Jai Opetaia
Unbeaten Australian boxer Jai Opetaia has been toiling in Riyadh for his fight with Ellis Zorro. Image by HANDOUT/MATCHROOM BOXING
  • boxing

Opetaia harnesses Fury in IBF snub silver lining

Murray Wenzel December 22, 2023

A berth on the historic Tyson Fury card is the latest carrot for Jai Opetaia, who is adamant the decision to give up his IBF world title status will ironically supercharge his career.

The unbeaten Australian will fight Englishman Ellis Zorro in Saudi Arabia on Sunday (AEDT), a bout that is set to earn the ruthless cruiserweight a reported $680,000.

Dubbed Day of Reckoning, the event has been billed as one of the deepest cards assembled and features heavyweights Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Dimitri Bivol.

Opetaia had to vacate his IBF title to take part, the governing body unwilling to budge on demands his next fight should be against mandatory challenger Mairis Briedis.

Briedis, who Opetaia beat last year to win the Ring and IBF belts despite breaking his jaw twice, is currently injured and had given the Australian his blessing to fight Zorro.

Australia’s youngest Olympic boxer when he fought as a 17-year-old in London, Opetaia has taken out his frustrations in torrid training sessions in Riyadh this week.

But, used to doing things the hard way, the 28-year-old said the IBF snub would open bigger doors for him.

 Jai Opetaia has been promised a spot in the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk card in Riyadh on February 17. Image by HANDOUT/MATCHROOM BOXING 

Opetaia revealed to AAP a two-fight deal, reportedly worth $2 million with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, also included a spot on the Fury-Oleksandr Usyk card in Riyadh on February 17.

It will be the heavyweight division’s first ever four-belt unification fight.

Hearn has been critical of the IBF’s decision to strip Opetaia and declared his intent to chase other belts for the bullish Australian.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me, on the biggest stage regardless of belts,” Opetaia told AAP.

“I’ve put it behind me, I’m used to the bull****, I have had one day off training in five weeks, that’s how I deal with it.

“The Fury-Usyk fight is all part of it, but I can’t look past Zorro and this weekend.

“It’s been a crazy week here to be part of it all, but I feel like I belong in this company and this stage.”

Zorro (17-0) was working as a jeweller 18 months ago and the 31-year-old is jumping at the chance to pull off what would be a monumental upset.

“I was a fan of Jai’s and I still am,” Zorro said of Opetaia’s decision to fight and give up the IBF belt.

“When I saw what he did against Briedis, I said, ‘this guy is a problem’.

“When the phone rang for me it was like one of those ‘when idols become your rivals’ moments. He is No.1 here at cruiserweight.’

“I knew with previous opponents that I had them; it was just about how quickly I would get it done.

“But this is different. I’m not expected to win. So that makes it more excitement. It is a different type of motivation. But there is no pressure.’