Opetaia survives bloody 'war' to reclaim world title

Opetaia survives bloody ‘war’ to reclaim world title

Aussie JJai Opetaia has won his long-awaited rematch against Mairis Briedis to reclaim the IBF cruiserweight title via unanimous decision in a bloody affair in Saudi Arabia.

The Aussie was in control for much of the 12-round fight, although the Latvian rallied in the final three rounds.

The three judges scored the fight 117-111, 116-112, 116-112.

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“Mairis, I’m honoured to share the ring with you … you’re a true warrior and I have nothing but respect for you,” Opetaia said after the fight.

Both fighters spent the first couple of rounds feeling each other out, with neither really making much of a mark on the other – although an Opetaia jab did open a cut on Briedis forehead in the third.

Opetaia broke Briedis’ nose in the first round of their first fight, and appeared to do it again in the sixth round of this rematch.

The Aussie was in control for much of the fight, but the intensity skyrocketed in the 10th after the Latvian landed a left jab that opened up Opetaia, who followed it up with a right hook of his own that caused Briedis to stumble.

In the 11th, Briedis exploded out of the gates and pinned Opetaia on the ropes, before landing a flurry of body blows. Opetaia spent much of the round on the run.

Briedis came hard again in the final round, but was unable to land a knock-out blow.

Opetaia confirmed his nose was broken by a Mairis headbutt, but it was a “good shot” that stunned him in the 10th round.

“He’s a tough dude. He kept coming forward, he wanted it, I could hear it. I could hear tha pain in his f–king punches.

“We knew we were in for a tough fight. We were ready for 12 rounds of war, and that’s what we got.

“We stayed smart, kept boxing, and won the fight.”

Opetaia first defeated the Latvian for the title in 2022, but had it stripped by boxing’s governing body after accepting a big-money fight against Englishman Ellis Zorro, instead of an earlier re-match with Briedis.

He would go on to knock Zorro out in the first round.

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