Jai Opetaia-Mairis Briedis Cruiserweight Championship Rematch In Play For Feb. 17 In Riyadh

Boxing Scene

Jai Opetaia and Mairis Briedis will run it back after all.

BoxingScene.com has confirmed that plans are in place for a cruiserweight championship rematch on February 17 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The two will meet for Opetaia’s lineal crown and the IBF title that the unbeaten Australian was previously forced to vacate for failure to defend in an ordered mandatory title defense versus Briedis.

News of the bout was confirmed to reporters by His Excellency Turki Alalshikh, chairman for General Authority of Entertainment and who has taken the lead to bring blockbuster boxing events to Saudi Arabia. News of Opetaia-Briedis II comes days after Boxing Scene previously reported that Opetaia (24-0, 19KOs) will land on the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undercard and has entered training camp with England’s Fury (34-0-1, 24KOs).

The development comes as Briedis’ team learned that Mexico’s Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (45-1, 30KOs) will next face WBA titleholder Arsen Goulamirian (27-0, 18KOs) in March. Briedis and Ramirez were previously ordered to enter talks for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title, with a purse bid scheduled for Tuesday though very likely to be canceled in light of divisional news.

Sydney’s Opetaia dethroned Latvia’s Briedis (28-2, 20KOs) via unanimous decision in their July 2022 thriller in Broadbeach, Australia. He suffered a broken jaw in the fight and spent the early part of 2023 recovering from shoulder surgery. Back-to-back mandatory title defenses were ordered versus Poland’s Mateusz Masternak and Richard Riakporhe, both of whom backed out during the purse bid stage.

Briedis was on deck but agreed to stand down as he was recovering from an injury of his own. It allowed Opetaia to enter a voluntary title defense, which came in a one-sided, fourth-round knockout of unbeaten Jordan Thompson on September 30 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. The rematch was then put back into play by the IBF, though Opetaia already committed to an undercard slot on the December 23 ‘Day of Reckoning’ undercard in Riyadh.

A standoff ensued when the IBF refused to sanction Opetaia’s bout versus England’s Ellis Zorro, who was unbeaten but also unproven and not ranked within the sanctioning body’s Top 15 cruiserweight rankings. The more troubling part of the equation was that Opetaia was not approved to enter a second optional defense, which prompted the 28-year-old southpaw to vacate the title.

Opetaia proceeded to knock Zorro out with four seconds to go in the opening round of their lineal championship clash. He was already prepared to enter his third fight in less than five months; a mouthwatering rematch versus Briedis is a bonus for boxing fans.

Briedis has not fought at all since his defeat to Opetaia. The setback ended his third title reign just inside of two years following his September 2020 decision win over Yuniel Dorticos.

The 38-year-old Latvian also held the WBC cruiserweight title which he eventually lost to Oleksandr Usyk during the first season of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS). He then won the WBO title in a wild third-round knockout of Krzysztof Glowacki in their June 2019 WBSS season two semifinal. The controversial nature of the bout prompted the WBO to order a rematch but Briedis vacated the title due to his commitment to face Dorticos in the WBSS finale.

Despite his inactivity, Briedis managed to elevate to the mandatory position by default.

Opetaia-Briedis II is one of three confirmed major title fights and two lineal championships on the Feb. 17 show. In addition to this bout and the Fury-Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship, Boxing Scene previously reported that IBF junior lightweight titlist Joe Cordina (17-0,9KOs) will attempt his second title defense versus Belfast’s Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox

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