After 14 months out of the ring, polarising pugilist Michael Zerafa wants to remind fight fans that far from being washed up, he now has the chance to become world champion.
Not by choice, the Melbourne middleweight has been off the radar since a dour points win over Italian Danilo Creati in Sydney back in November 2022.
Zerafa was lined up for a number of world title shots with Kazakhstani great Gennady Golovkin among them, but fight politics, contracts, other results, an ugly split with his trainer and then his US management contributed to his inactivity.
Zerafa (31-4-0) will finally get his chance in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 31 facing Cuban-American Erislandy Lara (29-3-3) for his WBA belt.
On the undercard of Tim Tszyu’s pay-per-view blockbuster fight with Keith Thurman, Zerafa is looking to join his Australian arch-rival as a world champion.
“I was always promised that the world title (fight) was going to be mine and that’s why I hung in there – it was going to happen June, then July and then August and it was mentally challenging,” Zerafa told AAP.
“It’s been hard because for 13 months I’ve been training every day, two or three times a day, with no fight at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s every fighter’s dream to fight for a world title so I just believed eventually I will be in this position and now I’m fighting for the world title and what bigger than at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.”
Zerafa has been training at the Melbourne gym of his childhood friend Kris Terzievski, himself a rising heavyweight star who took down Paul Gallen.
The Craigieburn locals will continue in Craigieburn on the outskirts of Melbourne until the end of the month when he and “The Filipino Flash” will shift to the world’s fight capital.
But his preparation will ramp up on Wednesday with the arrival of Filipino four-division world champion Nonito Donaire, who is going to train him for the Lara fight.
“I’m super privileged to have Nonito Donaire, nine-time world champion and one of the best to ever come out of the Philippines, along with Manny Pacquiao,” Zerafa said.
“I linked up with him two years ago and we got along like a house on fire and he put his hand up to to be in my corner and train me.
“He’s going be a huge powerhouse in my corner … we’ll leave no stone left unturned and bring home that belt.”
Lara himself hasn’t fought since May 2022 and is aged 40, but Zerafa said he was a “big fan”.
“We were watching him when he was fighting Canelo Alvarez and other big names and this was even before I was in the mix to even potentially fight him.
“He’s a great fighter, I can’t take that away from him, he’s been in there with the best and he’s beaten some of the best so it’s going to be a hard fight.
“He said that he’s going to knock me out so I will see him in March – everyone has the same plan.”