For anyone who still doubts the strength of Australian boxing world champion Jai Opetaia, the 27-year-old has a photo to show you.
Brand new IBF world cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia made history and boxing folklore alike with his stunning win over Latvian Mairis Breidis on Saturday night.
The unanimous 116-112 x 2, 115-113 victory over a champion who had lost only to former undisputed cruiserweight and now heavyweight king Oleksandr Usyk before Saturday’s fight became the top division an Australian had ever claimed a world championship belt.
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And Opetaia did it the hard way.
The 27-year-old came out strong, throwing plenty of heavy shots to dominate the early rounds and take home his stunning win.
But the historic win will also go down in Australian sports folklore after it was revealed after the fight that saw him break his jaw in the second round of the 12-round war.
He said he felt it “bursting” early after a Breidis uppercut, but he didn’t even let his corner know it was damaged.
By the end of the fight, Opetaia’s mouth was hanging open and he couldn’t speak after the fight because his jaw was hanging loose.
Ringside doctor Ben Mannion said that night it could be five months before Opetaia can fight again.
“(With) bones, you’ll get about 80 percent strength back after about eight weeks, so he’ll probably be able to train lightly after that time,” he said.
“It will be three, four, five months (until he can fight again).
“One of the guys asked if it normally breaks on both sides after it breaks on one side and I said, ‘People don’t normally join after that time’.”
Opetaia’s X-ray showed the extent of the damage – and it’s not pretty for the champion.
What was even more remarkable was that Opetaia’s team didn’t even know his jaw was broken until the 11th round.
“I didn’t realize it was broken until the 11th round, when you can clearly see there was something really wrong with it,” Wilson admitted to Fox Sports.
“I think we were two or three laps ahead, I thought. We may have started losing a few too late. I said, ‘Just move, mate. We have to move. Do not do stupid things. move move.’ We got through that.”
But viewers were stunned at the extent of the injury.
Former world featherweight champion Billy Dib tweeted: “@JaiOpetaia you are an absolute warrior.”
Hall of Fame promoter Lou DiBella wrote: “What a great show from Jai Opetaia! Excellent, dominant performance against the highly regarded Breidis. The battle was clear and left no doubt. Aussie #boxing is strong now!”
Warren Smith of Fox Sports added: “It’s incredible to be able to box, finish the fight and become the IBF Cruiserweight Champion of the World with this injury.”
Tim Ashworth of No Limit Boxing commented, “You don’t play boxing! Jai Opetaia is a tough hombre and absolutely deserves every positive that comes his way.”
NRL Fysio’s Twitter account also read: “That’s great”.
opetaia fought for years with a broken hand while building a 21-0 record with 17 KOs leading up to the fight with Breidis.
Opetaia’s promoter Dean Lonergan said the result should fall into boxing folklore as one of the best even donning the gloves.
“To get through a fight like that with a broken jaw, it’s just unbelievable. The last man to do that was Muhammad Ali,” Lonergan said, referring to Ali’s first fight with Ken Norton in 1973, where he also broke his jaw. However, it was also the second loss in his career for the champion.
“I think he (Ali) broke it in the fifth round, in a fight for the world title. So for (Jai) to do that is nothing short of stunningly incredible.
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