The much-anticipated boxing showdown in Newcastle between Tim Tszyu and Michael Zerafa is off after Zerafa sensationally withdrew from the fight on Wednesday afternoon citing COVIC concerns.
Promoters No Limit Boxing immediately announced Tszyu will now fight rising star Steve Spark, who has agreed to take the fight on a week's notice, at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on July 7.
Despite threats over the past few days Melbourne-based Zerafa would pull out of the fight because of so-called COVID safety reasons, the Tszyu camp was stunned when he officially withdrew following lengthy negotiations on Wednesday.
No Limited CEO George Rose accused Zerafa of pulling out because he was running scared.
"We knew from the moment he looked Tim in the eyes at the press conference [a fortnight ago] and went quiet that he never wanted this fight," Rose said.
"I knew it. Tim knew it. Australia knew it.
"He never wanted this fight and all I can say is I'm sorry for everyone who has wanted this fight for so long."
No Limit Boxing confirmed Spark would step into the breach.
Spark (12-1; 11 KO) put in a statement performance against former Tim Tszyu rival Jack Brubaker to win convincingly over the number one ranked Australian welterweight.
"We said rain hail or shine, Tim Tszyu was fighting in Newcastle on July 7 and that's exactly what's going to happen," Rose said.
"Full credit to Steve Spark for taking this fight at short notice. We know he is going to make for an incredibly difficult fight for Tim."
Tim Tszyu was quick to thank Spark for taking the fight at short notice and knows it's a dangerous fight.
"Credit to Steve for taking this fight," Tszyu said. "He's a dangerous fighter with a lot of power.
"I've seen it for myself. I was ringside at the fight in Wollongong when he hammered Jack Brubaker and saw how well he did under the bright lights.
"He has power, stamina and keeps the pressure on. I know he's coming to hit and hit hard.
"I'm expecting that and much more next Wednesday night. It's going to be a great fight."
Spark was happy to step up to the plate.
"I'm a fighter and fighters fight," he said. "I like challenges and life is about taking risks. With no risk there is no reward.
"I'm excited. I earned this fight with my last performance. Tim Tszyu beat Jack Brubaker but last time out I battered Jack Brubaker. I cut him and busted his eardrum - it was brutal.
I've dreamed about fighting Tim Tszyu and obviously this has come a little bit quicker than I expected but that's a good thing. I'm fit and I'm ready and I'm coming to Newcastle to win.
"This is Cinderella Man, this is Rocky! This is my golden ticket."
"If I can go out there and dethrone the biggest name in Australian boxing then I'm right where I want to be."
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