Jeff Horn’s shock win over Manny Pacquiao in 2017 seems like a lifetime ago and the Queenslander’s boxing future is cloudy after he was knocked out by Michael Zerafa on Saturday night.
Fellow Aussie Zerafa stunned the former welterweight champion by stopping him in the ninth round in the Battle of Bendigo to claim the WBA Oceania Middleweight title.
Zerafa had the better of Horn for much of the fight and the man who conquered Pacquiao looked sluggish as he fell to his 27-year-old rival.
SERIOUS ISSUE RAISES QUESTIONS OF HORN CAMP
Horn received some heavy punishment throughout the bout but it reached a new level in the ninth round.
He could barely stand as he took blow after blow from Zerafa, who was desperate to ensure the fight didn’t go the distance and was taken out of the judges’ hands.
Horn was completely cooked and looked out of it at the end of the ninth as some — including Australian boxer Luke Jackson — suggested his team should have acted earlier to save the 31-year-old from any more pain.
American journalist Ryan Songalia, who writes for boxing bible Ring Magazine, was another who called for Horn to be saved earlier than he was.
“Looked like Jeff Horn’s trainer was on the apron to stop the fight after the knockdown. If the referee doesn’t acknowledge it STEP BETWEEN THE ROPES! Horn shouldn’t have been hit with any more punches at that point,” Songalia tweeted.
Commentators also spoke out as Horn clearly looked like a man who could no longer defend himself.
“Just hope Jeff is OK, they should have stopped that fight in the corner,” one of the callers said.
“That fight should have been stopped before Jeff Horn took unnecessary punishment.”
HORN’S WIFE IN TEARS
Horn’s wife Jo has previously spoken about how difficult it is to watch him fight and her emotions spilled over as her husband took a pounding in Bendigo.
Veteran Australian boxing reporter Grantlee Kieza wrote for the Courier Mail Jo and Horn’s mother were “screaming in anguish” when he was dropped by Zerafa’s right hand in round two, while Channel 7’s Chris Garry tweeted a “distraught” Jo was “in tears” after the fight.
Ahead of his fight against Anthony Mundine last year, which Horn won by knocking the former NRL star down in the first round, Jo spoke about her desire to see the love of her life hang up his gloves.
“It’s agony watching Jeffrey fight,” she said at the time. “I’ve never gotten used to it and I don’t know how I cope with all the stress when he gets into the ring.
“I’d like Jeffrey to stop fighting, of course.
“I do have heart-to-hearts with him about retiring. But I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to persuade him to give up boxing because he loves the sport.
“He loves to compete and test himself. He will stop boxing when he’s ready but he knows how I feel about it.”
After his unexpected loss on Saturday night the end of Horn’s career may be closer than expected.
For his part, Horn has also spoken previously about his wish to get out of the sport with his health intact when he has enough money to retire on.
“Someone told me not long ago, ‘You really don’t want to be doing this for too long’, and I don’t want to be doing it for too long,” Horn said last year. “I don’t want to be one of the silly ones that hangs around until they’re 40 years old and fighting.”
SHOCKED ZERAFA TAKES HIS CHANCE
Zerafa was in shock after claiming the biggest scalp of his career, but was adamant he always believed he could topple his more fancied opponent.
“What an experience. I knew this coming in all along,” Zerafa said. “I saw it, I dreamt it. I’ve got the best team in the world, man.
“I knew this. I’m not surprised, I knew it all along.
“This is electric. I just want to thank everybody that has believed in me and stuck by me since day one. It’s been the longest journey of my life.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to this.”
Boxing is known for its trash talk but Zerafa was all class in the aftermath of his war with Horn, paying tribute to the man he has idolised.
“I want to thank Horn and his team for giving me an opportunity,” Zerafa said. “Mate, I’ve always looked up to you. You’re an absolute legend man, in and outside the ring.
“You’re a family man and I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity.
“I’m still in shock.”
HORN LAMENTS POOR SHOWING
Horn was devastated after the fight, saying: “I’m just a bit shattered. It’s not fun losing, that’s for sure.
“I have had some ups and downs, this is definitely a down in my career at the moment.
“I’ve got to bounce back.”
Horn denied the change in weight class, going up from welterweight to middleweight, is what brought him undone and instead said he felt off from the beginning.
“I just felt really sluggish, it’s really annoying and I hate using that as an excuse but I just felt like crap going into it,” Horn said.
“Well done to Michael, he outboxed me, landed those beautiful shots but I don’t feel like it was the best me in there tonight.
“I felt a little bit off, heavy, sluggish. I don’t know if it was something I did, something I ate, just wasn’t the ‘right’ me.
“I fought like crap just then but well done to Michael because he fought brilliantly.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BOTH MEN?
This was supposed to be Horn’s coming out party at middleweight, with a December fight against WBA champion Ryota Murata already lined up.
That title shot has gone up in smoke and now it’s a fight Zerafa understandably wants.
“We want that fight,” he said. “My team and I will obviously sit down and talk … but now we just celebrate with the team and everybody that stuck by me.”
Although Horn didn’t want to blame the change in weight class, looking as ordinary as he did stepping into the ring 5.5kg heavier than he was for his famous victory over Pacquiao two years ago will undoubtedly raise questions about what division he wants to fight in — if he continues fighting at all.
Source: James Matthey| news.com.au