JAI OPETAIA wants to make up for lost time and capitalise on a crucial period in his career.

The 28-year-old sat on the sidelines for over a year after sustaining a jaw injury in his victory against Mairis Briedis in July 2022. Issues outside the sport added to his delay, but the Aussie prides himself on being always ready, which was evident when he returned last September, bulldozing Jordan Thompson to a fourth-round stoppage in London.

Keen to remain active, Opetaia flattened Ellis Zorro in one round three months later. A far stiffer test awaits, however, on Saturday night (May 18) when he and Briedis renew acquaintances on the Oleksandr Usyk-Tyson Fury undercard. The two cruiserweights will contest the vacant IBF title, once held by both fighters, but this time it’s Briedis, 28-2 (20), returning after a lengthy absence. In fact, the last time he fought was against his rival in July 2022.

“I’m ready for 12 rounds of war; I’m expecting a hard fight,” Opetaia, 24-0 (19 KOs), told Boxing News.

“I’ve got respect for a fighter like Briedis. He’s been around for a long time. I’m ready.”

Respect appeared to fly out the window when he called the Latvian a p***y in a video shown on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel.

“It was more heat of the moment I don’t hold grudges,” he said.

“I’m sure he’s a nice guy. They got me where I was a bit angry. He pulled out of a fight twice and then they stripped me of the [IBF] belt. And all this stuff that was going on behind the scenes was just a whole lot of nonsense. This is business at the end of the day. We’re going to get in the fight and go to war.”

Opetaia rejected any claims he wanted to punish the 39-year-old veteran because this isn’t personal to him. The number one cruiserweight doesn’t mess about in interviews and gives the impression of being a spiky character. But this is fight week, this is business and Opetaia is in fight mode. Nothing else matters.

BN asked for his opinion on the June 15 rematch between WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe, but Opetaia isn’t particularly interested in what other fighters are doing. This clears his mind and sharpens his focus. No matter who holds the other world titles, he wants them.

“I’m chasing belts, that’s it,” he said. “I’m not chasing names. Whoever’s got the belts that’s who I want to fight.”

“I’m their motivation,” he added. “I’m in the trenches. They know I’m working hard. They know when they fight me they got to come correct. I’m the same. When I fight these boys I got to handle business.”