It wasn’t long ago that a Jeff Horn appearance in Brisbane would attract about as many gawkers as your average inner-city arrest.
A few weeks before he beat Manny Pacquiao in July’s ‘Battle of Brisbane’, Horn sparred a couple of rounds against Joe Goodall in a makeshift ring at King George Square.
It was a promotional event for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, featuring Australia’s most promising professional boxer and one of our most promising amateurs.
About 10 people turned up.
These days, that’s about the number of selfie requests Horn gets when he pops out for a litre of milk.
“I can’t go anywhere anymore,” Horn told The New Daily.
“I can’t even go to Woolworths with my wife, as I spend my whole time having to pose for selfies with people.”
It didn’t a few months ago, but Horn’s phone now rings and rings – more than 100 times a day.
To think, earlier this year the 29-year-old was still teaching at a Brisbane school to pay his bills.
Back then, Horn’s name was known only among his students and Aussies with boxing in their blood – those who would watch any two pugs swapping punches on TV, or who’d drive to the Southport RSL on a Friday night to sit on plastic chairs and listen to the thwack of leather on bone.
But when you beat a legend, upset one of the most revered and dangerous fighters of all time, well – things change.
Mr Horn is now a household name, and his life has been turned upside down.
“He gets mobbed a lot,” Grantlee Kieza, Horn’s friend and co-author of his new memoir The Hornet, told The New Daily.
“He can’t go anywhere without drawing a crowd. Not that he minds so much, it’s just that it takes up so much of his time.
“His time’s pretty limited – he’s rushing here there and everywhere.
“It was quite extraordinary when they had the parade for him down the middle of Brisbane in the Queen Street Mall.
“He could have gone shopping there a week before and no one would have noticed.”
If Hollywood producers haven’t already optioned the Horn story, they would be well advised to.
If you need a summary: Horn was a bullied at school, visited a boxing gym to learn how to look after himself, went to the Olympics then turned pro and beat one of the most fearsome fighters who ever lived, in a fight with about as much blood and guts as your average Rocky Balboa bout.
The days after the Pacquiao fight were a whirlwind for Horn.
There was that ticker-tape parade through Brisbane, before he was presented with the key to the city by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk.
He was invited to Los Angeles to attend the ESPY Awards – hosted by NFL great Peyton Manning – which honour excellence in sports performance.
There, he got to meet some of the biggest names in athletics and entertainment.
When asked if life had changed since the Pacquiao fight, Horn said: “100 per cent, it has.
“To be invited to an event like this – just rubbing shoulders with the people on this carpet is awesome.”
Horn has also been nominated for the 2017 ‘Don’ Award, a Sport Australia Hall of Fame honour which recognises the most inspirational Australian sporting performance of the year.
The man with the task of making sure Horn keeps his feet on the ground and his fists in the air, his manager and trainer Glenn Rushton, says it has been a blur.
“There’s a huge amount of requests for appearances,” Rushton told The New Daily.
“It’s certainly been a busy time. He’s trying to do all he can.
“We went to a golden gloves event and he was completely mobbed there.
“He’s always got time for everyone, he’ll pause for a photo, sign a glove.
“I’m impressed by the way he’s handling all that – he’s staying as normal as possible.”
Coping with fame outside the ring is one thing – coping with a new-found reputation inside it is another altogether.
It seems Horn’s win over Pacquiao – a shock felt around the world – has made other welterweights wary.
In the bout’s aftermath, Pacquiao said he wanted an immediate rematch.
But he’s since reneged, claiming he’s busy with political duties in the Philippines, where he’s also a Senator.
Team Horn is still hopeful Pacquiao is up for a rematch next year, but his decision to pull out of the proposed November 12 fight has left Horn a little jilted.
Rushton isn’t sure the Filipino is up for another examination from a younger opponent.
“If I was Pacquiao’s manager I’d say ‘don’t fight Jeff Horn – he’s only going to be bigger, stronger, more confident and better’,” he said.
“And I’d be saying to Pacquiao: ‘you’re not’.”
In getting the first fight over the line, Horn gave American promotional company Top Rank, headed by Bob Arum, control over his next two opponents.
“We have to listen to what they want us to do there for these two fights,” Rushton said.
“We’re looking for the big fights.
“We would have liked to get a (Keith) Thurman or a (Errol) Spence or a (Terence) Crawford or a (Miguel) Cotto for this next fight but that wasn’t the case.”
Whoever it’s against, Horn will be fighting at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 25 – and at this stage the most likely opponent appears Englishman Gary Corcoran.
“Fighters are a little bit like taxis,” Rushton says. “You’ve got to keep the motor hot and keep them running.”
Rushton and Horn have a special bond.
Horn first met his trainer when he was 18, and Rushton said he mapped a strategy for his entire career.
In 2008 he told Horn he could go to the Olympics in 2012 and be a professional world champion four years after that.
So far, he’s delivered.
The next part of the vision involves five more years of fighting the best in the business, before retiring in his mid-30s a very wealthy man.
Horn concurs, claiming he has no desire to be punching people for a living into his 40s.
“I’d like to be out of it by 35,” Horn said.
“You do get a bit of damage from each fight.
“It’s not the sort of sport you want to get knocked around in for too long.”