Thompson, a man aptly nicknamed ‘Troublesome,’ has other ideas.
Standing at a whopping six feet, six inches tall, the 30 year old Brit’s imposing frame and power punching has proved far too much to handle for his previous 15 foes.
With this, an air of confidence has filled the Tony Sims’ trained combatant.
To Thompson, a win over Opetaia will be a case of destiny fulfilling itself.
“We all know boxing, we all know what it takes to become a world champion,” he said.
“I’m going to go in and I’m going to take the belts off him and I’m going to do it by knockout.
“That’s how I have to go in there and that’s how I have to set about my business.”
Despite the lay off and the game opponent awaiting, the champion is full of conviction.
With an intensity that belies his quiet demeanor, Opetaia will enter the Wembley Arena with the belief that his boxing knowledge and skills will guide him to victory.
“We adapt as well. I can adapt to a lot of styles. I’ve been boxing my whole life, I’ve earned this spot. I’ve earned to be up here,” he concluded.
“This didn’t happen by accident. Saturday night, we do it again.
“I want to collect all the cruiserweight world titles.”