After 27 professional fights, Michael Zerafa is relishing the opportunity to headline a main event with a global fighter like Kell Brook, in the United Kingdom. While preparing for this bout, the Australian fighter spoke to Gianluca Lia about this opportunity, while also shedding light on his ambitions in this sport.
There will be a bit of Maltese flavour on the boxing ring this Saturday, when Michael ‘Pretty Boy’ Zerafa will be headlining the world stage against Kell Brook, in a Sky Sports main event at the Sheffield Arena.
In fact, just like another international boxer who has a Maltese legacy - Joe Cordina - Zerafa’s link with the Maltese shores comes down to his father who hails from the island of Gozo.
Zerafa, 26, will be taking on Sheffield-born Brook in a 12-round WBA world super-weight eliminator where he is eyeing a better outcome than his previous time outside Australia.
In 2015, Zerafa sparred with Peter Quillin live on American broadcaster, NBC, and the nerves of having the eyes of the world over him got the better off him as the Australian was knocked out in the fifth round, leaving the ring on a stretcher.
This time around, Zerafa feels that he has moved on from that disappointing fight and he feels that his game has improved, in particular because he feels that he has become a smarter boxer on the ring.
“I have already been on the big stage, having fought Peter Quillin in 2015,” Zerafa told the Times of Malta.
“Being in front of the world gets you nervous, of course, but at the same it is a positive experience and I am very excited to be involved in such a high-profile event.”
No doubt that Zerafa will start as the underdog in this fight, but the Australian boxer is keen to leave a strong impact at the Sheffield Arena.
“I thrive from an underdog role and it would be a mistake if the opponent’s team underestimate my abilities,” the 26-year old said.
“I am a completely different fighter from 2015 and I will definitely make sure to make amendments for that unfortunate fight.
"In that fight, I showed my inexperience by throwing my tactics to the wind and move forward - Quillin outmuscled me and I was down and out.
“This time around I am more mature, stronger and I believe this is the right time to take on a high-profile challenge - I want to make a statement.”
Throughout his career, Zerafa was always keen on making a statement in every fight he was involved.
At age 18, he embarked into professional boxing and in his eight-year career at this level, he holds an impressive record of 25 wins in 27 fights - 15 of them through knockouts.
“This record injects a lot of confidence of me ahead of the Brook fight,” Zerafa explained.
“I have fought the best of my country and I also challenged some of the best boxers from across the world, but obviously this is a big challenge for me.
“In boxing, you lose whenever you make mistakes, but you can also be defeated if you do things right – nonetheless, I am confident and aware of my potential.”
???? | BROOK-ZERAFA FACE OFF ????@SpecialKBrook and Michael Zerafa face off ahead of their super welterweight showdown on Saturday night in Sheffield... ????— Boxing Social (@boxing_social) December 6, 2018
Will 'Special K' make a statement in-front of his home fans? ????#Boxing #BrookZerafa pic.twitter.com/who11x5GUi
Zerafa feels that being in the business alongside some of the most renowned boxing personalities is a testament to his hard work and the commitment he put to this sport.
“I always believed in myself and I feel that this journey is a reward for all my efforts – I feel blessed to call boxing my life.”
The 26-year old will confide in his fast hands, athleticism and agility in order to pull an upset and emerge victorious over Brook.
“Being a fast and athletic boxer I feel that I can be a challenge for anyone on the field,” he said.
“I describe myself as a ‘cheetah’ on the ring.”
It was those characteristics that earned Zerafa the nickname of ‘Pretty Boy’ by the boxing community in Down Under, for his flashy abilities.
I thrive in an underdog role and it would be a mistake if the opponent’s team underestimate my abilities
Throughout 2018, Zerafa was involved in several fights including a 154-pound weight confrontation with Brit Adam Harper which earned him the Commonwealth crown by 12-round decision.
His latest two fights were against fellow Australian Wade Ryan (win in 10 rounds) and Jose Augustin Feria of Colombia (win in three rounds).
Zerafa has already set sights on his potential opponent, should he see off Brook’s challenge.
“Well, if I emerge victorious this Saturday, I will set my sights on Jarrett Hurd, who is the current unified world light middleweight champion having held the IBF title since 2017, and the WBA and IBO titles since April 2018.”
Yet, the Australian has acknowledged Brook as a top fighter, hence the fight at Sheffield won’t be any close to a walk in the park.
“I respect Brook and his team, because he is a great fighter and has been at the highest level than me for a longer period of time,” Zerafa explained.
“It is a great opportunity for me to be in the same ring with him, because this fight can be a turning point in my career and it can elevate my status in this movement.”
Brook, named also ‘The Special One’, was last in action in March when he claimed the WBC ‘silver’ super-welterweight title and he is in pursuit of a long-awaited British fight with rival Amir Khan.
When this fight was announced, Khan took little time to mock Brook for taking on an unknown fighter on his social media profiles.
Yet, Zerafa has played down any extra pressure or comments that can hinder his preparation.
“I already don’t like Amir Khan as a boxer, now even more as a person,” Zerafa said.
“He never did anything to the sport and I feel that such comments are pretty useless.
I really hope that in the future he can be a potential fight for me because I would like to share the ring with him - after all, boxing is a business with constant feuds.”
In recent days, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has halted preparations for boxing at the 2020 Olympic Games and launched a probe into the sport’s troubled governing body.
The IOC also warned that it could be stripped of the ability to organise the competition.
Such situation could be a huge blow for the boxing movement, but Zerafa does not really think that this will actually happen.
“For sure, it would be a huge setback for the growth of boxing,” Zerafa explained.
“However, I do not really think that this will happen and it is just a banter talk or some kind of alarm in order to get things done in a proper way.
Obviously, I don’t wish that this will happen for the sake of this movement.”
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