Michael Zerafa made a promise to keep calm, though the chance to take a dig at Tim Tszyu was all but inevitable.
Plenty of words were exchanged as the two formally announced their fight, which will take place July 7 live on Australia Main Event Pay-Per-View from Newcastle Entertainment Centre in Newcastle, Australia. Tickets sold out on the first day, marking Tszyu’s second straight fight at the venue to play to full capacity.
The rise in popularity for the second-generation boxer has prompted event handlers to rename the venue ‘Tszyu-castle,’ though his opponent believes the fame has been inherited far more than earned.
“I didn’t have my dad to get me where I’m at,” Zerafa scoffed at the unbeaten junior middleweight during the initial press conference to announce the event, referencing Hall of Fame former lineal junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu. “I had to build my name with my bare hands. “If your name was Tim Smith, nobody would care about you. “Trust me. You’re a Tszyu, and you’re only second best at being that.”
It’s a claim that Tszyu has heard throughout his career, though he continues to take it in stride. The 26-year-old further enhanced his own credentials in his most recent start, a one-sided drubbing of former title challenger Dennis Hogan whom he stopped in the 5th round of their March 31 headliner at this very venue.
The win came 18 days after Zerafa picked up a high-profile win of his own, albeit versus a middle-aged version of former super middleweight titlist Anthony Mundine.
It was the third straight headline-grabbing event for Melbourne’s Zerafa, who split a pair of fights with celebrated countryman and former welterweight titlist Jeff Horn in 2019 prior to the pandemic. Horn was being groomed for a shot at WBA middleweight titlist Ryota Murata, only for Zerafa to ruin those plans following a 9th round stoppage in their Aug. 2019 clash. Horn prevailed in the rematch, scoring a pair of knockdowns en route to a competitive 10-round majority decision win in Dec. 2019.
The win over Mundine allowed Zerafa to remain in the headlines, with the preference to remain in notable fights rather than simply run with the pack. He immediately seized the chance to face Tszyu (18-0, 14KOs) from the moment such a fight was offered, convinced that he is far more advanced than even the upgraded competition recently conquered by the unbeaten junior middleweight contender.
“He’s had the help with that last name. But credit to him, he’s done his job,” Zerafa begrudgingly admits. “He’s beaten the names they’ve put in front of him. I’m not going to sit here and say he doesn’t deserve to be where he’s at. He’s proven himself.
“But there are levels to this sport. He’s beaten the fighters at that level. There’s one more level and that’s where I’m at. July 7, it’s showtime.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox