Mairis Briedis is the reigning IBF and The Ring Magazine heavyweight champion and a “best 15-pound-for-pound boxer” according to his manager.
He’s also the man who produced a Jake Paul diss track with a tattoo of his name on his leg and wants to carry the torch for the success in Australia of a fellow Latvian whose legend is said to have spawned the famous film series Crocodile Dundee.
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Briedis (28-1, 20KO) defends his titles against Australian star Jai Opetaia (21-0, 17KO) at the Gold Coast Convention Center as he pursues a heavyweight title unification bout.
Well, it’s either the unification fight or a fight against the boxer turned YouTube star that the Riga native desires.
So why the hell does Briedis, a world champion whose only loss came to heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, want to fight Paul?
According to its promoter, Kalle Sauerland, it is the product of two things.
“First is boredom in lockdown,” Sauerland said foxsports.com.au.
“And two is the fact that he took it very personally that he (Paul) was calling the heavyweight champions of the world at the time.
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“I don’t want to compare him to (Ivan) Drago from the Rocky movies, but his humor isn’t great when it comes to crossover boxers and newcomers to the sport.
“Nothing against Jake Paul but he’s a rookie and was calling guys who’ve been doing it for 20-somethings, winning world titles and fighting the best.”
It escalated in a YouTube video in which Briedis raps about fighting Paul, calling him a ‘little boy b***h’ and saying he’ll play with him for a round before sending him to the canvas. .
For the 37-year-old, it started out as nothing more than a laugh.
But now, the desire is strong on the part of the fans of the two to organize a fight.
“It all started as a joke,” Briedis said.
“But people started getting into it more and more. They found something attractive there.
“There are a lot of fans, my fans and his fans, who say they really want him to be knocked out by someone and I hope it’s me who puts an end to that.”
In the remote chance of a fight with Paul occurring, Briedis would almost certainly receive the biggest payday of his career.
Those would just be rewards for a man who, early in his career, struggled to get paid for every fight.
Raimonds Zeps, Briedis’ manager, recounted the battles the pair faced as they tried to make a name for themselves.
“We literally went from the boxing basement and up level by level without skipping anything,” Zeps said.
“We went through every possible phase of boxing, from fights where he never even had a dedicated dressing room and we had to sit in the room before a fight.
“The promoters were running away from us the next day, not wanting to pay things like food allowance.”
Sauerland agreed and noted that Briedis really “did it the hard way” to stand where he is now in the sport.
“I have known him for a very long time because he used to come when he started and train with all the German heavyweight champions in the big gym in Berlin, the Max Schmeling Gym,” Sauerland said.
“At that time he was training with people like Pablo Hernandez, IBF heavyweight champion, Marco Huck. But he also fought a lot with heavyweights in his time there. Alexander Povetkin for example, a few others too .
“He really did it the hard way. He didn’t have a big promoter to back him up from day one in Latvia where he’s a domestic superstar in a sport-obsessed country.
The final leg of Briedis’ professional boxing journey, which began in 2009, is on the Gold Coast against Opetaia.
There are notable elements to the Latvian’s game that have remained a constant throughout his career.
There is his constant forward pressure.
Oh, and also his knockout power which has spawned several knockout compilations on YouTube with fans marveling at the way he puts opponents to sleep and in almost every clip it’s his famous left hook that lets them down.
But according to Zeps, there’s no telling exactly what form of Briedis will appear on the day of the fight and it could make it a nightmare for Opetaia.
“I can tell he’s different in every fight,” Zeps said.
“With his coach Dmitry (Shiholay), they adjust the game plan depending on the opponent.
“Actually, I feel bad to a certain extent for Opetaia because when they watch Mairis fight, I don’t think they can prepare for much.
“Mairis is different in every fight and I’m pretty sure it will be a different Mairis in this fight as well.
It’s uncertain how many different versions of Briedis we’ll see, although the Latvian plans to fight until he’s 40 because the man himself believes ’40 is the new 25′.
But before even thinking about unifying the belts before finally hanging up the gloves, Briedis must overtake Opetaia.
There’s no need for extra motivation in a world title fight, but in what will likely be his first and only fight in Australia, Briedis wants to “honor” a Latvian whose exploits were the supposed inspiration behind can -being Australia’s most famous film, Crocodile Dundee.
“I’m preparing with all my heart and I’m ready for the fight,” Briedis said.
” I worked a lot. It’s also a new challenge for me to be in Australia, it’s so far from home.
“I recently found out the whole story of Crocodile Harry. He was a Latvian, Arvids Blumentals was his name.
“He made Latvia grow, and he made Australia grow. I want to honor him and keep doing the same, honor Latvia and make Australia grow.