Michael Zerafa (29-4, 19 KOs) sees his fight against Issac Hardman (12-0, 10 KOs) as a must-win if he is to ascend boxing’s Middleweight mountain in 2022.
Zerafa recently defended his WBA Oceania Middleweight title against Fijian Silveni Nawai (12-5-1, 8 KOs) in late December to re-establish himself in the conscious of the Australian boxing public.
Despite copping criticism for taking on a seemingly overmatched opponent, the 29-year old solidified his number seven WBA ranking with a fourth-round knockout. In turn, he now aims to fight overseas for the first time in over three years.
Recently speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Zerafa touched on the performance and his aims for 2022.
“Everyone thinks I can call up Canelo Alvarez and say ‘mate I’m coming over in six weeks to fight you, pay me 10 million dollars’, [but] it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
“I wanted to be a World champion 10 years ago. There are steps you need to take with that.
“Obviously, I have been out of the ring a long time that my ranking had dropped and my belt was going to get stripped because I hadn’t defended it.Embed from Getty Images
“So there was pros and cons to this fight, but I am at a level now where I can’t just pick and choose who I fight.
“Either they price themselves out or they are ahead of me within the rankings so it becomes very hard to be matched. Credit to him and his team.
“For me, it wasn’t about who was in front of me, it was just about getting a date locked in, working towards that date, being in camp, adding strength and conditioning, dieting to cut weight just so I could go in with professionalism and work towards a fight. “
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From an Australian ranking standpoint, Zerafa is officially classed as the number two Middleweight in the country. The man sitting ahead of him, Issac Hardman, has led the charge of critics that questioned the Nawai bout.
With a war of words ensuing, an April showdown between the pair has materialised and is one that the man known as ‘Pretty Boy’ is eager for.
“Everyone gave me a lot of slack for the last fight. For me, I just wanted a date locked in [and now] we’ve officially started back with the team,” he lauded.
“For me, I am real focused for this fight. It is a must-win for me. This fight for me is to silence a lot of critics.
“I truly believe in my ability. A lot of people have a camera pointed in front of them and say I am in the best shape ,this and that, but for me mentally and physically I am going to make sure this is my best fight and best performance.
In order to dial-in to the heated contest, the Middleweight contender has looked outside the gym to sharpen his focus for his next clash.
After experiencing a lot of backlash for the back and forth with Hardman, as well as for his withdrawal from a scheduled fight with Tim Tszyu Tszyu (20-0, 15 KOs) in July 2021, the Victorian has worked with experts in mental preparation for future bouts.
The result – a fighter with the singular focus of walking away with his hand raised.
“For the haters, if they knew better, they would do better,” Zerafa said.
“You can do everything right and still have haters, so for me I just switch off.
“They’re not in my position and they would like and have the opportunities that I have been given, but they are not so I thank them. It’s more fuel in the fire for me and just more people to prove wrong.
“Everyone overlooks that the mind is more powerful than the body. I work with a sports psychologist so I can lock in and program on the date and do what needs to be done.
“If I’m training well, sleeping well, eating well there should be no excuses.”
Coupled with a mind fully aware of the goal ahead, Zerafa has full faith in his ability and believes he has the skills to deal with the challenge of a game Hardman. Specifically, he sees his ability to finish fights coming into play.
With boxing fans now champing at the bit for the bout, their eyes turn to April and what promises to be an explosive affair. For Zerafa, he hopes to pass a tough test en-route to achieving great heights in 2022.
“You know I can be in deep waters and do 12 rounds. He has never done that before and is relying on his one-punch power,” he concluded.
“He walks forward and is tough and relentless, but if I keep dancing around and moving as Emmanuel Carlos did against him, [I’ll be] landing punches at will.
“Carlos is a great fighter but lacks experience and power and I don’t lack that. I have 19 knockouts out of 29 wins.
“He’s talking about all this power he has got with 13 knockouts but I have 19 and only 10 people have gone the full distance with me.
“I am looking forward to this fight, it’s going to be a good challenge physically and mentally but I truly believe he is not at my level yet.”
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