Featured image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.
Jai Opetaia brutally dispatched of an overmatched Jordan Thompson inside four rounds at Wembley Arena to make the first defence of his IBF cruiserweight title on Saturday night.
The Australian floored Manchester’s Thompson on two occasions before securing the stoppage in the fourth on his UK debut in the capital.
Opetaia’s win concludes his first fight since suffering a fractured jaw when he claimed the title against Mairis Breidis 14 months ago.
“I told you all, man. Those stare-offs mean nothing. What matters is here in this ring and this is what I do. I’m born for this shit,” Opetaia said post-fight.
“I feel like this fight night was Jordan Thompson’s fight night. They made it about him. They put me in this small ring thinking they were gonna cut me off…but I’ve got the power too.
“I told them they were underestimating my power and that’s what happened.”
Opetaia dominated from the opening bell
The disparity in levels were evident in the early stages of the contest with Thompson unable to gain the respect of Opetaia who immediately set about the Mancunian.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance, Opetaia needed little time to find his range, rocking Thompson in the final 30 seconds of the opening round with a winging left hook.
The latter had no choice but to retreat to his corner but was rocked by another left seconds later with Opetaia letting his hands go as the Brit looked to cover up on the ropes.
Thompson survived the round but was proving too easy a target to hit for the Australian who continued to land clean with the straight left.
Opetaia’s footwork was sensational as he seamlessly glided in and out of range to break down Thompson who already looked as though he was running out of ideas.
Thompson was unable to match the tempo of the champion who was landing at will, causing blood to leak from the nose of the challenger.
The third was not only Thompson’s most punishing yet but should also have been his last.
A Thompson right was greeted by two of Opetaia’s own who then followed up with short lefts on the inside, the second of which bundled the Brit to the canvas.
2:20 seconds remained in the round but the writing looked to be on the wall with it a case of when, not if, the stoppage would come.
Thompson, bloodied around mouth and nose, showed remarkable courage to see out the round but was ultimately left in longer than necessary after a brutal opening nine minutes from the champion.
Nevertheless, the bell sounded to signal the start of the fourth but the pattern from the opening three rounds continued into the fight’s second quarter as Opetaia showed no signs of backing down.
Another straight left forced Thompson to stumble back only for the same shot to greet his win just seconds later.
His head snapped back towards the crowd before a final right hand forced him to his knees again.
Referee Howard Foster had thankfully seen enough by this stage and waved the contest off 20 seconds into the round.
Opetaia calls for Billam-Smith unification
Post-fight, attention soon turned to Opetaia’s next challenge after a spiteful display against an admittedly overmatched Thompson in the capital.
Former champion Breidis remains mandatory challenger and is in pole position to face Opetaia in a rematch following his unanimous decision defeat to the latter in July last year.
The Australian was also made aware of WBO champion Chris Billam-Smith‘s presence ringside and embraced a potential unification with the Brit.
“I’ve been saying at all press conference that I come here to earn respect, not disrespect. But, Chris Billam-Smith – I’d love to make that fight happen. I want that WBO [belt] around my waist.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn – who signed to co-promote Opetaia alongside Tasman Fighters in July – maintains that the performance was further evidence of why the 28-year-old is the best cruiserweight on the planet.
“I’ve said before, when you look at Australian boxing, he should be a hero in his country. I hope they start to realise and put some respect on this guy’s name,” Hearn said.
“Chris Billam-Smith is a lovely young man, we love him [but] I don’t see anyone beating this man in this division.”