Horn’s desperate fight for survival
Two years ago Jeff Horn was the toast of the sporting world following his epic victory over Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium. Next week he fights for his very survival in the sport.
While his win against the Filipino great before more than 51,000 people was front-page news around the nation, boxing is a fickle game and Horn now finds himself under siege against an angry, bitter rival ready to end his career on Wednesday week at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
With his livelihood on the line, Horn faces the red-hot Michael Zerafa - younger, bigger and with his confidence sky high after battering Horn to a huge upset in his ninth-round victory in Bendigo on August 31.
Horn started that fight as the hot favourite. This time he's the underdog, with former world champions Jeff Fenech, Billy Dib and Anthony Mundine giving him next to no chance of turning around his fortunes.
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"Basically my career is riding on this fight,'' Horn said. "I beat Pacquiao but I'm back in the position again as the underdog and I have to win the fight because where do I go if Michael wins again?
"If I'm not on my game and he starts landing those right hands again it could be all over for me.
"I fought like crap in Bendigo and I paid the price. He caught me with a big right in the second round and I went down and from that moment he seemed to take over.
"I'm training much harder for this fight and I have to. Michael is certainly very confident. Annoyingly so. But he deserves to be confident because it was a good win by him.''
Horn is not a natural middleweight. He beat Pacquiao at 66.6kg but is now fighting an opponent who has beaten opponents up to 78kg.
While there is the possibility that Horn could still face Tim Tszyu even if he comes second against Zerafa again, he admits the motivation to fight on after another loss would be hard to summon.
Two years ago he conquered the Everest of boxing in his heroic, pulsating victory against Pacquiao but has the hunger waned?
Horn has made at least $5 million from boxing and is now the father of two small daughters. He is a gentle soul away from the ring and likes playing with his children much more than he does punching men in the face.
For Zerafa and his trainer Sam Labruna, this is also an intensely personal battle.
They are furious with Horn and his coach Glenn Rushton for enforcing a rematch clause that they say denied Zerafa a much more lucrative payday against Japanese world champ Ryota Murata.
Horn knows the big Melbourne middleweight will be going all out for another KO next week.
``My first priority in the fight is not to get hit with those big rights again,'' Horn said. ``After that I can show Michael I'm a very different fighter to the one he beat in Bendigo.
``I made a name for myself beating one of the greatest fighters of all time and I'm not planning to lose in front of all my family and friends.''