Michael Zerafa has sensationally revealed he was forced to seek protection from Victorian police this year after being warned a contract had been taken out on his life.
Only days after being voted Australia’s Most Overrated Boxer, Zerafa has opened up to Fox Sports Australia about the “darkness” engulfing him in the 16 months since controversially walking out on a his hyped Tim Tszyu showdown.
While the 30-year-old is now less than a fortnight out from his anticipated return to Main Event – and has verbally agreed to fight superstar Gennady Golovkin in Australia next year – it has been a far more worrying time outside the ring for the nation’s newest sporting villain.
Only six months ago, the world No.1 middleweight contender met with a range of Victorian police – including the Echo Taskforce — after being warned that a contract had been taken out on his life.
While refusing to go into detail, Zerafa says he thinks the incident was likely linked to his controversial withdrawal, at the 11th-hour, from an Aussie superfight against breakout star Tszyu.
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After refusing to front up for the July 2021 Pay-Per-View, Zerafa was branded Public Enemy No.1 in Australian sport – and received a host of death threats via social media.
However, the fighter reveals one threat was so serious it involved police involvement, with Zerafa forced to even change up the way he drove to the gym each day.
“So things got really dark,” revealed the fighter who is now making final preparations for undefeated Italian Danelo ‘Dash’ Creati, who he faces on the undercard of Paul Gallen’s boxing farewell in Sydney on November 23.
“I’d been told by people that I had a hit out on me.
“Obviously I couldn’t take that lightly so I went to the police, made statements, it was out of control.
“Nobody knew how true the threat was but the police were involved, Echo (Taskforce) was involved … it was chaos.
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“The cops even had me mix things up every day and change my whole routine, even change the way I drove to the gym.”
Pushed on the alleged contract, Zerafa continued: “I have no idea what was behind it, but I was receiving messages saying I had a hit out on me.
“And mentally, it got really hard.”
While the fighter has never revealed, in detail, why he withdrew from the Tszyu bout — which saw him on the outer with Main Event, promoters No Limit and almost every single Aussie fight fan — he has since parted ways with his old management team.
“The decision I made (to withdraw from the Tszyu fight) is something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.
“But still, nobody else has any idea what really happened.
“And if people did hear the full story, I know they would all apologise (for criticising him).”
So why not say what happened and clear your name?
“Legally, it could cause dramas,” Zerafa said. “So that’s why I’ve just said I was lied to, and that’s where I will leave it.”
The fighter added, however, that the aftermath to his Tszyu withdrawal was so ugly, the worrying hit warning was just one of many death threats made against him.
Yet with the drama having now subsided, Zerafa stresses he has also come through the ordeal a stronger person.
“I was waking up every morning to a thousand messages on social media,” he said. “People saying ‘I hope you die’, people saying ‘if I see you on the street, I’m going to kill you’.
“It was extreme.
“But now, I don’t care.
“People can say what they like.
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“Everything that’s happened has just made me stronger.”
Earlier this week, Zerafa was also branded the Most Overrated Boxer in Australia following the results of an online poll run by News Ltd.
Initially ranked sixth on a list that was topped by new IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia, Zerafa eventually slumped to 36th on the reader poll version – with 74 per cent of respondents labelling his ranking as overrated.
At the same time, arch rival Tszyu – who was initially picked at No.2 – went into the same reader poll’s top spot, leaving Zerafa to question if the entire thing had been rigged for a storyline.
“It’s Australian boxing so anything is possible,” he laughed. “And I’ve certainly seen crazier before.”
Asked about being dubbed overrated he continued: “I haven’t seen the poll but, at the end of the day, he lies, she lies, but my numbers don’t lie.
“I’m ranked No.1 in the WBA, ranked No.2 in the IBF, and sixth with the WBO.
“I’m the fifth best middleweight in the world. Australia’s best for the last three to four years.
“So people can say what they want.
“My numbers don’t lie.”