Aussie champ Jai Opetaia reveals he won world title for his grandma who died just DAYS before he battled through a shattered jaw for 10 rounds to take the belt
- Cruiserweight world champion fought through pain for his late grandmother
- He couldn’t go to her funeral, which was held just four days before title fight
- Opetaia needed surgery on both sides of his jaw due to severe fractures
Anyone who wondered what kept Jai Opetaia going as he battled through two horrific fractures to his jaw to beat Mairis Briedis for the cruiserweight belt earlier this month now has their answer: an incredible desire to honour his grandmother after she died in the lead-up to the bout.
The 27-year-old suffered one of the breaks in the second round with the other coming later in the fight, but put in one of the bravest efforts ever seen from an Australian fighter to go the distance and win the IBF belt in Sydney on July 2.
The injuries were so severe he couldn’t talk in the aftermath of the victory, had to have surgery and was only able to break his silence about the career-defining victory on Monday, more than two weeks after the bout.
Opetaia breaks down in tears after one of the bravest efforts ever seen from an Australian boxer won him the IBF cruiserweight crown on July 2
The 27-year-old’s jaw was so badly broken that he couldn’t talk straight after the fight – but had he been able to, he could’ve told his fans what motivated him to keep fighting
‘I haven’t spoken about this, but the week before the fight, my nan passed away,’ he told News Corp.
‘We buried her four days before the fight. I was f***ing devastated. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral because I had to prepare for the fight, so that was worse than the paini of any broken jaw or ribs.
‘Losing her was massive motivation. I missed my nan’s funeral, so imagine if I quit or didn’t finish the fight because of a broken jaw.
‘I wanted to win that world title for her, and I did.’
Not only did Opetaia manage to fight on despite the double fracture, he was able to hide it from his trainer Mark Wilson until the 11th round.
He said the referee knew of the injury late in the fight – and so did Briedis’ corner, who started yelling at their fighter, ‘Hit his jaw, hit his jaw.’
Scans revealed the huge breaks on both sides of the champion’s jaw, with one coming courtesy of an uppercut in round two, the other in round 10
After having surgery, he finally spoke up about his win over Mairis Briedis on Monday – more than two weeks after winning the belt for his late grandmother
Opetaia dominated the early rounds and said he would have run out a ‘comfortable’ winner if it wasn’t for his severe injuries
Opetaia said the first fracture came when the Latvian slugger hit him with a hard uppercut in round two, with another punch snapping the other side of the bone in the 10th round.
‘My jaw was just hanging down, it wasn’t connected to my skull at all, so I couldn’t really lift it up,’ he explained.
The Sydneysider won a unanimous points decision to take the title after opening up a handy lead by dominating the early rounds before Briedis rapidly evened the scores as the Aussie struggled with the fractures.
He believes he would have won the fight ‘comfortably’ if it weren’t for his jaw and is planning to unify the cruiserweight division before eventually moving up to heavyweight.
Last week it emerged that Opetaia is in negotiations with Aussie former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker to stage a $5million mega-fight, with his promoter Dean Lonergan confirming talks have begun.
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