Jeff Horn says he’s not much of a boxing historian, but by pulling off one of the biggest upsets the sport has ever seen, he’s ensured his own place in boxing history.
Horn’s performance in beating 11-time world champion Manny Pacquaio was the greatest by an Australian fighter on the world stage – and we’ve had some great ones.
Horn defeated a legend – one of the best fighters of the past 50 years – by unanimous decision at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon to win the WBO world welterweight title, in a fight billed the ‘Battle of Brisbane’.
The fight was the kind of brutal, blood-soaked slugfest only seen in Rocky movies.
Not only was it the biggest fight ever staged in Australia, with more than 50,000 people reported to be in attendance, it can also lay justifiable claims to being the best.
Horn, 29, survived a ninth round that was hell – getting battered from pillar to post by 38-year-old Pacquiao.
Horn was out on his feet, in so much trouble that referee Mark Nelson approached him before the 10th and told him: “Show me something in this round, or I’m going to stop it.”
As Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton insisted his fighter was okay to continue, Horn said he was “actually not too bad” between rounds.
“That’s heart, getting through that round – getting caught with a shot and being able to continue on,” the new world champ said afterwards.
Horn regained his composure, steadied in round 11 and finished the 12th like a champion, backing Pacquiao up as the final bell sounded.
The atmosphere was electric under the Brisbane sun, and it was evident from early on that Horn was more than Pacquiao had bargained for.
Pacquiao’s finest moments have been bullying bigger opponents – Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton were all substantially heavier and were made to look second-rate.
But it was Horn who was doing the bullying through the early stages, beginning the fight at breakneck pace – landing lead right hands, stinging Pacquiao to the body and roughing him up on the inside.
It was a statement from the challenger: this is my town and I’m here to fight.
The bout’s pace barely dipped throughout the 12 rounds.
Pacquiao found his range in the second, his lightning-quick hands causing Horn trouble, and ‘The Hornet’ was cut over the right eye by an accidental head clash.
In round four Horn rocked Pacquiao with a left uppercut and big body shots, while in the sixth Horn roughed up the champion and another headbutt opened up a sizeable gash in Pacquiao’s scalp.
Another butt opened up a second big cut on Pacquiao’s head, and the sight of his blood drove the champ into attack mode.
The ninth was something straight out of Hollywood, and you wondered what was holding Horn up as he absorbed blow after blow.
Round 11 and 12 were scrappy, both men exhausted, but Horn held on and when the scorecards were announced he was the winner by scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113.
While some may complain about the decision – and there is no doubt 117-111 was too wide a margin – it shouldn’t detract from Horn’s achievement.
He outhustled Pacquiao in many of the early rounds, and gutted it out late on. This was a deserved victory.
Post-fight, he issued a challenge to Floyd Mayweather, but Pacquiao insisted he would use the rematch clause in his contract.
As exhilarating as Horn’s victory was, it more than stacks up against our other great international performances.
Jeff Fenech was robbed of a career-defining victory against Azumah Nelson, and was starched in a Melbourme rematch.
Russia-born Kostya Tszyu unified the light-welterweight division with a stunning knockout over Zab Judah, but was denied mega-bouts against Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley.
Danny Green and Anthony Mundine had each other, and made a lot of money, but never defeated the very best in the world.
Jeff Harding scored a brilliant come-from-behind KO over Dennis Andries in 1989 to win the world light-heavyweight title. Andries was a good fighter, but no great.
No, you have to look back as far as Lionel Rose’s win over Fighting Harada, at Tokyo’s Budokan in 1968, for something resembling Horn’s win.
And as good as Harada was, he wasn’t as fearsome as Pacquiao.
This is Australia’s greatest ever performance on the world boxing stage.
A rematch with Pacquiao beckons, but for now Jeff Horn can take a bow.
A quietly-spoken school teacher from Brisbane, who took up the sport because he was bullied at school, is king of the boxing world.