Anthony Cocks speaks with upset minded Michael Zerafa exclusively for Maxboxing
Michael Zerafa 26-3 (15) says he has fought bigger names than Jeff Horn 19-1-1 (13) and has predicted fighting in his home state will give him a significant advantage over the former WBO welterweight champion.
The 27-year-old from Craigieburn in Victoria will be the home fighter when he squares off with Horn at the Bendigo Stadium in the regional city of Bendigo in Australia on August 31.
All three of Zerafa’s losses have taken place on the road, including losses to former world champions Peter Quillin and Kell Brook.
“All credit to Jeff Horn, but I believe I’ve already fought bigger names in terms of achievements in Peter Quillin and Kell Brook,” said Zerafa in an exclusive interview with Maxboxing on Tuesday.
“But to fight a former world champion in your backyard is a rare opportunity, so it’s definitely up there I reckon.
“Every world champion I’ve fought it’s had to be over in their backyard with 20-hour flights and having to acclimatise over there. This fight is only an hour-and-a-half away from me and everything is at reach. Mentally it’s a lot easier for me, I’m looking forward to it.”
Zerafa has fought five times since March last year, starting with comprehensive 12-round points decision win over Adam Harper for the vacant Commonwealth junior middleweight title in a fight he took on just two weeks’ notice.
Victories over Wade Ryan and Jose Agustin Feria followed before Zerafa travelled to Sheffield, England to face former IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook in December. Despite starting a little slowly, Zerafa finished the fight strongly and impressed many fans and pundits with his tenacious display.
In his lone outing this year Zerafa had little difficulty in dispatching Les Sherrington in two rounds in Melbourne in April.
By contrast Horn has fought just once since losing his WBO 147-pound belt to Terence Crawford by TKO9 in Las Vegas in June last year, a 96-second blowout of Anthony Mundine in Brisbane last November.
But Zerafa is wary of relying on Horn to turn up rusty on fight night.
“People say ring rust can be a disadvantage for an opponent, but I’m sure he’s training hard so we’re preparing for the best Jeff Horn on August 31st,” he said.
“I’m sure he’s taking no shortcuts and putting in the work. I’m looking for the best form of Jeff Horn.”
At 5-foot-11 and fighting most of his career at middleweight, Zerafa will have significant physical advantages against the 5-foot-9 Horn, 31, who has fought above the welterweight limit just three times in his professional career.
“I’m 27, I’m still growing,” said Zerafa. “People forget I’m still a baby in the sport. I’ve only been a pro for seven years, but I’ve had almost 30 fights and have fought 250 rounds already. I’ve had that experience and fought some great guys and tough guys in Australia.
“I really feel like I’m growing as an individual and with my new team as well I still think the best is yet to come, both mentally and physically.
“I’m expecting Jeff to put the pressure on and be tough, to sit on my chest and try to bully me, but I’ve fought as a middleweight before and he hasn’t. He can’t really say that he did against Mundine [at a 156-pound catchweight]. In my eyes Mundine has done great for the sport, but he should have hung up his gloves a few years back.
“We’re expecting Jeff to put on the pressure and try to bully us, but we’ve got a good game plan and I really do think he’s doubted and overlooked my power, my speed, my fitness, my agility and just my all round natural size.”
Zerafa says his team have been working on a specific game plan to defeat Horn and it may not be the one that fans and pundits expect.
“I can’t let too much out, but we’ve worked on strength,” he said of his camp. “Obviously he’s expecting me to dance around the ring and pot-shot, whereas this camp we’ve worked on power and moving forward. We’re going to be the bully in this fight. We’re going to try to walk forward and do some damage. And I don’t think he’s going to be expecting that.
“A lot of things have changed in this game plan and this preparation and hopefully, God willing, all goes to plan and we come away with that W.”