As all of boxing once again hangs in limbo, waiting as its two biggest stars continue to indulge in their continuing dance of ‘will they or won’t they’ we look across the landscape of what has always been boxing’s deepest division, the welterweights, to see what future talent lies ahead assuming that if the Mayweather/Pacquiao match-up actually ever happens it will probably be fought with the aid of Zimmer frames and walking sticks.
In the pecking order just below these two legends are recognizable and familiar names such as Khan, Guererro, Bradley, Maidana and Thurman plus a host of other fringe contenders. These are the names which are naturally among the first mentioned at welterweight when discussing alternative high profile match-ups and if 2015 goes according to plan (never a given in this most unpredictable of sports) then Australian Jeff Horn is keen for his name to also be entered into the mix of what essentially remains a very fractured division.
It would be fair to say Australian boxing has been going through something of a lull lately, today’s current output not quite equating the halcyon days of previous decades. Sure Lucas Browne is making a determined go of it in the heavyweight division and perennial challengers and fringe champions such as Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale continue to ply their trade hoping for one last shot before riding off into the sunset. However the good oil from Australia by many of those in the know, including the likes of luminary fighters Jeff Fenech and Danny Green, is that the most the promising fighter right now coming out of ‘the lucky country’ may well be Jeff ‘The Hornet’ Horn.
As any of those who have ever seen Jeff Horn fight will know he is an excitement machine, built in a similar vein to recent Aussie favourites Michael Katsidis and Vic Darchinyan. However (and with greatest respect to those two fighters) Jeff possesses a much tighter defence and a far better instinctual radar when it comes to evading an opponent’s punches.
In a division which seems to provide more than its fair share of baby face’s and heels, the likeable part-time Brisbane schoolteacher definitely falls into the baby face category, but make no mistake, just like the division’s most well known smiling assassin, Manny Pacquiao, Horn likes finishing his fights the quickest way possible, by knockout. And although for obvious reasons Jeff fights under the moniker ‘the Hornet’ perhaps ‘fists of fury’ would be more apt, because Horn hits his opponents hard, really hard; a fighter blessed with both bulldozer intentions and natural evasive abilities.
But perhaps what has really set Jeff Horn apart from many other up and coming prospects is his willingness to roll the dice and participate in high risk/high reward scenarios, often fighting opponents with far greater experience and even in one such situation, taking on a more highly fancied fighter in a ‘winner takes all’ bout.
After a decorated amateur career spent representing Australia at the highest level Horn turned pro in early 2013 and almost immediately made waves in Australasia fighting and defeating a string of opponents predicted to beat him.
Most notably in December 2013 and with only 2 weeks’ notice Horn took on the ultra experienced and well respected Naoufel Ben Rabeh. So confident of victory was Ben Rabeh that he suggested a ‘winner takes all’ contract against the much lowlier ranked Horn. On the night Horn proceeded to dole out a sustained beating to Ben Rabeh en route to an easy 12 round unanimous decision over the raging hot favourite. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as too much of surprise as earlier that year Horn had also smoked the higher ranked Samuel Colomban in just 78 seconds of the first round to capture the Australian Welterweight title.
Such wins have have seen the likes of Jeff Fenech tabbing Horn for big things and declaring him a special talent. Horn rounded off 2014 on a positive note despatching unbeaten Brazilian, Robson Assis via brutal knockout in the 5th round of their contest after sending Assis to the canvas twice previously. Following this win Horn now is now ranked at number 11 with the WBO and number 14 with the WBA respectively, an impressive start for a man with only 10 professional fights to his name.
One small stumbling block for the hard hitting welterweight has been hand issues, Jeff breaking his left hand in his last fight. Following the win a titanium plate was inserted to help heal it up and avoid future repeats of the same injury. Horn hopes to return to action by March, where he will most likely look to take on another highly ranked opponent in a bid to aggressively move himself up the rankings with several of the sanctioning bodies. Like every other contender in and around 147 pounds Horn dreams of landing the big one, but where he differs from some of his contemporaries is a pragmatism and desire to get there by any means necessary, even if that means taking the tougher route, a refreshing approach in what has increasingly become a safety first sport when selecting possible opponents.
If he can remain injury free and if he can navigate his way through the inevitable politics of the sport it will be interesting to see if 2015 is the year that Jeff Horn can begin to fulfil the potential that the likes of Fenech and Green see in him. Certainly it would give the fans from the land Down Under a new cause to cheer, a new fighter to back. Based on Jeff’s achievements thus far you wouldn’t bet against him and it would seem only a matter of time before this excitement machine of a fighter begins to register on the radar of a larger boxing audience.