Two days ago, Steve Spark was a hero only in his hometown, pulling beers at a hockey club in Toowoomba and entertaining pensioners with his happy-go-lucky charm for 25 bucks an hour.
This week, the unheralded 24-year-old hopes to upset Tim Tszyu, shock pundits in the fight game and usurp the son of Kostya as the new face of Australian boxing.
It all sounds a bit fanciful, but nothing in this fight build-up is predictable after Michael Zerafa sparked outrage by sensationally withdrawing from his super welterweight showdown with Tszyu on Wednesday night in Newcastle.
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Unheralded Toowoomba boxer Steve Spark is ready for the fight of his career against Tim Tszyu.Source:News Regional Media
Zerafa’s loss is Spark’s gain.
The confident pugilist will celebrate the biggest payday of his career – more than $100,000 – and the private jet he boarded on Thursday could be an apt metaphor for his soaring rise if Spark (12-1, 11KO) hands Tszyu (18-0, 14KO) his first professional defeat.
“If I can pull this win off, it would be unbelievable,” Spark said.
“To me, this is my Cinderella Man movie. This is my Rocky moment.
“I’m the unknown for Tszyu. I’ll tell you one thing, I have more of a chance than Michael Zerafa because he hasn’t shown up.
“I know not many people give me a chance and I know I‘m not supposed to win this fight, but in the ring I don’t fear any man.
“Tim Tszyu has two hands. He has a heartbeat, so do I, and we all bleed red. We can all get hurt.
“Tim has been dropped before in his career and so have I, so anything is possible.
“He is the Soul Taker … and I’m the Viking Warrior coming to get him.”
Steve Spark attracted attention with his impressive defeat of Jack Brubaker on the Paul Gallen-Lucas Browne undercard in April.Source:Getty Images
Spark brings some pizzazz to the Australian fight scene. His walk to the ring is accompanied by the Viking clap, evoking images of NRL side Canberra, whose Raiders fans stand as one and clap in unison as the Green Machine take the field.
“I love the Canberra Raiders and I love the Viking clap,” Spark says.
“Any fighter will tell you it’s nerve-wracking in the dressing-room before the fight, but as soon as I hear the music and the Viking clap, I’m ready to go in there and have a war.”
Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech believes Spark is a more dangerous opponent for Tszyu than ‘Pretty Boy’ Zerafa and the numbers support that assessment.
From 13 fights, the power-punching Spark has dropped 11 opponents for an 85 per cent knockout record. His only loss was a foreign bout in faraway China in just his second fight six years ago.
It’s his most recent win that attracted some eyeballs.
In April, he fought on the Paul Gallen-Lucas Browne undercard and overcame a first-round knockdown to dominate Jack Brubaker, the same cocksure boxer who got towelled up by Tszyu in four rounds in December 2019.
Australian boxing superstar Tim Tszyu is chasing his 19th straight win this Wednesday night against Spark following the shock withdrawal of Michael Zerafa.Source:News Corp Australia
Underlining Spark’s courage, he is jumping up two weight divisions to fight Tszyu. He usually fights at super lightweight. He jumped up one division to beat Brubaker. He has never fought in Tszyu’s weight class.
“In eight months, I have fought in three weight divisions, which is unheard of,” Spark said.
“That’s mad to some people but I love to challenge myself.
“This is the first time I’ve fought at this weight. I’m sitting at about 72.5kg right now so I won’t have to lose as much weight as Tim, but sometimes cutting weight can be detrimental.
“I am a knockout artist, but if you watch the Brubaker fight, I outboxed him as well. I showed I can fight with angles. I didn’t just try to bang him.
“In that fight I wanted to prove to people I could box.”
For the past decade, Spark has dreamt of a world title.
Born in Western Australia, he moved to Toowoomba when he was 12 and took up boxing a year later.
Such is his devotion, when his parents relocated away from the centre of Toowoomba, Spark moved into Smithy’s gym where he trains.
“There is a small room upstairs in our gym in Toowoomba,” he says.
“There is a small kitchen and a little fighter’s patch.
Spark as ana mateur boxer in 2012. Picture: Bev LaceySource:News Regional Media
“Because my mum and dad moved too far out of town, I couldn’t get to the gym, so my trainer (Brendon Smith) said you can live here and help us train the young kids.
“To make ends meet, I serve beers behind the bar at the Glenvale hockey club. I get 25 bucks an hour and 35 on weekends. I love working there, I love the social aspect and talking to the old fellas there.”
Spark was pulling beers last Wednesday when his phone buzzed behind the bar. It was Tszyu‘s manager Matt Rose with the offer of a lifetime.
“There was no hesitation in his voice,” Rose said.
“He took the fight in five seconds. He said absolutely, but tell Tim Tszyu I am coming.”
On Wednesday night, Spark will walk into Tszyu-castle Entertainment Centre as a rank outsider, but one punch from his dynamite right hand could deliver a new boxing fairytale.
“I’ve always wanted to be the people’s champion,” says Spark, who will celebrate the birth of his first child, a boy, in September.
“Boxing is all I know. I’ve dreamt of this moment as a kid and I want to hold my head high and do the whole of Toowoomba proud.
“This is the biggest fight of my career, I’m under no illusions with that. But if I can go out there and dethrone the face of Australian boxing in Tim Tszyu … well I become the new face of Australian boxing.
“I have the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Originally published as‘Cinderella Man’ ready to Spark war with Tszyu
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