The Day of Reckoning card in Saudi Arabia on December 23 will feature the likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Daniel Dubois and two world title fights – or at least that was the plan.
Fans were initially disappointed that Joshua and Wilder would fight different opponents on the night, their long-awaited clash still being kicked down the road.
However, solid match-ups in the form of Otto Wallin for ‘AJ’ and Joseph Parker for Wilder did a little to curb the disappointment, as did the introduction of some other huge names in the sport.
Only two fights set for the card were not to take place in the heavyweight division – Dmitry Bivol defending his WBC Light-Heavyweight World title against Lyndon Arthur and Aussie sensation Jai Opetaia putting his IBF Cruiserweight strap on the line against Ellis Zorro.
Ben Damon of Fox Sports Australia is now reporting that the IBF has decided Opetaia will be stripped of his belt should he go ahead with that fight against the unranked Zorro.
As per the news, the sanctioning body says Opetaia must face his mandatory challenger, Mairis Briedis, next – the man who he won the IBF title from back in July of 2022 in a twelve-round war.
Jai Opetaia is meeting with management to discuss his options this afternoon. If he goes ahead with the Ellis Zorro fight and is stripped Mairis Briedis and Gilberto Ramirez will contest the IBF’s vacant title.
— Ben Damon (@ben_damon) December 9, 2023
It leaves the champion in a predicament. He has made no secret of looking to unify the cruiserweight division and losing his one belt will set that back some way, but an appearance on a card of this magnitude can do wonders for his marketability in the future.
Whether or not his team can discuss the decision with the IBF and Briedis’ side remains to be seen, but there’s little time to do it.
UPDATE: Eddie Hearn has since confirmed to Boxing Social that the fight will go ahead as planned without Opetaia’s belt, but expressed frustration at the IBF and claimed an agreement for the Briedis fight was already in place for February.