America, that pugilistic promised land, has often derailed Australia’s fistic aspirations.
Think Jeff Fenech getting his wallet stolen by Azumah Nelson and Don King, or Kostya Tszyu getting banjoed by Vince Phillips on Atlantic City’s boardwalk of broken dreams.
Danny Green and Anthony Mundine barely tried.
Most recently, Daniel Geale’s destruction at the hands of Gennady Golovkin reminded us that winning in the US remains the toughest test in boxing.
So it proved again on Sunday afternoon (Saturday US time) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where Jeff Horn was dissected so thoroughly by Terence Crawford the American may as well have been wearing a surgical mask and armed with a scalpel.
When referee Robert Byrd mercifully waved proceedings off two minutes and 33 seconds into Round 9, Horn had relinquished the world welterweight title so hard won against Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane almost a year ago.
The win made Crawford a three-weight world champion after he dominated the lightweight and junior-welterweight divisions.
And, if truth be told, the fact the fight was the Queenslander’s first in the US had nothing to do with the outcome: these two could have fought in Horn’s backyard, with his mum cooking snags, his old man as timekeeper and his brother the ref. There would still only be one result.
Much has been made of Horn’s fairytale – bullied schoolkid, mild-mannered teacher who, after beating Pacquiao, became Australia’s Rocky – but now he has found his limit.
He’s a tough guy, a very good fighter, but against Crawford he simply could not do the things he wanted.
Crawford’s performance was so masterly, so clinical he not only cemented his status as one of the best boxers in the world pound for pound, but put forth strong claims to sit alone atop the throne.
Horn will be disappointed but should feel no shame. In travelling to America to face one of the most dominant fighters of the past five years he did something many Australian fighters have either avoided or been denied.
Tszyu never fought Floyd Mayweather Jr or Oscar De La Hoya. Green and Mundine both steered clear of Joe Calzaghe.
Crawford’s name now seems to fit perfectly alongside those greats.
The American, who hails from Omaha, Nebraska, won every minute of every round and the tone of the fight was set early – Horn walking forward, trying to use his strength and weight advantage.
But Horn was fighting in Las Vegas and Crawford looked like he was fighting in The Matrix – seeing everything the Australian threw in slow motion, able to get away and counter with enough venom to discourage Horn.
Crawford was too elusive, operating on a plane of reflex and hand-eye co-ordination only available to the best of the best.
After four rounds Horn was beginning to look discouraged, even more so through rounds five, six and seven when Crawford – who fought exclusively in the southpaw stance – began to land thunderous left hands to his body.
He had Horn in all sorts of trouble in Round 8, digging lefts to his body and bouncing them off his head.
Horn dug deep in the ninth, showing the massive heart that got him the title, but Crawford had him down with 52 seconds remaining and a follow-up barrage prompted Byrd to step between them.
The stoppage seemed a little premature, but it’s better to stop a fight too early than too late – and Byrd probably spared Horn a concussion.
Afterwards, Horn paid tribute to the new champion.
“He was a tricky boxer out there. He’s hard to tag, very good on the back foot,” he said.
“He managed to clip me as I was coming in.
“[I’ll] rest and recuperate, then we’ll have a meeting with the guys and see what the next step is.”
Horn was guaranteed a minimum of $1.64 million for the fight (Crawford made $3.95 million), with his camp hoping a success could be parlayed into far bigger paydays down the line.
For them, and him, it’s back to the drawing board.