Improved Michael Zerafa ready to shock the world


Erislandy Lara is vowing to end Michael Zerafa's second fight in the US in the same manner as his first, but the Australian says he's now a very different fighter.

Zerafa will take on long-time WBA middleweight champion Lara on the undercard of the Tim Tszyu-Sebastian Fundora blockbuster in Las Vegas on Sunday (AEDT).

The Victorian is dedicating the world title fight to his sister Michelle, who is in the middle of treatment for breast cancer but surprised him by flying to Nevada for the biggest bout of his career.

With both men easily making the 72.6kg weight on the eve of the fight, Cuban-American Lara is planning to spoil the reunion, declaring he will knock Zerafa out early in the 12-round fight.

"I'm going to work hard in the ring and I feel like I'm going to knock him out," Lara said.

"I think it's going to happen before the sixth round."

Zerafa suffered a similar defeat in his only previous fight in the US, back in 2015 against American WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin.

Fighting in Connecticut, Quillin knocked out Zerafa in the fifth round.

"I was a boy when I came here first and now I'm a man so it's a big difference - you're going to see a different Michael Zerafa," the 32-year-old said.

"The first time I was here I fell short against a big puncher in Peter Quillin but I've now transitioned into someone a lot better and I'm ready to shock the world and make a statement.

"I'm more experienced - I fought him at 21 years old - I stepped up too quick and I thought I could take on the world.

"Now I feel like I'm ready to go, this is my time because mentally, physically, emotionally, I just feel like I'm a different all-round fighter."

Lara, aged 40, has held the belt since 2021 but hasn't fought since May 2022.

He's still highly rated, possessing an impressive record (29-3, 17KO), including a split-decision loss to superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.

While Zerafa himself hasn't fought since November 2022 and was embroiled in an ugly split with his trainer Sam Labruna, he says Lara is overdue for a loss.

"He's a great mover but he's getting on (in age) and I truly believe he's held the belt for way too long," said Zerafa, who enlisted future Filipino Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire as his trainer for this fight.

"I'm there to upset him, take what's mine."

Lara has been eyeing a fight against two-division former world champion Danny Garcia and Zerafa feels his rival may be overlooking what's in front of him.

"Jeff Horn did the same thing," said Zerafa of his fellow Australian, who he upset in their first fight in 2019.

"Jeff Horn beat Manny Pacquiao, then took me as a light fight and I ended up knocking him out, and I think he's doing the same thing.

"He's already looking past me and that's a huge mistake. I'm fully focused on the job at hand."