Michael Zerafa: ‘I’m not a stripper; I’m a boxer’
Michael Zerafa knows that stepping up to the world stage of boxing means increased scrutiny and expectation. Now he also knows it means being trolled on social media.
The Australian boxer, who faces Peter Quillin on Sept. 12 at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., concedes he is a major underdog against the former WBO middleweight titleholder. What he isn’t, he seeks to clarify, is a male stripper or a Chippendales dancer.
A photo taken from one of his social media accounts has circulated in internet forums and Facebook groups showing the 23-year-old fighter wearing traditional Chippendales garb, shirtless with a bowtie. Zerafa asserts that the photo was taken at a dress-up party and that he’s a fighter through and through.
“I’m not a stripper, not a dancer; I’m a professional boxer,” the Melbourne, Australia resident Zerafa (17-1, 9 knockouts) tells RingTV. Zerafa says the only job he carries aside from pursuing his boxing career is training clients at Powerplay Gym in Melbourne.
“They saw a photo of myself and took it a little too far and thought I was a Chippendales dancer. That’s obviously not true. It’s obviously a photo that was put up and went viral. I’m just a local boy from Melbourne who dedicates his time three times a day training and pushing as hard as I can to make the most out of this opportunity.”
Zerafa is jumping from the club scene of Australia to a Premier Boxing Champions event on NBC, having competed in two six-rounders in his last outings. He had gone 10 rounds on four occasions prior, including his lone defeat to Arif Magomedov in Russia last October.
Odds for the fight have installed Quillin (31-0-1, 22 KOs) to be as high as a -10000 favorite to defeat Zerafa. Many feel that the fight, which is being contested at a catchweight of 163 pounds, is simply a transition bout for Quillin into the super middleweight division after he missed weight prior to his draw with Andy Lee in April.
“It’s just more fuel for me, more adrenaline to get out there and upset the world,” Zerafa says of the odds. “It’s boxing; it’s a sport at the end of the day. Win, lose or draw, as long as I walk out there and give it my absolute all, that’s all you can do. We know we’ve got a hard task but we’re very confident.
“It’s because of the unknown. Zerafa only has one internationally known name on his record and this is Magomedov. That doesn’t bother me because it means Zerafa will be coming in under the radar,” says Zerafa’s manager Mike Altamura, who signed the fighter in February of this year.
Zerafa, born to an Australian mother and a father born in Malta, says he first became interested in boxing at age 10. He had around 20 amateur fights, Altamura says, and turned pro at age 18 after failing to make Australia’s World Youth Team after losing to 2012 Olympian Damien Hooper.
Zerafa looks at the fight as a “nothing to lose, everything to gain” situation, and he has good reason to feel confident after Quillin suffered the first knockdown of his career against Lee.
“Quillin doesn’t like pressure and I consider myself to be a very big puncher in both hands, so I do think I have a little bit of an advantage there,” says Zerafa. “Plus being 9 years younger than Quillin, I’ve got youth on my side.”