After a lengthy war of words, Australian middleweights Michael Zerafa and Issac Hardman finally settled their rivalry in the ring and it was Zerafa who had the last laugh, making short work of ‘The Headsplitter’.
The fight served as the main event on SLB Fight Night at the Melbourne Convention Centre, April 20.
The opening round saw Zerafa control the fight with his movement and sharp jab, while Hardman stalked without letting his hands go.
In round two, both fighters started to open up, before a sharp Zerafa left hook sent Hardman crashing to the canvas. On wobbly legs, Hardman tried to withstand the ensuing onslaught, but the referee stepped in to save him shortly after.
Zerafa (30-4, 19KO) explained post-fight that his boxing skill was the difference in the end.
“Look, I knew with my experience that he was making mistakes. He’s tough, he landed a nice shot, but I stayed composed and I knew what needed to be done. I knew my distance would pay off in the end. I saw it, clipped him with that left hook and I knew he was gone.” He said.
‘Pretty Boy’ also hinted that a rematch clause may have been part of the deal to fight Hardman.
“That’s boxing, it was my night tonight and I look forward to seeing him in the rematch. You know, there are rematches in there and may the best man win in that fight.”
Hardman (12-1, 10KO) for his part, took the loss in typical fashion.
“He got me, plain and simple. I had the best training camp, I’m not going to stand here and make excuses. Mick got me. The fleabag punched my f***ing head in, good on him.” He quipped.
“That’s boxing at the end of the day. You win some, you lose some. You win well, and you lose well – I’m going to lose well. I hope he goes and gets that IBF world title, that’s what it’s about.
“I’m 25 years old, I’m 12 and one now, I’ll keep boxing until I’m 33, I’ll win a world title one day.”
The heated rivals managed to bury the hatchet post-fight, in a show of respect that perhaps few would have expected given the build up to the fight.
Zerafa is now poised to challenge undefeated Brazilian Esquiva Falcao for the IBF world title, soon to be vacated by Kazakh superstar Gennadiy Golovkin.
In the co-main event, New Zealand-born Australian super bantamweight Cherneka Johnson claimed the vacant IBF world title, with a split-decision win over Mexican contender Melissa Esquivel in a scrappy affair.
In a contest fought at a furious pace from the outset, Esquivel was hobbled by an apparent knee injury in the middle rounds, but bravely fought on to push Johnson all the way through to the final bell. In the end, it was ‘Neekz’ that proved to be the cleaner fighter through 10 rounds.
Johnson joins unified lightweight king George Kambosos Jr and newly minted IBF bantamweight champion Ebanie Bridges as Australia’s current world title holders. The new IBF champ called out Bridges after the fight, as well as calling for a rematch with former foe, Shannon ‘Shotgun’ O’Connell.
- Michael Zerafa defeated Issac Hardman via TKO, R2, 1:27 – IBF world middleweight title eliminator
- Cherneka Johnson defeated Melissa Esquivel via split decision (95-96, 96-94, 97-93) – IBF world female super bantamweight title
- Carly Salmon defeated Krystina Jacobs by unanimous decision (58-56, 59-55, 58-56)
- Benjamin Bommber defeated Waiwit Nareeruk via TKO, R4, 0:31
- Campbell Somerville defeated Lawrence Glover via TKO, R2, 2:07
- Zoe Putorak vs Kim-Alina Ross was declared a split draw (39-37, 37-39, 38-38)
- Jack Gipp defeated Lepani Levatia via TKO (3 knockdowns), R1, 1:41