UNBEATEN middleweight Michael Zerafa will join the lengthy list of Australians who have travelled abroad this year in order to claim the biggest scalps of their professional career.
The Craigieburn-based Zerafa has signed to fight unbeaten Hungarian Lajos Mark Nagy (18-0, 10 KOs) in Russia on October 24th for the WBO Youth middleweight title.
Having recently lobbied for bigger fights domestically that failed to come to fruition – most notably challenges for the national strap at both middleweight and light middleweight – the fast handed Zerafa has decided to pursue an opportunity abroad, where if successful, will almost certainly lead to bigger fights.
For Zerafa, 22, the opportunity could not have come at a better time, having made the successful transition to a new gym and with his confidence at an all-time time. Zerafa (15-0, 7 KOs) said he embraces the biggest challenge of his professional career and looks to make the most of the opportunity.
“The fight came about when the Russian promoter contacted Peter Maniatis (Australian promoter) when he was in Shanghai for the WBA world title fight and he set it up with my trainer Joe Nader,” said Zerafa in an exclusive interview with Aus-Boxing. “There was talk of an eliminator against unbeaten Russian Arif Magomedov, but we eventually got the deal done.”
“This year has been a quiet one, but a very smart and productive year as I had to move gyms and adjust to the new style down at Powerplay with Joe Nader.” he explained. “My opponent is very crafty and heavy handed but I believe in myself and team.”
“We planned to stay low and grow working with each other until we were confident we could step up with the new style, and take on bigger and better opponents.”
In Nagy, 23, Zerafa is facing a fighter who may be unbeaten, but has only beaten modest opposition in the paid ranks with Nagy beating only five fighters with winning records.
With that said, Zerafa paid respect to his opponent, citing his knockout ratio as an indicator to what he believes will be the hardest fight of his professional career. If Zerafa is successful in dethroning Nagy, it will be the second undefeated fighter that he has beaten in twelve months.
“This fight means the absolute world to me, I want this more than I want to breathe,” said Zerafa. “But I do know that it’s a big task ahead and I’m going to stay confident and positive whatever the outcome is.”
Only one Australian has held the WBO Youth title since its inception in 2010, with Joel Brunker earning that honour with a one-sided second round stoppage over Carlos Lopez.
“My opponent has been in with some good fighters and has ended a lot of his fights within the first five rounds. He has showed power and he is a very balanced boxer,” Zerafa continued. “But myself and the team are aware of this and have trained smart and accordingly to this match up.”
In the lead up to this fight, Zerafa has been putting in work with some of the best fighters in the country, sparring with IBF middleweight champion Sam Soliman as well as WBC Youth super middleweight titlst Zac Dunn and Australian super middleweight titleholder Jake Carr.
Having put himself in the best possible condition for the biggest fight of his professional career to date, the confidently-spoken Zerafa is hopeful of a positive return on his biggest roll of the dice.
“I know I’m going there for one thing,” said Zerafa in closing. “And that’s to bring home the title.”
Photo: Louie Abigail/Photography by Rockfingrz