Issac Hardman is a fighter on the rise.
The Brisbane-based middleweight returns to the ring for the fourth time in 2021, when he takes on New South Welshman Adam Stowe in the main event of ‘Super Saturday’ on December 4.
Hardman’s outspoken nature and genuine knockout power has garnered more attention than a fighter might expect after only 11 fights. Not only has the former MMA prospect caught the eye of the fans, but also that of a divisional rival, in world-rated Victorian Michael Zerafa.
Hardman himself seems to be somewhat taken aback by the sudden attention from Zerafa, whom he admits he didn’t consider as a rival until recently.
“I was a fan of his. This time last year I probably said he was out of my depth, he was further along in his career so I wouldn’t have expected him to have a fight with me.” Hardman confessed.
However, admiration can quickly turn to conflict in the world of boxing, particularly when world rankings and international opportunities are at stake.
“Going back to my DMs, when I scroll back to the top I’d always say how good he was, like ‘good on ya Michael Zerafa’ and stuff like that. But again, when there’s a line in the sand you draw it, when you step over that f***er with me that’s the end of it,” he said.
“What really happened was, he became the guy that was in front of me, the next step along my boxing journey. It doesn’t make sense to call for the guy behind me, he was number one after the Mark Lucas fight and still at that time, when I fought Mark I was still very amicable with Michael Zerafa. But I said he was the guy in front of me and he wanted to keep campaigning at middleweight, I’m chomping at his heels.”
Of course, like any boxing tale, their rivalry is not purely a sporting one.
“He’s very emotional that man. He just started saying some wrong things, and now it’s a feud that is burning very stong and I can not wait to smash his head in.”.
“He made a big deal of this video that came out, like he jumped the gun and had to get one over me by saying that he had to announce it (the fight). I was telling everyone that we were fighting anyway, he wanted it to be in February, but he’s doing his SAS thing.”
With all of that said, the now-highly anticipated matchup is slated for the first half of 2022, with discussions already taking place.
“The fight will happen in March/April next year. Whether it’ll be on Foxtel or not, my promoter and his manager worked on a date that will align with Foxtel. The head guy at Foxtel has to decide ‘yeah we’ll put him on’. If he doesn’t it’ll just be on Epicentre, which I’m not a fan of, but it is what it is.”
“As long as I get my hands on that guy, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. But they have aligned it with a date that corresponds with the Foxtel schedule and the pay-per-view next year, with Jai Opetaia’s world title and things like that. Hopefully it lands on Foxtel, because then I get paid accordingly, which I feel I deserve.”
But before he can think too much about a nationally televised grudge match with Zerafa, Hardman has an assignment ahead of him, in the form of 6-2-2 southpaw Stowe.
“I do have an opponent in front of me on December 4 and I’m not overlooking him.”
“I have people in my DMs all the time saying that I’m going to smash him, this and that, and asking me about Zerafa already. I’m not even thinking about Zerafa yet, I’ve gotta get through Adam you know.”
And the stakes are not lost on ‘The Headsplitter’.
“There’s a chance he chins me and he gets all the chocolates come December, and I have a sh** box Christmas and my payday with Zerafa rides off into the sunset. So I’ve got to smash Adam Stowe come December 4, which I will, that’s all I’m focussed on at the moment.”
“He’ll be there for a punch-on with everything to gain. I’ve got everything to lose, so if I was in his position, I’d be doing everything I can to get ready to spoil the party.”
With high-profile fights mooted against Zerafa, as well as WBA middleweight champion Ryoto Murata, Hardman sees a clear pathway to stardom. Japan’s Murata currently has his hands full with a showdown against Kazakh superstar Gennadiy Golovkin booked for December 29, but if Hardman handles his own business in the meantime, he feels that their paths may still cross in the future.
“We’ve been talking about Ryoto Murata, he just landed a massive fight with Triple G, so that’s out of the question. But I feel like Triple G will beat him and maybe I fight Murata with him thinking that a win over me will inject him back into the conversation for a world title. I’ll knock him on the head and that puts me right there.”
Despite his lofty goals and unshakable confidence, the conversation quickly circles back to December 4. The heavy-hitting Hardman knows as well as anyone that one punch can change everything.
“I’ve gotta get through Adam first, then Michael Zerafa, then the world is my oyster and I’m in the conversation of the best 10 middleweights in the world and that’s exciting.”
In vintage fashion, the ever-affable Hardman is never one to shy away from a prediction when called upon.
“I’m gonna put him to bed in five rounds, under five rounds for sure. I feel like I’ve got a thing that it’s going to be through the body. But again, I feel like he’s good for it, he’ll climb himself off the canvas a couple of times then I’ll put him to bed shortly after that.”
And he is not afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
“But within five rounds he goes to bed and if not, everyone in that venue, I’ll buy them all a beer!”
“Shout’s on if I don’t get it done in five!”
In modern-day combat sports, skills alone are scarcely enough to reach the riches afforded to the top echelon of the sport. Hardman possesses the personality and mic skills required to put bums on seats, and like other big personalities such as Anthony Mundine and Danny Green before him, looms as a breath of fresh air for Australian boxing.
Alongside a fresh crop of emerging stars such as Tim Tszyu, Brock Jarvis, Jai Opetaia, Harry Garside, and newly-minted world lightweight champion George Kambosos Jnr, Hardman recognises that he has an opportunity to play a part in somewhat of an Australian boxing resurgence.
“With the talent coming up here in Australia, there’s a shift coming. I’m glad to be a part of it, and I feel like I’m one of the guys at the head leading the charge.”
Tasman Fighters ‘Super Saturday’ takes place at Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane on December 4.