Junior middleweight contender Michael Zerafa had lashed out at his domestic rival, Australian superstar Tim Tszyu.
They were scheduled to fight in a grudge match last week in Newcastle.
However, Zerafa withdrew from the fight - claiming he was promised exemptions to the COVID-19 restrictions that would have allowed his team to fly in and out of without needing to quarantine upon returning home.
Tszyu went forward with the event and faced a very late-replacement in Steve Spark - who was knocked out in three rounds.
Tszyu is now moving on to well-known contenders from the United States - with no interest in dealing with Zerara again.
According to Zerafa, when the exemptions for his team were not delivered, he would have been forced to travel over to the fight without the majority of his team.
“No fighter does that in the biggest fight of Australian boxing,” Zerafa told The Age and the Herald.
Zerafa explains that his team is made up of small business owners who can't afford to spend two weeks in quarantine.
However, many critics have said that Zerafa has way too many team members and this was the biggest fight of his career - one that he was actively pursuing for quite some time.
“We told Tim Tszyu, come down here and fight, and he said no because of COVID. You can’t expect Tim Tszyu to come down here with no [manager] Glen Jennings and no [grandfather] Boris. He didn’t come to his press conference in Melbourne and used COVID as an excuse. It just shows they really didn’t want this fight," Zerafa said.
“To me it didn’t matter to me if I quarantined or not, but in my team there were 12 to 15 members that played a huge role in my fight that just couldn’t afford it. People have building companies, panel beating companies, a lot that run their own businesses that couldn’t financially afford it.
“We said that to Matt Rose and Team Tszyu and they said, ‘no worries, we’ll deliver exemptions and permits so you don’t get stuck’. Five or six weeks passed, nothing was delivered, and the week of the fight we had a meeting with Tszyu’s team … they promised the world and delivered nothing.”
But, Tszyu and his team are not buying it. They believe Zerafa chickened out.
“We knew from the moment he looked Tim in the eyes at the press conference and went quiet that he never wanted this fight,” CEO of No Limit Boxing George Rose said at the time.
Zerafa strongly disagrees with any claim that he fabricated excuses in order to run away from the fight.
“I’ve invested three years in getting this fight, time and money,” Zerafa said.
“I’ve been back and forward to Sydney, crashing fights to make it clear I want to fight him, to then pull out a week later? Why would I go through all this effort with a huge pay day not to rock up? There’s two sides to every story. [The criticism] has been definitely disheartening but the people that know me know what I’m all about. And people who know boxing know full stop I never shy away from a fight and I never will."