Jai Opetaia, the IBF cruiserweight champion, has vacated his belt.
The news comes as the boxer prepares for his bout with Ellis Zorro on December 23rd, 2023, in Saudi Arabia. The chance to fight on a huge card that features Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Dmitry Bivol was too big to turn down. But in doing so, Opetaia swerved his mandatory Mairis Briedis. He was ordered to fight Briedis on July 2nd 2023. Both boxers failed to agree on a deal as a purse bid was scheduled for November 21st 2023, before the announcement of his Saudi fight complicated matters.
“We’ve made it clear to Jai’s team that he cannot fight Ellis Zorro for the title. We had already given Jai an exemption to fight Jordan Thompson in his last fight, so he can’t get another exemption to fight Zorro, who does not have a world ranking. In our rules, it can’t be done.
“He can’t have back-to-back exemptions. If we break the rules for Jai, it opens the floodgates for everyone else. The IBF have notified Jai’s team that he cannot fight Zorro — we’ve said his next fight has to be a mandatory against Briedis. If Jai Opetaia goes ahead and fights Zorro, he will be stripped of his IBF world title,” IBF said
Opetaia has now vacated, despite Briedis being happy for the Australian to face Zorro first. The decision has also ruled out a unification fight with Chris Billam-Smith following his win over Mateusz Masternak to retain his WBO cruiserweight title. Opetaia did not take the decision too kindly.
“It’s bull****. It’s no f*****g right. They’ve really left me with no choice, you know what I mean? This is a massive card that I can’t say no to. So they’ve stripped me. But it is what it is. They can do what they want. I’ll get the belts back.
“All I’ve got to do is train hard, keep winning, and they’ll come back to me. I’m going to get the job done on December 23rd. When that one is done, we’re going to get another job done….The belts will come back. They have to. They can’t deny me,” Opetaia stated
Best decision of his career
— Simon (@Linea1Fury) December 18, 2023
About to get his biggest purse and they get none of it, hope those principles keep them warm
— Frank Wright (@Dessalines808) December 18, 2023