Michael Zerafa broke down in tears after settling his bitter feud with Issac Hardman in astounding scenes, demolishing the man known as the ‘Headsplitter’ in a second-round TKO to earn his shot at a world title.
Zerafa appeared to have the edge on Hardman in the first round and, as his rival took to the second in aggressive fashion, Zerafa floored the Queenslander with a crushing left hook.
The referee allowed the fight to resume but a barrage of Zerafa punches ended the duel not even 30 seconds later, before the 30-year-old thanked his haters for fuelling his hunger.
AS IT HAPPENED: Zerafa stuns Hardman; Aussie wins world title in co-main event
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The result means Zerafa is now the IBF’s world No.2 middleweight and will need to face Brazilian Esquiva Falcao in his bid for the world title.
Despite the genuine hate the two men have for each other, respect was shown by both competitors after the fight.
They had a warm embrace, Zerafa said he had “nothing but love and respect” for Hardman and the Victorian wished him the best for his upcoming wedding.
While Hardman did refer to Zerafa as a “fleabag” multiple times in his ring interview, he also congratulated him on the triumph and said he hoped he claimed the world title.
“You know what? I didn’t even do this for me,” Zerafa said.
“All the haters, thank you. You put fire in the belly. I did this for you. You all doubted me and that’s what I do. I’ve got to come out here and show the world.
“But, huge credit. There was a lot of animosity between me and Hardman. Nothing but love and respect. We fought it. May the best man win. It was me on the night.
“Credit to Hardman for coming down (from Queensland). He is one tough son of a bitch.
“He is getting married in two, three weeks. I wish him nothing but love. Congratulations, man, and enjoy the life.”
The feud between Zerafa and Hardman had intensified when Zerafa allegedly called his rival “a racist sook” at the weigh-in, sparking a wild brawl.
Hardman launched at Zerafa and both began to swing huge punches, before several people pulled them apart.
“He called me a racist sook under his breath,” Hardman said.
“He is an embarrassment to all Australians at a time when we are trying to progress as a society… it’s a disgrace.
“I would like him to explain how I am racist when my soon-to-be wife in two weeks is of colour, her dad is a chief in Papua New Guinea. My two best mates are Samoan. My dad was adopted into an Aboriginal family and I still keep in touch with my cousins at Wee Waa.
“He has called me a f—head and a fat, alcoholic drunk, but to use the racist line is a joke. I have marched in anti-racism protests.
“He said it a few times and I couldn’t help myself. I just lunged at him. I rolled a bomb over and he felt that and credit to him, he struck back.”
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