Jai Opetaia will have shoulder surgery before locking in the details of his first world title defence against 35 year old former EBU (European) Cruiserweight champion and Polish contender, Mateusz Masternak.
The Samoan Australian IBF and The Ring world cruiserweight champion says he’s been a bit quiet lately because he has been battling a shoulder injury in the last two months.
“We have finally pinpointed the problem and now have another surgery to get done,” he posts to update his fans.
“It’s very frustrating to be held back by these small things we can’t control but I will be back better and stronger and I will be coming to collect the rest of my belts!!”.
Opetaia will have day surgery this week in Melbourne to repair a small muscle tear.
The 27 year old claimed the IBF and The Ring cruiserweight belts last July with a courageous win over Latvian veteran Mairis Briedis despite breaking his jaw twice in a brutal Gold Coast exchange.
Opetaia won by unanimous decision, with scores of 116–112, 116–112 and 115–113.
That July fight was postponed twice. First when Opetaia sustained a serious rib injury and again when Mairis Briedis caught COVID-19.
Opetaia is currently Australia’s only current male boxing world champion.
After surgery negotiations will then begin for a June clash with Masternak (47 wins, five losses).
Mateusz Masternak secured mandatory challenger status when he beat Australian Jason Whately via unanimous points decision last October.
Opetaia’s manager Mick Francis hopes to land a defence on home soil, but is prepared for the fight to be held in the UK or even Poland if necessary.
A 2012 Olympian, Opetaia (22-0 with 17 KOs) was a relatively low-profile figure in Australian boxing despite his dominance.
The extraordinary manner of his win over Briedis thrust him into the bright lights, with The Ring magazine crediting Opetaia with their Upset Of The Year gong and the IBF nominating the Sydney product for fight of the year.
The IBF award will be announced at a Chicago function in May, with Opetaia set to attend unless he’s in camp for his next fight.
Mick Francis said were it not for injuries and other setbacks, Opetaia “should have won a world title two years earlier”.
“Think about how many IBF fights are fought around the globe … thousands. So that’s (a nomination for fight of the year) mind-boggling and massive for his profile,” said Opetaia’s manager.
Francis said Opetaia’s surgery was minor but necessary ahead of another stern test.
“He’s had issues in that left shoulder, had no strength there so after that he should be fine and fighting in June,” he said.