Bad news for IBF cruiserweight champ Jai Opetatai, and potential bad news for unbeaten cruiserweight contender Ellis Zorro. As fans are aware, Australia’s Opetaia is set to defend his IBF belt against British challenger Ellis Zorro on the stacked “Day of Reckoning” card that will take place in Saudi Arabia on December 23. But now, as per Australian news media and a report from Fox Sports in Oz, Opetaia faces being stripped of his IBF belt if he goes through with the Ellis fight.
Why? Because Opetaia has a mandatory and that mandatory is a fight against former IBF cruiserweight champ Mairis Briedis, the man Opetaia defeated to win the IBF title in July of last year. Opetaia, 23-0(18) has since defended the title once, against Jordan Thompson, this a fight for which Opetaia was granted an exemption.
There cannot be a second exemption, say the folks at the IBF – it has to be Briedis next or else.
“We’ve made it clear to Jai’s team that he cannot fight Ellis Zorro for the title,” an IBF spokesman said. “We had already given Jai an exemption to fight Jordan Thompson in his last fight, so he can’t get another exemption to fight Zorro, who does not have a world ranking. In our rules, it can’t be done. He can’t have back-to-back exemptions. The IBF have notified Jai’s team that he cannot fight Zorro – we’ve said his next fight has to be a mandatory against Briedis. If Jai Opetaia goes ahead and fights Zorro, he will be stripped of his IBF world title.”
So, Opetaia has some decision-making to do. On the one hand, Opetaia would be giving up a big payday and a fight on a big stage if he adhered to the demands of the IBF. On the other hand, Opetaia will lose his belt if he goes ahead with the fight with Zorro, 17-0(7). And if Opetaia does forget about the Zorro fight and does what he’s told, how much of a downer would that be for Zorro, a young fighter who was all set to take a dream fight of an opportunity.
We will have to wait and see which decision Opetaia makes, but it could be that the big December 23 card will now have one less fight on its schedule.
And really, does anyone want to see Opetaia fight Briedis a second time?