IT was a night that many were not expecting.
A dominant display of strength and simple boxing skills saw Michael Zerafa comfortably dispatch of former welterweight titleholder and fellow Aussie, Jeff Horn.
Although Horn’s eyes were set on a world title challenge against WBA ‘regular’ champion Ryoto Murata at the end of the year, his plans came crashing down around him in the ninth round of his unexpected stoppage loss.
This result was not unexpected for Zerafa’s corner however, with the prediction in the build-up that Horn will fall, coming true. The Melburnian saw the opportunity to gatecrash the world scene, and grabbed it with both hands.
Handing Horn his first defeat at his new weight in such a vicious manner, his victory impressed viewers across the world – with many fans asking who is next for the ‘Pretty Boy’ – we assess five potential options at both home and abroad.
1. Jeff Horn (19-2-1, 13 KOs)
With such a dominant display from Zerafa, it could be argued that from his side the rematch is not a priority and more would be proven tackling other challenges. Post-fight, Horn was heavily criticised for his poor performance, with some claiming he was exposed.
However, it was more than likely a combination of the jump up in weight and Zerafa’s controlling of the fight that led to such a lacklustre performance. It is also possible that he and his team slightly overlooked Zerafa.
Despite potential concerns surrounding both his fitness and durability up at middleweight, if Horn is to continue fighting, it may be a wise decision to not take the rematch and move back down in weight. At 31, however, he will have to decide if he has it within himself to rebuild and go again.
2. Tim Tszyu (14-0, 10 KOs)
In the build-up to the Horn fight, there had been many murmurs of a fight between Horn and Tim Tszyu, however this defeat means the opportunity now potentially opens up to Zerafa.
In the weight division below Zerafa, but climbing the rankings in a similar manner, Tszyu, is only looking for the big fights that will further his career. Wanting to bring big time boxing back to Australia, this bout would undoubtedly go some way to do that and so may appeal to Tszyu in that sense alone.
Although Zerafa has been in with the bigger names under the bright lights, such as Kell Brook and Jeff Horn, Tszyu was flown over to the Philippines as a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao prior to his most recent win over previously undefeated Keith Thurman, showing that he has also mixed at an elite level.
Despite domestic showdowns exciting fans across the nation, it is vital to remember the importance of the global audience. To satisfy and engage with such an audience, it makes sense for Zerafa’s next opponent to either be from, or have boxed in countries with an established boxing markets.
This is an option for early 2020, as Tszyu’s immediate future is firmly affixed on looming opponent Jack Brubaker on December 6th.
3. Liam Williams (21-2-1, 16 KOs)
A British option to consider is a stablemate of Kell Brook, a previous opponent of Zerafa, in the form of top contender, Liam Williams, who fights out of the infamous Ingle gym.
Having recently switched trainer to Dominic Ingle, Williams has impressed under each outing, stopping all of his opponents since his loss to Liam Smith in Newcastle.
Zerafa would need the composure shown in the Horn fight to combat the aggression Williams brings and to emerge victorious.
Williams is ranked third in the WBC and sixth in the WBO middleweight rankings, a win here would cement Zerafa’s claim as a top contender, putting him in a great position to challenge for a world title in the new year.
4. Billy Joe Saunders (28-0, 13 KOs)
Saunders fluctuates between middleweight and super middleweight and the reigning WBO super middleweight titleholder is looking for consistency having secured an opponent for his first fight under the Matchroom banner.
Whilst this may initially seem like an unlikely opponent, in boxing, timing is key and Zerafa may just fit the billing for this spot. This would be an unbelievable coup, with Saunders’ recent signing to Matchroom, Zerafa would undoubtedly earn his highest purse to date and if up at super middle, would get the chance to challenge for a world title.
The intrigue in this fight would be to see how he would deal with a seasoned slick boxer such as Saunders, who is far removed from Horn’s aggressive style.
5. Gabriel Rosado (24-12-1, 14 KOs)
Despite the booming English market, the US has seen a resurgence in boxing with new broadcasters entering the television landscape.
New streaming platform DAZN exploded into the market, aiming to bulldoze their stateside competition. One fighter on their network, Gabriel Rosado, is never in a dull fight and would be a great opponent for Zerafa.
Known for his guts and determination, this fight would be fireworks. Given his high profile in several key markets, as well as his existing world ranking, Rosado remains an extremely credible opponent and would be another impressive scalp to collect.
Zerafa, who would undoubtedly be the away fighter for this, would be compensated not solely in purse but also with far greater worldwide exposure than if he was to fight a fellow Australian.
Ultimately, the bout against Rosado therefore looks to make the most commercial and financial sense.
Words: Will Collett/Follow Will on Twitter