'We never take easy fights': Michael Zerafa interview
Michael Zerafa returns to the world stage against Kell Brook in Sheffield this Saturday. Anthony Cocks spoke to the Australian super welterweight about his desire to beat the Briton and secure a world title fight...
The last time Michael Zerafa travelled internationally for a high-profile fight he left the ring on a stretcher.
But the 26-year-old Australian insists he has no regrets.
“I don’t regret taking the [Peter] Quillin fight despite the weight difference and all that,” said Zerafa, 25-2 (14), who gave up a full stone in weight by the time he entered the ring against the future WBO middleweight champion three years ago.
Quillin knocked him out in five rounds in a bout that was televised live on NBC in the United States.
“I knew it was going to be a massive challenge but you have to test yourself against the elite-level fighters to find out what your strong points are and what needs improving,” continued Zerafa, the WBA number eight 154-pounder.
“I’ve learnt a lot since then and that’s what has helped me progress to this point.”
The Sam Labruna-trained fighter has done nothing but improve since then. Since returning to the super-welterweight division at the start of the year Zerafa has defeated previously unbeaten Englishman Adam Harper for the vacant Commonwealth title and logged two further wins over local tough guy Wade Ryan for the vacant WBA Oceania belt and Colombian journeyman Jose Agustin Feria.
The Craigieburn carpenter knows his next fight is another big step up in class but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Zerafa will face former IBF welterweight world champion Kell ‘Special K’ Brook 37-2 (26) at Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England on Saturday.
It will be his first fight abroad since the Quillin loss.
“Kell Brook is Kell Brook for a reason,” Zerafa said. “He’s a seasoned fighter who has been there with the big boys, but no-one is a perfect fighter and his last performance was good for a comeback fight but I know I’m different to his last opponent in many ways.
“The fight is massive, biggest of my career. Beating him gets me a step closer to the ultimate goal and a shot at [WBA and IBF world champion] Jarrett Hurd’s titles. I’m not interested in what it means for him; I’m only focused on myself.
“Fighting outside of Australia is always hard, but we never take easy fights and want to be remembered for that.”
At 5-foot-11 Zerafa might appear to have the height to compete in the 160-pound weight class, but his naturally long and lean frame is far more suited to the junior middleweight division.
“Fighting at junior middleweight is where I’m best at,” he admitted. “I’m tall, agile, quick and making weight isn’t an issue, so I’m very comfortable there. My body is really feeling strong.
"I made some changes to my team by adding a sports therapist about two years ago. He really helps me continue with my vigorous training but also knows the best ways and treatments for my recovery so I can do it all over again the next day. This, along with training smarter, has really helped keep me fresh but also enabling me to progress as a fighter on a physical level.”
The 32-year-old Brook, who is ranked in the top five by all four major sanctioning bodies, bounced back with a win over former fringe contender Siarhei Rabchanka in March after back-to-back knockout losses to world champions Errol Spence Jr at welterweight and Gennady Golovkin at middleweight.
Zerafa will enjoy a couple of inches in height and reach on Brook but says that will count for nothing if he can’t use those advantages effectively.
“In my opinion these are only numbers but I have to make sure that I'm using these to my advantage and that's one aspect we've been working on in training,” he said.
“They won't mean anything if I'm not smart in the ring so we'll see come fight night.”
Zerafa, who trains alongside world-rated light heavyweight Blake Caparello and two-time female world champion Susie ‘Q’ Ramadan amongst others, credits coach Labruna with turning around his career.
“What can I say, Sam Labruna is not only my trainer but now he’s family,” Zerafa said. “He is like no other trainer I have had, he tells you how it is and how to fix and become better.
“He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and only wants the best for me and the team. Inside and outside the gym always puts others first, he’s an honest legend.”
And if he’s victorious against Brook, Zerafa knows what he wants next.
“The world champions,” he says without hesitation. “Doesn't matter if it's Hurd, [WBC champion Jermell] Charlo, [WBA ‘regular’ titleholder Brian Carlos] Castano or whoever.”