World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown

Published 2:00pm 19 April 2022

World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown
Words by Nick Crockford

Issac Hardman has already had 12 “world title fights”. But tomorrow, when he steps into the ring at Melbourne Convention Centre, it will be different.

This time the Caboolture/Deception Bay-raised boxer will be one win, one knockout punch, or up to 10 tough rounds from a shot at the sport's holy grail.

The 26-year-old undefeated middleweight nicknamed 'Headsplitter', faces Michael 'Pretty Boy' Zerafa, 30, in one of the most anticipated fights in Australia this year, on pay-per-view Fite TV.

Hardman is ranked eight by the IBF (International Boxing Federation), Zerafa 10. The winner will be ranked two and face Brazilian Esquiva Falcao for the world middleweight crown.

Zerafa, the WBA Oceania champion, has won 29 of is 33 fights. Hardman, the Australian and IBF Australasian title holder, has 12 from 12 with 10 inside the distance.

“It’s all happening,” said Hardman, who flew to Melbourne yesterday, fights tomorrow, will be back to "mow the lawn" of his Bald Hills home on Thursday ... and days later get married.

World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown

Reality check

“I’ve been having world title fights every time I step into the ring,” said Hardman who trains at Nitro Boxing Fitness Centre in Chermside. “That’s my mentality.

“My fiancé says every fight is your world title fight. One loss in this game and you are (set back) back three years.

“This doesn’t feel like a dream, it feels part of the process. It’s not out of reach any more. That’s the reality. But I don’t get carried away. I just wake up and get the business done.”

Hardman has officially been in a 10-week pre-fight camp (sparring finished last week) but started much earlier.

“I knew this fight was going to happen,” he said, “As soon as Zerafa won in December, I knew this fight was happening. I was doing rounds outside camp.”

The Redcliffe-born boxer sparred with Tim Tszyu, the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) top-ranked super welterweight, back in January.

World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown

Smashing time

“I was doing 10 rounds with Tszyu, who at the time was four or five weeks out from a fight and in peak condition, which I think speaks volumes,” said Hardman last week.

“It’s not hit home this is close to world title fight. Coming from where I do and losing Dad … that is part of the journey. I’m doing this for me.

“Having a world title fight after 12 fights is pretty unheard of, but I was never meant to be the world champion boxer.

“I come from an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and Kick Boxing background. I stepped over (to boxing) with no amateur career.

“I didn’t go to the Commonwealth Games, didn’t represent Australia in the Olympics. Just came through, blew the doors off the hinges.

“Now I’ll be fighting for a world title after I smash Zerafa.”

World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown

Weight-ing game

Pre-fight exchanges have hit the headlines with Hardman claiming Zerafa’s late withdrawal from a fight with Tszyu cost this bout a slot on Fox Sports.

“You cannot fight with emotion,” said Hardman. “I’ve fought people I didn’t see eye to eye with and there was some animosity. I’ve had people I get along with.

“Yes, I want to smash him (Zerafa) and punch him as hard as I can, but I’m a professional, I’ll control that aggression.

“It may seem like a long time building up to the fight, but when you’re training, it goes fast.

“Now it’s about cutting the weight. Any fighter will attest to this, it’s the cruellest part of the sport … making the weight.

“The last few days I’ll spend at home relaxing, reading, going over things. I have a professional team around me and I'll make the weight comfortably.”

World awaits for Hardman in eliminator for IBF crown

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