Opportunity knocks for Manchester cruiserweight Jordan Thompson who, just fifteen fights into his professional career, steps up for his first world title challenge against IBF champion Jai Opetaia on Saturday night.
The pair headline Wembley Arena in what will be Opetai’s first title defence since upsetting Mairis Breidis via unanimous decision 14 months ago.
The Australian (22-0, 17KOs) suffered a fractured jaw in the second round that night – an injury which has kept him sidelined for over a year since but the 28-year-old is relishing his UK debut tomorrow night.
“I deserve to be here, I earned this spot and these headlines in these stadium fights. I wanna earn respect for my team and my country, I’m ready,” he said in fight week.
“It was a long recovery [after the injury] and things didn’t go to plan getting back in the ring but we’re here now. We’ve grown outside and inside the ring, and we’re ready to show it on September 30th.”
After winning a world title, opponents are rarely difficult to find but, despite two separate purse bids being scheduled, both Mateusz Masternak and Richard Riakporhe withdrew from facing Opetaia at the eleventh hour.
The co-promotional deal signed with Matchroom Boxing in July remained the one shining light for Opetaia and has paved the path for a clash with the undefeated Thompson (15-0, 12KOs) this weekend.
The latter has been fast-tracked to world level having only fought a former English champion in his most recent outing, but the Mancunian has hardly put a foot wrong as a pro so far.
Saturday night do doubt amounts to a huge step-up for the 30-year-old but Thompson, who enters the night with a staggering four inches in size, remains confident his arm will be the one raised come the end of the evening.
“I firmly believe in my potential. I’m excited to go out there and prove to the world, and to myself, that I have got what it takes to become a world champion,” Thompson said.
“This is just another chapter to the story, another stepping stone. We’re gonna go out there and show everyone.”
Scotney set for first world title defence further down the card
Saturday’s undercard sees IBF super-bantamweight champion Ellie Scotney (7-0) make the first defence of her title against Argentina’s Laura Soledad Griffa (20-8, 1KO).
Catford’s Scotney claimed the belt with a dominant unanimous decision win over Cherneka Johnson in June in just her seventh pro outing.
The 25-year-old, who has also held the European crown at 122lbs, is set to fight early on the card due to trainer Shane McGuigan‘s commitments with stablemate Caroline Dubois, who headlines a BOXXER show on the same night elsewhere in the capital.
Griffa meanwhile has previously challenged for the same title, losing to Marcela Acuna via unanimous decision five years ago.
Warrington lightweight Rhiannon Dixon (8-0, 1KO) also looks to collect her second pro title as she clashes with Katharina Thanderz (16-1, 2KOs) for the vacant European title.
Dixon claimed the vacant Commonwealth title with a stoppage victory over Vicky Wilkinson in March but faces her sternest test yet against Norway’s Thanderz who previously reigned as European champion at super-featherweight.
Tokyo 2020 Olympian Cheavon Clarke (6-0, 5KOs) also takes on the Czech Republic’s Vasil Ducar (14-6-2, 10KOs) over ten rounds at cruiserweight.
Brentwood middleweight Jimmy Sains also enters the paid ranks this weekend, facing off against Bartlomiej Stryczek over four rounds after a glittering amateur career.
JAI OPETAIA vs JORDAN THOMPSON – IBF Cruiserweight title (12 x 3)
ELLIE SCOTNEY vs LAURA SOLEDAD GRIFFA – IBF Super-Bantamweight title (10 x 2)
RHIANNON DIXON vs KATHARINA THANDERZ – vacant EBU European Lightweight title (10 x 2)
CHEAVON CLARKE vs VASIL DUCAR – Cruiserweight (10 x 3)
SHANNON RYAN vs XENIA JORNEAC – Super-Flyweight (8 x 2)
MAISEY ROSE COURTNEY vs MARTINA BERNILE – Flyweight (6 x 2)
GEORGE LIDDARD vs PETER KRAMER – Middleweight (6 x 3)
IBRAHEEM SULAIMAAN vs JOSHUA OCAMPO – Lightweight (4 x 3)
JIMMY SAINS (debut) vs BARTLOMIEJ STRYCZEK – Middleweight (4 x 3)