Off his thrilling upset to win the IBF Cruiserweight title Saturday night in Broadbeach, Australia, new champ Jai Opetaia had the immediate adversity of suffering a broken jaw. And, now the fighter has had successful surgery to repair the injury and that will sideline him a minimum of three months.
The 27 year old Opetaia, who defeated veteran Mairis Briedis in a 12 round unanimous decision to become Australia’s latest world champion, was in good spirits Sunday afternoon “down under” in this social media photo,
💪 Jai Opetaia posts that his SURGERY WAS A SUCCESS
— IntuBoxing (@IntuBoxing) July 3, 2022
As we wrote Saturday, Opetaia stunned the veteran Briedis, who was holding a portion of the cruiserweight title world title for the second time in his career.
The 27-year-old Opetaia was a virtual unknown outside of the Australian continent until Saturday night. Although he had amassed 21 wins with 17 KOs going into his title shot, he clearly was stepping up at least two levels to fight Briedis who was making the second defense of his IBF championship that he’d won in 2020.
But, the 37-year-old Briedis was outclassed and outgunned early by the faster Opetaia, who repeatedly scored with straight left hands and eventually bloodied Briedis’ nose in the third round. Opetaia also staggered Briedis with a good right upper cut at the end of round four that had him in some brief trouble before the bell. And, at that point it appeared that an upset was truly brewing for Opetaia. This, as Briedis continued to bleed heavily from what turned out to a broken nose for him.
However, the champion, now 28-2, was able to briefly stun Opetaia in the seventh round, but the Aussie survived and was clearly in command through nine rounds of the bout on his way to a decision win. Still, there was more drama, as Briedis hurt Opetaia, again late in the 10th round. And, that’s when uncertainty of final two rounds of the bout took hold. Opetaia survived the 10th, but was clearly suffering from a jaw injury with his face out of shape by the end of the 11th round.
Opetaia’s corner realized his face was disfigured from the apparent broken jaw, but feeling he was up by several rounds on the cards, his trainer Mark Wilson urged the challenger to go back out and stay away from Briedis for three minutes to win the fight. Amazingly, Opetaia did just that and won the IBF belt a short time later, when the verdict was announced.
A further update on his jaw surgery came from the Australian Associated Press, which reported Sunday night that Opetaia will be out at least until October due to what’s described as a “bilateral dislocation” of his jaw bone. That’s a highly unusual broken jaw on both sides of the face.
The Latvian Briedis, who before Saturday had only lost as a pro to Oleksandr Usyk, made clear post-fight that he wants a rematch to regain his title. But, it appears that he’ll have to wait until late this year at the earliest for that to be set into motion.