Top cruiserweight Jai Opetaia is looking for gold after having a big year in 2023,

Last month in Saudi Arabia, Opetaia blew away undefeated Ellis Zorro in a single round of action.

Opetaia captured the IBF world title last year with a shock decision win over Mairis Briedis in 2022, but then he was stripped of the title last month after the sanctioning body refused to approve his voluntary defense against Zorro.

There was an outstanding order to make a mandatory defense in a rematch with Briedis. However, Briedis was injured and unable to fight.

“It’s been frustrating,” Opetaia told Fox Sports. “It feels like they’re making decisions without knowing how it affects the fighter’s life. Like they’re trying to control me; tell me what I can and can’t do. If I don’t fight, it’s like they’re holding me back from moving forward in life. Holding me back from providing for my family, from performing on a big stage."

Opetaia will be gunning for the beltholders in his weight class - including WBO champion Chris Billam-Smith.

“I’m not chasing names. I’m chasing belts. In boxing, there are so many moving parts and the landscape is changing all the time. I just need to stay ready. That way, they won’t catch me slipping. Won’t catch me unprepared. Yes, I’m going against the grain. Doing things a bit different. But I think people respect that," Opetaia said.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been trying to stay active, trying to defend my belt. I’ve had the mandatories pull out and now I’m being punished for that. It’s a confusing situation. But I’ve received so much positive feedback from people backing me and my choices. But at the same time, I’m not doing this for other people. I’m doing it for my future. What I believe in."