Saturday at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland, Australia, sees home hope Jai Opetaia make a first attempt at a world title, but he will be in the deepest of waters against the formidable IBF cruiserweight champion, Mairis Briedis.
Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) is arguably the number one man in the division, and there could well be a unification fight on the horizon, with WBO boss Lawrence Okolie keen on a meeting, but first, the 37-year-old must get past the mandatory challenge of Opetaia (21-0, 17 KOs), with the fight broadcast on FOXTEL pay-per-view in Australia and on FITE TV in both the UK and USA.
Briedis first became world champion in April 2017, capturing the vacant WBC crown with a clear points win over Marco Huck, and he defended five months later by outscoring Mike Perez.
His sole professional defeat came in the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series, but he pushed Oleksandr Usyk to the wire, losing by just two points on two cards in a majority verdict loss.
The Latvian has won five straight since, but since 2019, he has only fought once a year, picking up the WBO title in June 2019, stopping Krzysztof Glowacki in three rounds in the last four of a second edition of the World Boxing Super Series, but was then stripped for taking part in the final rather than give the Pole a rematch.
Instead, Briedis took the Muhammad Ali Trophy, and the IBF title, with a majority verdict win against Yuniel Dorticos in September 2020.
The man from Riga has been out once since, in October last year, where he stopped Artur Mann in three. He now travels down under, where a hungry 26-year-old awaits.
Opetaia earns his shot as the IBF number four ranked contender, and he is also their Asia Oceana champion, having won the vacant belt in November 2019 with an eighth round stoppage of Mark Flanagan.
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He has also held fringe WBA and WBO belts, but has competed in nowhere near the class of his opponent this weekend. The Sydney man was last out in December last year, stopping the 7-2-2 Daniel Russell in three rounds.
Prediction: Opetaia’s main hope here is that Briedis has suddenly aged overnight, which is a serious long shot. The Latvian is still in good nick, and I can’t see him failing here. I expect him to retain in the first six rounds, and move on to a unification.
— Kalle & Nisse Sauerland (@SauerlandBros) June 28, 2022
Joel Camilleri (22-7-1, 10 KOs) defends his WBA Oceana super welterweight title for the first time, and he should come through on the cards against Koen Mazoudier (9-2, 4 KOs) after ten rounds in their rematch, after edging the 26-year-old by split decision over eight in November last year.
The same belt is on the line at light heavyweight, and the champion, Faris Chevalier (13-1, 7 KOs) can retain on the cards against Conor Wallace (8-1, 6 KOs).
In the other duo of ten rounders, Isaac Hardman (12-1, 10 KOs) can halt Beau Hartas (6-1, 4 KOs) inside schedule at middleweight, and at super flyweight, Taylah Robertson (5-1, 1 KO) may need the cards to see off Yoselyn Fernandez (11-1, 5 KOs).
In the sole eight rounder at featherweight, Dana Coolwell (7-2, 5 KOs) can take a decision victory against Lorenz Ladrada (11-2-1, 3 KOs).
Miles Zalewski (10-2, 8 KOs) should stop Shiva Mishra (8-5, 5 KOs) in their featherweight contest, while 2020 Olympic Bronze medalist, David Nyika (3-0, 2 KOs) can halt Louis Marsters (1-2, 1 KO) at cruiserweight.
Austin Aokuso (4-0, 2 KOs) should remain unbeaten with a points win against Laurence Titter (2-0).