Opetaia vs Riakporhe targeted for Gold Coast encounter

Jai Opetaia’s manager has revealed that the IBF world cruiserweight world champion is negotiating to finally secure his world title's maiden defence after dethroning Mairis Briedis in July 2022. Opetaia would claim victory in a narrow majority of decision points despite sustaining a broken jaw early on in the contest and handing Briedis only the second defeat of his career, which was regarded as the premier fighter of the cruiserweight division at the time of the contest.

Mick Francis, when speaking to the Age publication, indicated that talks are underway between Opetaia and his mandatory challenger Richard Riakporhe, who is regarded as one of the hardest-hitting and unhealed fighters in the division who has a growing resume to go along with his reputation.

“That’s the whole thing about winning the world title is you hustle, you hustle, you hustle, and when you finally win, why should you keep hustling? Jai has been out of the ring for a year on Sunday, so he’s been out for quite a while, so the last thing that personally we need to do is take Jai to the UK in foreign territory with 20,000 screaming Poms wanting his blood. We’re trying to bring that fight here to Australia, and it’s looking very positive.

“We’ve had talks with local council and state government, which are both motivated to bring a big fight to Queensland, especially on the back of what Jai did a year ago.”

Francis continues to add that Opetaia’s main ambition is to unify the division and follow the lead of Oleksandr Usyk in becoming undisputed in the cruiserweight division, which he accomplished in 2018 with a victory over Murat Gassiev. Francis suggests that if Opetaia is successful against his mandatory challenger, his focus will turn to the WBO world title holder Chris Billam-Smith who currently holds the WBO world crown.

“Jai wants to unify all the titles, and Chris Billam-Smith... has got the WBO belt, and that’s the belt Jai has always wanted to fight for,” Francis said.

“I’ve been around sportspeople for a very long time, but I can honestly say Jai Opetaia has got the biggest motor, he’s the hardest trainer, and he’s got the best attitude I’ve ever seen in any athlete.”