Australia's world cruiserweight boxing champion Jai Opetaia returns against Jordan Thompson
It's been 14 months since Jai Opetaia stunned the cruiserweight division on the Gold Coast with one of the bravest, gutsiest victories in Australian boxing history.
Record: 22-0 (17KOs)
Record: 15-0 (12KOs)
When the Australian-Samoan underdog beat Latvia's three-time cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis — a man whose only previous defeat came against current unified world heavyweight champion Oleksander Usyk — he shook up the boxing world.
That he won the fight — by unanimous points decision — was impressive enough but, incredibly, he did so despite fracturing his jaw in two places early in the contest.
Michael Francis, Opetaia's trainer, said "No-one will ever do it ever again in the history of the sport," after that stunning victory last July.
His promoter at the time Dean Lonergan said Opetaia's performance was "probably the best performance by an Australian boxer, ever", hailing his charge as being "without doubt the toughest athlete in Australia".
It was hard to argue.
The often overlooked cruiserweight division had been lit up by a thrilling contest.
But since then? Delays. Inactivity. Frustrations.
Part of that was out of necessity — Opetaia had to drink and eat through a straw for almost four months to aid his recover from the sickening broken jaw he suffered on the Gold Coast.
But then there were the kind of frustrations particular to boxing that Opetaia himself described as a "circus" in an interview with The Ring magazine earlier this week.
A messy separation from his promoter and failed bids to have Mateusz Masternak and Richard Riakporhe meet him in the ring for his IBF and The Ring belts.
But now he has locked in his first defence, taking on unheralded but dangerous Brit Jordan Thompson at London's Wembley Arena on Sunday morning AEST.
"It's huge, going over there, flying the Australian and Samoan flag," Opetaia told reporters before leaving for the UK.
"I'm built for this shit.
"I've waited patiently, I've been in this gym, grinding, locked in. Just waiting for the opportunity to show everybody who the best cruiserweight is.
"We're gunna remind everyone."
Jai Opetaia has stunned the world's best cruiserweight, Mairis Briedis, to claim the IBF world championship with a courageous display on the Gold Coast.
The cruiserweight scene has changed considerably since Opetaia won his title.
Unbeaten Armenian Arsen Goulamirian still holds the WBA strap, but Swedish veteran Badou Jack took Ilinga Makabu's WBC title in February, and Chris Billam-Smith sensationally deposed Lawrence Okolie by majority decision for his WBO crown in Bournemouth in an all-British clash in May.
At the press conference ahead of Sunday's (AEST) fight, Opetaia said he wants to collect all the cruiserweight world titles.
He won't have a chance to add another belt to his collection on Sunday — his unbeaten opponent is not a world champion. But that's not to say he doesn't pose a tough test.
Manchester-born Thompson's nickname is "troublesome". It's an apt title.
The 198 centimetre-tall fighter is among the tallest boxers in the cruiserweight division, towering over Opetaia at the face off.
He describes himself a practitioner of artistic violence. That's apt too.
Rangy and powerful, the 30-year-old has 12 knockout wins from his 15 professional fights, including in seven of his last eight contests.
"He's a good fighter … he's got nothing to lose and everything to gain," Opetaia said.
"But we're ready.
"He wants to box [12 rounds], we're ready for that. He wants to come in close and bang, I've got some bombs ready for him. And I'm fit enough to do it for 12 hard rounds.
"I feel like I've got an answer for everything he's got — I've got more ammunition than he does."
Opetaia will be a huge step up for the Brit, but he will have the backing of a parochial home crowd that will add an unfamiliar dimension to the Australian, who has only twice fought outside Australia — with one of those overseas contests taking place in his home away from home in Apia, Samoa.
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No, in London Opetaia will get no favours from a public that have come to expect great things from their home fighters.
"It's hard to go off his past fights because he hasn't fought anyone," Opetaia told Matchroom Sport at the weigh in.
"He's never been tested, we don't know what he's like in deep waters. But we'll find out."
An intense face off in London ended up with a slap of a handshake and a hug more akin to a football bump than any term of lasting endearment.
A grinning Opetaia wouldn't have it any other way.
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AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)