Five years to the day after huge underdog Jeff horn defeated Manny Pacquiao (controversially) in Australia, the country has seen another big underdog crowned a world champion. Earlier today, in Queensland, Jai Opetaia upset defending IBF/Ring Magazine cruiserweight champ Mairis Briedis via 12 round unanimous decision. Scores were 116-112, 116-112, and 115-113, all for the new champ, the unbeaten Opetaia, who is now 22-0(17). Briedis, who had previously only been beaten by Oleksandr Usyk, falls to 28-2(20).
Opetaia, the younger man by a decade at age 27, had a good start to the fight, winning a number of the rounds during the first half of the bout. Briedis landed some telling blows himself yet he picked up a cut above his right eye. Ironically, as he was losing the early rounds, it was later revealed how the defending champ broke his challenger’s jaw in round two. Opetaia remained composed and he had Briedis on the defensive.
Briedis had his nose bloodied in the fourth and he was so stunned at the end of the session he walked to the wrong corner at the bell. A great fight was shaping up. Southpaw Opetaia was now in command and he was landing combinations. The second half of the fight saw the younger man begin to feel the pace and slow down. Briedis turned up the pressure. The defending champion snapped Opetaia’s head back with a big right hand in round nine, while the challenger was rocked by a Briedis uppercut in round nine.
Briedis, sensing his title was slipping away, really dug deep in the final two rounds, with Opetaia boxing and looking to hold onto his perceived lead. It was tense stuff but Opetatai boxed his way to the finish line. It was a close fight but the right man won.
It will be interesting to see if these two box a rematch. Today’s fight was both close enough and entertaining enough to warrant doing it again. But for now, Opetaia, a former Olympian, is pretty much overcome with emotion over what he has done.