It was a typical weeknight at Club Glenvale when Steve Spark received a phone call that changed his life.
The 24-year-old prospect from Toowoomba, Australia was working a shift as a bartender in a local establishment when the news broke of Michael Zerafa abruptly withdrawing from a planned showdown with Tim Tszyu. Event promoter No Limit Boxing was determined for the July 7 show to proceed at Newcastle (Australia) Entertainment Centre, though it would require finding a credible opponent on short notice.
Soon thereafter came the call from Brendon Smith, Spark’s manager and trainer who reached out with what turned out to be the best news he could possibly receive.
“He called me while I was at work pouring beers. It was all of [90 minutes] that I took the fight,” Spark revealed during the final pre-fight press conference Monday morning in Newcastle. “It’s my opportunity of a lifetime. We’re not here to make up the numbers. I’m here to win this fight and I’m here to destroy the face of Australian boxing.”
Spark was introduced on June 30 as the new opponent for Tszyu after Zerafa bowed out due to concerns of travel and quarantine measures as parts of Australia are currently undergoing COVID lockdowns. Newcastle is not among the cities currently affected, nor is Zerafa’s hometown of Melbourne as the veteran fringe contender was vilified by boxing fans and several in the media over his refusal to proceed with the highly anticipated grudge match.
It will be a tall order for Spark (12-1, 11KOs), who only recently fought above junior welterweight for the first time in his young career as he essentially moves up two weight divisions to face Tszyu (18-0, 14KOs) in Wednesday’s Pay-Per-View headliner. He does enter the fight on the heels of his best win to date, an eight-round decision over Jack Brubaker this past April. Tszyu happened to be in attendance, though in support of heavyweight Paul Gallen in his first-round knockout of Lucas Browne in the main event.
The win over Brubaker marked just the second time that Spark has gone to the scorecards and his first such occasion in a winning performance. He had previously never fought past the sixth round, and is banking on his power to follow him up the scale against Tszyu, a second-generation and current top junior middleweight contender who has emerged as Australia’s biggest current star.
“I’ve earned that shot and that’s why I believe I got this call. My shot and my knockout ratio I believe is what excites Tim,” notes Spark. “My style is going to pose threats to him. You got two men who whack hard and wearing 10-ounce gloves.
“It only takes one shot. The win can come from my end just as easily. Don’t count me out.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox