IF their first fight was a spectacle, the second pairing of Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa could prove to be so much more.
The first leg of their highly anticipated rematch kicked off in Brisbane on Thursday afternoon, with both Horn (19-2-1, 13 KOs) and Zerafa (27-3, 16 KOs) at their vocal best.
Flanked by their respective managers, both teams exchanged words, with contrasting approaches taken from either side.
Among a slew of topics discussed was the ill-fated WBA middleweight title opportunity against Ryota Murata that Zerafa was refused on the back of Horn actioning his contracted rematch clause.
It started with the decision to play out the rematch at the same weight, which could conclude in a replica outcome, according to Zerafa’s manager, Brendan Bourke.
“We thought we had the world title fight with Murata, we thought we were going,” he explained.
“But look, at the end of the day, we’re here. We’re coming to Jeff’s backyard to take the fight. We’re not worried about fighting Jeff, we never were.
“The first fight worked out the way we thought it would, the second one is going to work out the exact same. We’re extremely confident, can’t wait for this fight.
“The poster is wrong, it should be Zerafa versus Horn. He won the first fight, not Jeff.
“This fight is at middleweight, Jeff’s not a middleweight, we proved that the first time. Michael is a fully-fledged middleweight, this time, it’s going to be even better.”
Horn’s long-time trainer and manager Glenn Rushton, who received ample criticism for his late attempt to withdraw his fighter, was quick to defend the initial opportunity that they granted Zerafa.
“Michael would never have gotten the opportunity in the first place. Jeff owes Michael absolutely nothing,” added Rushton.
“In that first fight, we went down to Bendigo, in his hometown and we fought out at middleweight, which is out of Jeff’s division. We gave him every opportunity and Jeff owed Michael absolutely nothing.
“A part of that fight was a condition that there would be a rematch, so that was an insurance clause in there. We’re doing nothing but exercising that right.
“We’re still not asking for anything, just fulfil the contract. Yes, we would’ve rathered the fight at super welterweight… but we don’t care. The welterweight Jeff Horn that fought Manny Pacquiao would beat Michael Zerafa.
“The eye of the tiger is back, we’re seeing things that we haven’t seen in a while.”
The best of serve of the afternoon was delivered by Zerafa, who went on a verbal tirade, which included Horn, his brother Ben, as well as the extended team.
The harshest of the Melburnian’s words were served to Horn, with the former welterweight titleholder roasted on stage for enacting his contracted rematch.
“I already know I can beat you,” said Zerafa.
“The first fight I believed I could beat you, and I did. Now I know I could beat you, and I will. I know I can knock you out, you can’t knock me out. I’ve proven I can knock you out.
“The fact that I had a world title shot and I beat him fair and squarely, and he denied that, and denied Australia that, I understand why he’s getting hate mail.
“He’s denied Australia of a world title fight. If it was a close fight, or it went to a decision… I beat you fair and square. You’re not a middleweight, read the comments.”