By Anthony Cocks
MICHAEL ZERAFA WANTS JARRETT HURD & DENNIS HOGAN AFTER JOSE AGUSTIN FERIA FIGHT THIS FRIDAY NIGHT
When junior middleweight Michael ‘Pretty Boy’ Zerafa 24-2 (13) steps into the ring against Colombian puncher Jose Agustin Feria 23-6-1 (15) at the Croatian Club in Footscray, Melbourne this Friday night he knows he can’t afford any slip-ups.
“We know he’s tough and we know he can punch. We’ve got a game plan but we’re going to test his chin out early too,” Zerafa told Maxboxing on Monday. “We’ve got ten rounds. We’re not looking for a knockout but if it comes, it comes.”
The 26-year-old from Craigieburn in Melbourne’s outer north is headlining the Sam Labruna-promoted show and will be defending the WBA Oceania 154-pound title he won from tough Gunnedah southpaw Wade Ryan in his last bout in June. Labruna will be performing double duties on the night as he corners his boxers Zerafa and Blake Caparello.
“Sammy is a really smart, switched-on bloke,” said the WBA number 15 junior middleweight. “We train for quality, not quantity. Having Blake [Caparello] and Joel [Camilleri] and all the boys there in the gym really helps for a good atmosphere. I really enjoy coming to training and putting in the work.
“I feel like I’m a much stronger and more patient fighter and I think I’ll be more exciting. We’re going to make a statement this Friday night.”
Back in March, Zerafa was the beneficiary of someone else’s misfortune when Commonwealth champion Anthony Buttigieg 13-0 (3) was forced to withdraw from his maiden title defence against England’s Adam Harper 8-1 after suffering an injury in training.
Zerafa turned in a masterful performance in a fast-paced fight, walking the volume-punching Harper onto his shots as he mixed up his attack to the body and head.
“We took the fight on short notice and had a tough guy in front of us in Adam Harper, who would walk onto a punch and keep coming forward,” said Zerafa.
“It was a tough fight going twelve rounds but we knew we had the skills and experience to beat him. I stayed relaxed and composed and just looked to win every round.”
Providing he gets through the Feria fight unscathed this weekend Zerafa would like the opportunity to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best 154-pounder in Australia with a fight against WBO leading contender Dennis ‘Hurricane’ Hogan 27-1-1 (7). And with the proposed Jeff Horn versus Anthony Mundine bout looking likely for November, Zerafa believes the match-up with the 33-year-old Brisbane-based Irishman would be a natural for the undercard.
“I’d really like to fight Dennis Hogan on the Horn-Mundine card,” revealed Zerafa. “We’re sitting at number one in Australia now and we feel like anyone else is a backward step. The only one who has the credentials in my division is Dennis Hogan.
“I feel it’s a great fight for Australia and for the fans… I’m in my prime, I’m 26 years old, and I believe I can knock Hogan off his perch.”
American boxing fans will remember Zerafa from his ill-fated fight against former WBO middleweight titleholder Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin 34-1-1 (23) at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut broadcast live on NBC in September 2015. Fighting at catchweight of 163-pounds, Zerafa put on just six pounds between the official weigh-in and fight night 24 hours later. Quillin entered the ring weighing a whopping 182-pounds.
Zerafa was knocked down in the fifth round of their 12-round fight. Veteran referee Arthur Mercante Jr was so concerned for the then-23-year-old’s welfare that he waved the fight off immediately without issuing a count.
Zerafa left the ring on a stretcher and was ferried to William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut where he underwent a battery of medical examinations that included a CAT scan and concussion tests.
Put simply, the fight was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
“Whether it was right or wrong it was a fight we took and we knew we had a big task ahead of us,” said Zerafa. “Win or lose, it was definitely a learning experience to fight on the world stage.
“Being at that level made me realise just how much I want to be at that level and the dedication it takes to compete there. It made me a better and smarter fight and I can’t wait to get back there [to the United States], it’s only a matter of time.”
The 5-foot-11 Zerafa has hinted at plans to move down a weight class to 147-pounds where some of the biggest names in boxing currently reside, including Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr.
“I’m a big junior middleweight with a huge reach… I can even get down to 66kg [welterweight],” he said. “There’s big things in the pipeline.”
But first things first. Zerafa is confident that he can not only hang with the top dogs in the 154-pound division, but beat them.
Undefeated WBA and IBF champion Jarrett Hurd 22-0 (15) is clearly in his sights.
“There’s a lot of holes in Jarrett Hurd’s style and when there’s too many holes, the ship sinks,” said Zerafa. “He’s a big dude, he’s tall, but I feel he doesn’t know how to use his range, he’s chin’s up in the air and there’s a lot of bad things he does.
“With the right fight plan, which I believe I have now, and the right sparring, I believe I can go there with the right mindset and upset him really, really badly.
“That’s a fight I definitely want and I don’t think it’s too far away. I’m only 26 and I’m 27 fights in and top 15 [in the WBA], so maybe in a year from now there’s a potential fight there.”
All of these plans will come to nought though if Zerafa doesn’t get past Feria this weekend.
“Friday night I believe with my game plan if everything goes well, I’ll be in for an early night,” said Zerafa. “But we’ll just take it round by round.”
Also on the card Australia’s leading light heavyweight Blake Caparello 27-3-1 (11) takes on New Zealand cruiserweight Lance Bryant 12-3 (5).
Once-beaten middleweight Emmanuel Carlos 7-1 (5) will also be in action, as will ex-Cameroon Commonwealth Games representative Christian Ndzie Tsoye 2-1 (1) in a heavyweight contest.
MITCHELL MIDDLETON-CLARK IS B.I.T. – BACK IN TOWN
Exciting power-puncher Mitchell Middleton-Clark 12-2 (12) returns from an 18-month layoff when he takes on Steven Ma 7-11-1 (2) in a six-round light heavyweight contest at the Melbourne Pavilion on a Team Ellis promotion on October 5.
The pig-shooting, rodeo-riding 24-year-old ringer, who took a sabbatical to work on a farming station in Bollon, Queensland, walked away from the sport after reversing a loss to Geelong’s Clint Alderton 8-2-1 (6) for the IBF Pan Pacific title in March last year.
The only other loss on the bomb-chucking southpaw’s ledger came against world-rated Mornington Peninsula boxer Jayde Mitchell 16-1 (9).
All of Middleton-Clark’s victories have come in five rounds or less.
The ‘Fighting Farmer’ will be looking to be the first boxer to stop the durable Ma, whose last win was over the well-credentialed Manny Vlamis 15-4 (10) in 2015.
DARRAGH FOLEY FORCED TO SETTLE FOR TECHNICAL DRAW WITH FIRST FIGHT ABROAD
UK-born, Australian-based Irishman Darragh ‘Super’ Foley 15-2-1 (8) didn’t get the result he wanted when his fight against Welshman Chris Jenkins 19-3-2 (8) was stopped prematurely after an accidental clash of heads at Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland on August 24.
Fighting outside of Australia for the first time in his pro career, the 29-year-old southpaw had to settle for a third round technical draw in a scheduled 10-round bout after the ringside physician ruled the cut suffered by Jenkins in the second round head-clash was too severe to continue.
“I was only getting started. Stopped due to cuts, ahead on all cards, but such is life,” said the WBA number six and WBO number 15 junior welterweight on social media.
Foley, the WBA Oceania champion, retains his world ranking with the result.
TOMMY BROWNE VICTORIOUS IN FINAL FIGHT IN MACARTHUR REGION
Two-time world title challenger Tommy ‘The Titan’ Browne 39-7-2 (16) defeated Ghana’s Ebenezer ‘Hitman’ Lamptey 29-4 (22) by TKO3 in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight bout at K Ranch Arena in Mt Hunter, Sydney on August 19.
The 35-year-old Browne, who contested world featherweight titles against WBA champion Chris John and WBC champion In-Jin Chi in 2005, will now return to the United States where he has campaigned for the past six months.
KAYNE CLARKE REMAINS UNDEFEATED IN SPRINGVALE
Junior welterweight Kayne ‘Superman’ Clarke 6-0 (3) scored a fourth round TKO over Francisco Da Silva 3-1 in a six-round bout at Springvale Town Hall in Melbourne last Friday night.
Da Silva, from Perth, was on the deck in rounds two and three and was docked a point for lifting Clarke, who in turn was penalised a point for wrestling.
Clarke was leading 29-25, 29-24 and 29-24 when the towel came in from Da Silva’s corner.