Jai Opetaia is back on the hunt for another title challenger.
For the second time in as many attempts, the unbeaten lineal and IBF cruiserweight champion has seen a mandatory title defense fall through the cracks. Richard Riakporhe is the latest to withdraw from an ordered fight, the development which was learned hours before a scheduled purse bid hearing was due to determine promotional rights.
Neither Opetaia nor IBF representatives were in a position to yet respond to an inquiry placed by BoxingScene.com seeking comment given the immediacy of the news. Riakporhe released a statement confirming that he will no longer proceed with the bout.
“We had accepted an offer to fight for the IBF title on two occasions in two different locations,” Riakporhe said Tuesday. “For reasons unclear to me and my promoter, these offers were then withdrawn. During these negotiations, I’ve missed out on other opportunities, which has left me inactive. It is clear other parties were simply trying to disrupt my journey, which I won’t let happen.
“I would like to thank the IBF for their support and I look forward to fighting for their prestigious title one day. However, I have chosen to go a different route and will be sharing news of another world title opportunity very soon.”
Sydney’s Opetaia (22-0, 15KOs) would have earned the greater share of a 65-35 split as the defending champion.
The 28-year-old southpaw—who represented Australia in the 2012 London Olympics—now has to find a new opponent to end what is already a career-long inactive streak.
London’s Riakporhe (16-0, 12KOs) was named the new mandatory challenger in June after Poland’s Mateusz Masternak abruptly withdrew from his shot at the IBF title, also shortly before a scheduled purse bid hearing.
Opetaia has not fought since his thrilling twelve-round win over Mairis Briedis to claim the IBF and lineal championship last July 2 in Broadbeach, Australia. He suffered a broken jaw early in the fight, and then underwent shoulder surgery earlier this year before he was given a clean bill of health to return.
Riakporhe last fought in a January 21 fourth-round knockout of former WBO cruiserweight titlist Kryzysztof Glowacki in Manchester, England. His impressive run to contention included four wins over previously unbeaten foes, including a July 2019 victory over Chris Billam-Smith who has since won and currently holds the WBO title.
Riakporhe and Billam-Smith are both promoted by Ben Shalom’s BOXXER, which would help ease some of the burden to make a title fight rematch if that is in fact the plan.
Meanwhile, Opetaia and his team are left to scramble for a new option after twice being left at the altar.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox