Jai Opetaia to Give Up his World Title for a Career High Pay Day

Jai Opetaia stands to earn $2m AUD dollars but the IBF says he will be stripped of his title if he goes ahead. 📸 Boxing Scene.

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 Britain’s Ellis Zorro (17-0, 7 KO’s).

The bout is part of a huge ‘Day of Reckoning’ card that features several of the top heavyweights like Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder this Saturday night in Saudi Arabia.

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 Briedis’ team had also agreed to step aside to let the Zorro bout take place while the former champion recovers with a deal in place to face Opetaia in February.

Opetaia’s team appealed the IBF’s decision, but the sanctioning body denied their request.

“We’ve made it clear to Jai’s team that he cannot fight Ellis Zorro for the title,” an IBF spokesperson said last week.

“We had already given Jai an exemption to fight Jordan Thompson in his last fight, so he can’t get another exemption to fight Zorro, who does not have a world ranking..”

“In our rules, it can’t be done. He can’t have back-to-back exeexemptio.. If we break the rules for Jai, it opens the floodgates for everyone else.”

The IBF say they have notified Jai’s team that he cannot fight Zorro and that his next fight has to be a mandatory against Briedis.

“If Jai Opetaia goes ahead and fights Zorro, he will be stripped of his IBF world title.”

The Samoan Australian boxer says he is sad to have to let go of his title, and that he is still the King of the Cruiserweight division.

“I fought through absolute agony to win that belt and it saddens me to relinquish it,” said Opetaia.

Last year, Opetaia captured the title when he shocked division king Mairis Briedis, but he suffered a broken jaw in the victory – which led to a longer than expected recovery period.

“But the fact is, Briedis isn’t ready to fight on December 23 and I need to stay active. I simply can’t turn down a career high payday..

“Belts should be won and lost in the ring and I’m still the Ring Magazine champion and all roads in the Cruiserweight division go through me,” he continued.

“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”.

Opetaia’s manager Mick Francis said they respect the IBF’s rules which are in place to protect the boxer in the mandatory position.

“However, this was one extremely bizarre circumstance where the mandatory boxer was actually happy to not have it immediately enforced, as he us injured”.

“We were left with three options. Vacate, be stripped if Jai fights on December 23 or wait for Briedis. There’s an old saying that you can’t eat trophies. Jai cannot turn down the life changing money on offer for the Zorro bout and we need the activity.

So we will respect the IBF rules and vacate the belt. Jai will instead be defending the most recognisable belt in boxing, The Ring Magazine belt,” adds Mick Francis.

Opetaia is reportedly going to make $450,000 for the bout – as part of a three fight agreement being worked out with the Saudis.

The entire deal is reported to earn Opetaia more than $2 million Australian dollars (around $3.5 million tala).

Last year, Opetaia captured the title when he shocked division king Mairis Briedis, but he suffered a broken jaw in the victory – which led to a longer than expected recovery period.

A few months ago, the IBF allowed Opetaia to make a voluntary defense against Jordan Thompson and say they are unwilling to issue another exemption.


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