Jai Opetaia will await the highest bidder to determine the promoter of record for his first fight as a defending champ.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Opetaia’s IBF mandatory title defense versus Poland’s Mateusz Masternak will now head to a June 15 purse bid hearing. The two sides can still reach a deal prior to that point, but so far have been unable to come to terms.
Opetaia is due 65 percent of the winning bid, while the remaining 35-percent will go to Masternak as the number-one contender.
The sanctioning body delayed its call to order the fight when Opetaia was granted a 60-day medical extension to recover from shoulder surgery earlier this year. The exemption ran out on June 1, which left the unbeaten Sydney native without any room to look elsewhere for his next outing.
Opetaia won the lineal and IBF cruiserweight championship following a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over three-time cruiserweight champ Mairis Briedis last July 2 in Broadbeach, Australia. Judges John Basile (116-112), Steve Weisfeld (116-112) and Katsuhiko Nakamura (115-113) all scored in favor of Opetaia, who overcame a twice-broken jaw during their terrific fight to end Briedis’ third cruiserweight title reign.
The process to recover from two separate injuries will leave Opetaia out of the ring for more than a year ahead of his maiden title defense.
Poland’s Masternak (47-5, 31KOs) will enter what is surprisingly the first major title fight in his 17-year pro career. The 35-year-old from Wroclaw came up short in a June 2014 interim WBA cruiserweight title fight split decision loss to Youri Kalenga, a defeat he later avenged via sixth round knockout in April 2018. The fight preceded his entry in the second season of the World Boxing Super Series, where he lost a tightly contested unanimous decision in October 2018 to Yuniel Dorticos bookending his two separate title reigns.
Six straight wins have followed for Masternak, including a twelve-round, unanimous decision over unbeaten Jason Wheatley in their IBF title eliminator last October 29 in Zakopane, Poland.
Opetaia’s immediate goal after outpointing Briedis was to target the other champions. The ambition is in line with the history already created by the 27-year-old southpaw, who—at just 16—was the youngest Aussie to ever compete in the Olympics when he represented his nation in the 2012 London Games.
However, the targets are no longer the same from even last summer.
Opetaia’s current reign is second among current cruiserweight titlists only to Arsen Goulamirian (27-0, 18KOs), who was upgraded to WBA ‘Super titlist in 2019 after Oleksandr Usyk abdicated his undisputed championship throne. However, Goulamirian has fought just once in the past three-and-a-half years.
The other two titles have changed hands in 2023.
Badou Jack (28-3-3, 17KOs) became a three-division titlist when he won the WBC cruiserweight title in a twelfth-round knockout of Junior Makabu (29-3, 25KOs) on February 26 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Chris Billam-Smith (18-1, 12KOs) claimed the WBO title in a twelve-round, majority decision over unbeaten Lawrence Okolie, whom he floored three times in their May 27 title fight in his hometown of Bournemouth, England.
The year to date has been a brutal reminder for all fighters to focus on the task at hand. Any thoughts of further unifying the division remain on hold until Opetaia can first get past Masternak—assuming he is fully healed and that ring rust is not a factor.
“It’s very frustrating to be held back by these small things we can’t control,” Opetaia noted prior to surgery. “But I will be back better and stronger and I will be coming to collect the rest of my belts.”
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