Jeff Horn’s march toward the summit of world boxing continued on Wednesday night, but the Queenslander was put through hell by Gary Corcoran at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.
A fight billed – unimaginatively and somewhat optimistically – as the Battle of Brisbane 2 lived up to the hype, as Horn retained his WBO welterweight title with an 11th-round TKO.
But for much of the fight he looked ordinary, as his English challenger took the fight to him.
After six rounds it appeared Corcoran’s fight to lose, but Horn’s stamina and class shone through in the second half of the bout.
Halfway through the 11th round Corcoran’s cornerman threw in the towel with his fighter’s left eye cut and nearly swollen shut.
“I knew he was tough coming in,” Horn said afterwards.
“I felt my timing was a bit off but I got him in the end.
“The whole fight I felt like I was a little bit off tonight.”
The first sign it might be a difficult night for Horn came on his arrival to the arena, when the white Ford limo he was riding in had to execute a difficult three-point turn in the Convention Centre’s underground carpark.
But, fighting for the first time since his July victory over Manny Pacquiao, he came storming out of the blocks in a terrific first round – working beautifully behind a stiff left jab which left Corcoran’s right eye red.
Just as it appeared Corcoran may have been cannon fodder, he found his feet in the second, landing several heavy shots.
The Englishman’s jab found the range in the third, and Horn – ominously – was blowing heavily.
The blood began to flow in round six, with first Horn bleeding from his left eye and by the end it was the challenger who was oozing from a wound above his left eye.
The turning point came in round seven, and for the next few rounds the challenger seemed to visibly shrink.
Horn scored so well in the seventh that Corcoran gave him one after the bell in frustration.
The Queenslander kept coming on through the eighth and ninth and he began the 10th with a flurry too.
The ringside doctor took a good look at Corcoran’s rapidly closing eye before the 11th and his cornerman decided to err on the side of caution one minute 35 seconds into the round, advising referee Benjy Esteves Jr his man could not continue.
“I’ve a little kid at home,” Corcoran said.
“I don’t need to be taking shots.”
So what’s next for the world champ?
Awaiting Horn now are potential megafights with the likes of Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr or Terence Crawford.
All are unbeaten and very, very good.
It was the latter’s name who was mentioned post-fight as a potential date, next April in Las Vegas.
“It’s a big possibility,” Horn said.
Perhaps Pacquiao could be coaxed into another tango.
But for now Jeff Horn can slide into the festive season content in the knowledge that he has had a magical year.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the night came from West Australian Nathaniel May.
The featherweight from Bunbury blasted out unbeaten Brazilian Aelio Mesquita with a series of brutal body shots Ricky Hatton would have been proud of.
The referee stopped the contest 20 seconds into round five.