Michael Zerafa was “switched on and very confident” for his American debut Saturday against Peter Quillin at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
A 6-foot boxer-puncher from Australia who was after his third straight stoppage victory, Zerafa vowed to “make it a war” leading up to his clash with the former 160-pound champion.
The precocious Zerafa did his utmost to keep his word, using in-and-out lateral movement, a vexing jab and intermittently effective combinations to hang in the fight—even winning one of the first four rounds on two of the three judges’ cards.
“We knew he would try to outbox Pete,” said Quillin’s trainer, Eric Brown. “But we also knew he never had fought anybody with Pete’s experience, and we felt Pete hurt him every time he touched him.
“We kept the pressure on, made [Zerafa] fight when he didn’t want to and figured he couldn’t run all night. Then Pete forced him to make a stand and took it to him. That's when I told him not to let this guy hang around too much longer, to get rid of him.”
Peter Quillin doggedly found The Moment at the 2:05 mark of the fifth round, his arching right hand to the nose staggering Zerafa and punctuating the end of an otherwise even—and exciting—exchange.
After connecting with the right, a ruthless Quillin chased the reeling Zerafa (17-2, 9 KOs) to the ropes. Then, with all of his weight moving forward, Quillin drilled home yet another right that pierced the Aussie’s guard, swiveled his head and sent him semiconscious to the canvas.
Seeing no reason to count, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. immediately waved an end to the fight at the 1:02 mark of the fifth, then crouched over Zerafa and cradled his head in his right hand.
“When I landed that first right hand, I saw in his reaction to the punch that he was really hurt,” said Quillin, who grazed Zerafa with a left hook before the final right crumpled him to the canvas, his right leg buckling beneath him.
“I came out [in the fifth round] moving forward, relentlessly, getting him to commit to a fight by keeping the pressure on. That allowed us to take advantage of his mistakes. When there was an opening, he paid dearly for it.”
During the toe-to-toe clash that preceded the knockout, Zerafa had bounced a pair of right hands off Quillin’s head, sandwiched around a glancing left hook. But the fired-up Brooklyn, New York, resident scarcely noticed the blows.
“I felt him hit me, but I wasn't backing down,” said Quillin, 32. “My adrenaline was definitely a factor.”
Minutes after the knockout, medical personnel secured Zerafa to a stretcher and carried him out of the ring. The 23-year-old, who had never been knocked out in his pro career, was treated at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut. He later contacted Quillin to let him know he was fine.
“I know this is the pain game, but [Zerafa] was really compassionate knowing I was concerned about him,” Quillin says. “He appreciated my concern that he was OK, and said I’m a stand-up guy.
“He put up a good fight, and I wanted to know that he was OK to fight another day. I could relax after hearing that directly from him when we spoke.”
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