In Las Vegas, the house always wins – and Jeff Horn knows it.
He might be the incumbent champion, but the Australian is the target of a carefully orchestrated plot to strip him of his title by the man who embodies “the house” in boxing.
Bob Arum is nothing but nice when he fronts cameras and talks up Horn’s never-say-die attitude.
But Arum didn’t get to where he is – at the very top of the fight game – just by helping people out.
The Top Rank boss has a ruthless streak about him and almost everything about Horn’s WBO title defence against Terence Crawford on Sunday morning (AEST) has been manipulated to favour one outcome.
“I feel like I am a pawn, sometimes, of this game,” Horn told reporters in Vegas.
“I feel like they kind of sense that they’ve almost got a checkmate.
“But I can see it coming. I know it’s Terence Crawford now they’ve put up against me and so be it. If I need to beat him, I will.”
Until recently, Arum was Manny Pacquiao’s long-time promoter and one of his major sources of income.
Part of Horn’s contract to fight the Filipino great last year included an automatic two-fight co-promotional deal with Top Rank in the unlikely event he managed to take the belt off Pacquiao.
It was a back-up plan for Arum in case of disaster, and it came straight into play after the Lang Park boilover.
This is where Horn’s story is supposed to end
First up for Horn was a relatively straightforward title defence at home in Brisbane against Gary Corcoran in December. No problem.
But this second fight of the deal is supposed to be where Horn’s story ends.
Arum’s plans for Top Rank’s future are centred on Ukranian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko and Nebraska native Crawford, the former unified junior welterweight champion who has stepped up to a stacked division where there are big-money opportunities galore.
Crawford is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world but has a low profile, small fanbase and attracts scant publicity.
Arum needs the belt around Crawford’s waist to cement him as a welterweight drawcard, and it would be a major disruption if Horn were to throw yet another spanner in the works.
“If that’s his plan, to have Crawford in, I’d definitely get some satisfaction [out of ruining it],” Horn said.
“I love winning.”