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By Anthony “Zute” George – The holiday weekend in boxing looks a tad slow at first glance. The heavy actionContinue Reading

By Anthony “Zute” George – The holiday weekend in boxing looks a tad slow at first glance. The heavy action is emphasized in the UFC this Fourth of July weekend here in the United States. However, the IBF cruiserweight showdown between Mairis Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) and Jai Opetaia (21-0, 17 KOs) is a hidden gem for boxing fans. A fight that promises to start the fireworks early. Yet, this showdown is getting virtually no buzz in America. Why?

Granted, this fight takes place in Australia. It might as well be taking place in the middle of Antarctica in the dead of winter as far as Americans are concerned. If you want to watch it here in America, you will need to get up in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday to catch it on ESPN +. Not exactly the ingredients for a major turnout in a country that will have plenty for its patrons to do for the first weekend in July.

Still, this clash has all the ingredients of a modern-day classic that should not be missed.

An intriguing matchup that pits IBF champion Briedis-who is also the Ring Magazine Champion at cruiserweight-against an undefeated upstart in Opetaia, who has the makings of a potential star. Briedis is the slight favorite, and rightfully so. His only blemish is a majority decision loss to Oleksandr Usyk, a pugilist near the top of virtually all pound-for-pound lists.

Briedis holds impressive wins over the likes of Marco Huck, Krzysztof Glowacki, Yuriel Dorticos, and Artur Mann.

You wonder why Mairis is only a slight favorite with such an impressive resume. If you laid eyes on Opetaia, you would know he could be something special. A talented southpaw who can move, fight on the inside, control distance, and has decent pop in both hands- he can slice you up as well as thud. His hand speed for the weight class is perhaps his most impressive attribute. By all accounts, he is what opponents would call a ‘nightmare’ to deal with.

The only slight on Jai is his quality of competition up until now leaves plenty to be desired. He has faced several opponents with losing records. Briedis will be a significant step up in class. When such a thing happens, you wonder how the youngster will respond if/when he is taken to a place he has never visited. With the caliber of fighter Briedis is, the smart money says he will have to answer those questions.

With that being said, I think Jai will respond well. First, he is twenty-six years old. Not a baby by any means. Second, the bout is taking place in Australia. Opetaia is used to and responds well to home cooking. All but two of his fights have taken place in his birthplace. Third, when you are a budding star, sometimes all you need is the proper stage to show that you belong. Will these elements be enough to best Briedis, the Ring Magazine champion who has undoubtedly seen it all at cruiserweight? Mairis certainly knows what it is like to face a killer southpaw. I say yes. Jai Opetaia will beat who is considered the best cruiserweight in a fight of the year caliber contest.

And even if the American audience does not show up for this fight, it will get plenty of eyeballs elsewhere. Australia is pumped up to get a world champion. While that is not a guarantee, I cannot see this fight not delivering in terms of excitement.

What say you?

Stay tuned…
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