Jai Opetaia
Jai Opetaia has beaten Latvia's Mairis Briedis to win the IBF cruiserweight world title. Image by HANDOUT/MATCHROOM BOXING
  • boxing

Aussie restores order, wins back belt in Saudi slugfest

Murray Wenzel May 19, 2024

Jai Opetaia has hung tough to restore Australian boxing order and reclaim his world title in a bloody rematch with Mairis Briedis.

The Australian won a fluctuating contest for the IBF cruiserweight title on the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undercard in Saudi Arabia on Sunday morning (AEST).

A unanimous points decision (117-111, 116-112, 116-112) took a turn in the 10th round when Briedis, in his first fight since their first encounter nearly two years ago, accidentally headbutted Opetaia’s nose and launched a late rally.

The 39-year-old Latvian found his range to have Opetaia on the ropes in the final two rounds.

But the Australian’s early dominance made it an easy night for the judges as he became the country’s only current male world boxing champion.

Opetaia reclaimed the belt he took off Briedis in 2022 but was forced to give up earlier this year, when he fought Ellis Zorro in Saudi Arabia against the organisation’s wishes.

The Gold Coast-based 28-year-old’s victory snapped a run of recent title-fight losses by Australian quartet Tim Tszyu, George Kambosos Jnr and Moloney twins Jason and Andrew.

With Cristiano Ronaldo among the celebrities in the front row, Opetaia was in cruise control in the first half of the fight.

In the sixth round he rattled Briedis with a short left hook then a straight left that appeared to break his nose.

The tough Latvian dropped to 28-3, his only losses by points decisions to Opetaia twice and Usyk.

 David Nyika (r) had no troubles in a fourth-round stoppage of Germany’s Michael Seitz. Image by EPA PHOTO 

Earlier, Queensland-based New Zealand Olympic bronze medallist David Nyika improved to 9-0 with a business-like stoppage of previously undefeated German Michael Seitz.

Cruiserweight Nyika pounded the body of his opponent, who eventually succumbed in the fourth round.