Lockdown not stopping boxer Zerafa

·4-min read

He might go by the moniker "Pretty Boy" but Michael Zerafa is proving he doesn't need any of life's luxuries to prepare for his sell-out showdown with Tim Tszyu.

The Melbourne boxer will try to take undefeated Tzsyu's WBO global super welterweight title in Newcastle on July 7, describing his opponent as a "stepping stone" to the world stage.

Zerafa's preparation has been far from ideal, with the 29-year-old first landing in hospital with a kidney infection that saw him lose four kilograms from his lithe frame and miss almost a week of training.

And now Victoria's ongoing lockdown is threatening to delay the much-anticipated fight, which has been at least 18 months in the making.

"If it gets to the point where we are struggling at training because we can't prep than we have to look at things like postponing the fight or what not but until then everything's on track," Zerafa told AAP.

With a record of 28-4 (17 KOs), Zerafa is training in austere conditions due to shutdown of all but essential services and the travel restrictions in the state.

While his gym contains all the boxing basics, there's no massages or ice-baths or even trips to the icy Port Phillip bay to aid recovery.

"There's a lot of restrictions which has put a bit of dent in our prep but I know how to box and I'm just rolling with it," he said.

"It's the recovery - the pools and recovery centres are all closed so we've had to implement a lot of things in our training but getting the work in hasn't stopped.

"The vibe has kind of gone, cause everyone is in lockdown but we've got a job to do."

His plans to spar with Ben Mahoney went out the window with the No.4 ranked Australian super welterweight unable to travel to Melbourne and instead joining Tszyu's training team on the Gold Coast.

There was no bad blood from Zerafa about the switch, saying it was too good an opportunity for Mahoney to pass up.

Instead Zerafa is sparring with a Melbourne-based boxer, aptly named Benjamin Bomber, and believes it could be to his advantage.

"I know for a fact Timmy doesn't have Benny's power - his aggression or his all-round skill," Zerafa said.

"Tim has more experience and that name but this young gun has a lot to offer."

The Tszyu camp claimed an offer was made to relocate Zerafa before lockdown but Zerafa said it was never put to him.

Tszyu himself offered no sympathy: "I completely block it out. I couldn't care less about what he's feeling. It's not up to me, I can't change things, I just keep on doing what I always do," the 26-year-old said this week.

Zerafa's last fight sent former world champion Anthony Mundine into retirement, with their March bout in Bendigo lasting two minutes.

Before that he fought twice in 2019 against Jeff Horn, splitting the results, but declared ring rust wouldn't be an issue despite his lack of minutes inside the ropes.

Without the swagger of Mundine or the Tszyu name, Zerafa hasn't had a lot of international opportunities and admits he hasn't made the most of the chances he has had.

In 2018 he lost to Brit Kell Brook in a 12-round unanimous decision and was stretchered out of his 2015 fight with New Yorker Peter Quillin after a fifth-round knockout.

Before that fight he was bizarrely accused in an interview of being a "Chippendales dancer" after a shirtless bow-tied photo from a dress-up party on his social media went viral.

Zerafa said he had matured both as a man and a boxer.

"I have a lot more boxing IQ and I'm a man now, I was a boy in a man's world back then," he said.

"I've grown and I'm mentally and physically stronger and finding my love for the sport.

"In this sport patience is key - it's all about timing and I've fallen short at the top level against world-class opponents like Kell Brook, Peter Quillen but my time has come."

Zerafa feels he will have too much power and too much heart for Tszyu (18-0, 5 KOs) and is hoping that a win means another crack at the big time.

"Tszyu was never my dream, he's just in the way of it," said Zerafa, who took up the sport when he was 10.

"My dream was always to fight for a world title and win a world title.

"Whether I can ... I just want to be involved and I'm super close.

"Once I get over Tszyu there, hopefully a world title fight approaches."