On April 20, one of the biggest Australian grudge matches since the Mundine vs Green rivalry goes down, as Issac Hardman (12-0, 10 KO’s) and Michael Zerafa (29-4, 18 KO’s) collide in an official IBF Middleweight title eliminator.
From the moment the fight was announced, the pair have been involved in a war of words that has pushed every boundary. Despite being on a private PPV platform, no Australian boxing fan will want to miss the contest.
The broadcast deal has been a sore point for a somewhat frustrated Hardman, though.
After all, he believes his opponent’s withdrawal from a high stakes clash with Tim Tszyu (21-0, 15 KOs) in 2021 is the reason that the bout is not being shown nationally on Fox Sports.
“It was very frustrating when we first heard about it,” Hardman told The Inner Sanctum
“If that was my company, I wouldn’t want to put Zerafa on either because he cost them a lot of money with the Tim Tszyu fight.”
Despite the major setback, the 25-year-old is not disappointed with the decision on a personal front. Instead, he is upset that the star-studded undercard, one that features Australia’s Cherneka ‘Sugar Neekz’ Johnson (13-1, 6 KO’s) fighting for a World title, will not get the publicity it very well deserves.
“I’m not even mad at it because I would do the same thing it’s too much of a liability. Too much money at risk,” he lauded.
“It’s frustrating because the undercard deserves a good platform and ‘Sugar Neekz’, she deserves a good platform because she’s fighting for an IBF world title.”
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With Johnson challenging Mexico’s Melissa Esquivel (12-2-1, 4 KO’s) for the vacant belt in mind, Hardman is also hunting down his own big name.
Specifically, ‘The Headsplitter’ wants a major clash with the number one ranked IBF Middleweight, Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao (29-0, 20 KOs).
Currently ranked eighth by the governing body, Hardman is aiming for his own World title glory. Having fully committed to the boxing game, he believes the goal is more than attainable.
All roads start with the number 10 fighter in Zerafa.
“That will be the first professional fight camp because I still work as a PT. I get up at 4:30am every morning to go and train, then hold pads in the gym at night,” Hardman explained.
“That World title is what we are gunning for, for sure. Zerafa is just a speed bump.”
Many do wonder if the hatred runs extremely deep throughout Issac Hardman. When questioned about his true feelings for his rival, the Queenslander was unapologetic with his thoughts.
“I was looking at him yesterday, on a Skype call. He couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him, but just [seeing] the look on his face. I just want to punch the blood out of his nose,” Hardman stated.
“You say all those things about Tim [Tszyu]’s father like, ‘Mickey Hatton’s turning up’ and that ‘Mickey had turned up’ and I would have smacked him right there and then. He had the nerve to pull out four days before the fight.”
Even after the two Australians battle it out at the Melbourne Convention Centre, Hardman claims that his lack of respect outside of the ring for Zerafa will not change. In fact, he vows to leave the 30 year old “unconscious,” leaving no doubt as to who the better combatant of the two is.
“I’m not sharing any fear with him. After it, I’ll respect the fact that he’s an athlete and he got in there and got rendered unconscious by me,” he emphatically concluded.
“But that’s about as far as it goes, just because we fought doesn’t mean we’re friends and I feel like there will always be that bad blood.”
Issac Hardman vs Michael Zerafa goes down on Wednesday April 20. The full card, including Cherneka Johnson vs Melissa Esquivel for the vacant IBF Super Bantamweight title can be ordered on FITE.TV, here.
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