Opetaia wants a piece of unbeaten heavyweight Usyk
Australian cruiserweight world champion Jai Opetaia has set himself another ambitious challenge: taking down the world’s best heavyweight, Oleksandr Usyk.
Opetaia stunned the boxing world when he took the IBF and Ring Magazine belts with a unanimous points decision against Mairis Briedis. The victory was all the more remarkable given the setbacks Opetaia faced before the fight, and that he suffered two separate breaks of his jaw during it.
The only other man to inflict a defeat on Breidis was Usyk, the undefeated heavyweight world champion considered one of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers. Usyk takes on Anthony Joshua (Sunday morning, Sydney time) in an anticipated rematch of last year’s battle, which the Ukrainian won in a unanimous points decision.
Usyk has never lost in 19 professional fights, but Opetaia believes he could change that if he got a crack at him.
“Definitely, fighting someone like that would be an honour,” Opetaia said. “I know he’s a great fighter and he’s done great things in our sport, but it’s all about pushing yourself, going further and aiming higher.
Jai Opetaia breaks down in tears after winning the world title.Credit:Getty
“He’s at the top of the tree and if that fight came along, I’d take it with both hands, that’s for sure.
“It would be good if he could come back down to cruiserweight, but if I had to put on some weight, we could sort that out.”
There was little between Briedis and Usyk when they fought four years ago, the latter winning it via judges’ scores of 115-113, 115-113 and 114-114 in Latvia.
“I feel like I beat him [Briedis] more convincingly,” Opetaia said. “If Usyk came along, I’d go to heavyweight. I’m looking to clean out the whole cruiserweight division. I’ve still got a lot of work to do here.
“I’m only 27, I’ve got a few more years of conquering this division. There’s no rush at all.”
Jai Opetaia lands a punch on Mairis Briedis on the Gold Coast. Now he wants to take down the world’s best heavyweight, Oleksandr Usyk.Credit:Getty
It’s been nearly 50 days since the Australian’s victory, but the newly minted champion is still feeling the effects. It will be another fortnight before he will be able to eat a steak after undergoing jaw surgery.
“I just want to get back into training and into the ring,” he said.
“This fight has opened up a whole new door and I’m excited to get the ball rolling on it. I’m 27 and that was my first big world-itle fight. There’s still so much more to go.
“I’m far from finished and far from my peak. Even looking back at my performance, I could have done better on the night. It’s all about learning and my next one on the big stage will be even better.
“The best-case scenario is December; I’d love to get one fight in before the end of the year.
“In saying that we’ve got to get the green light from the doctor and make sure we don’t rush anything. When the time comes we will be 100 per cent fit and ready to go.”
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