Interview: Australia’s brightest star, Jeff Horn

In the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather’s rather limp exit from the sport and with Manny Pacquiao now publicly stating that God is telling him to retire, the Welterweight division, so long one of the sports glamour divisions lies wide open looking for its next batch of dominant stars.

While proven names such as Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Kell Brook are circling, Australian excitement machine Jeff Horn sits just below them looking for his opportunity to break into the top tier.

Horn occupies a space not that dissimilar to that of Chris Algieri just over 18 months ago; on the cusp, waiting for one of the bigger guns to give him his shot at breaking through. Unlike Algieri though, Horn possesses world class power aligned with a sterling amateur pedigree that saw him represent Australia at the 2012 London Olympics. Possessing a stellar defence with serious power may make many of the top dogs at welterweight hesitant to face him until they are mandated to do so. However that is scenario that looks likely to happen sooner rather than later as the unbeaten Horn currently sits at #13 with the WBA, #12 with the IBF and at #7 with the WBO taking him within striking distance of settling comfortably inside the top 10 with three of the major sanctioning bodies.

Coming off a strong win against tough Ukrainian Viktor Plotnykov, a fight that went to the cards after 7 rounds, when Horn suffered a nasty cut from a clash of heads in the 6th, Jeff is now making a mandatory defence of his IBF intercontinental against Alfredo Blanco and looking for another impressive win before setting his sites on a bigger named opponent to round off an impressive year.

Eastside Boxing caught up with Jeff to get his thoughts on his last fight, how his injury is healing up; his plans for the future and of course whether he believes Floyd Mayweather really has retired.

ESB: Jeff, first things first, you’ve had a rough run with injuries lately including a nasty cut caused by a head butt in your last fight. How many stitches did it end up needing and how has it healed?

Jeff: 6 stitches and yeah, it’s healed up really well thankfully.

ESB: As a young fighter who wants to stay busy and quickly work their way up the rankings, how does it affect you mentally when you have a run of injuries and how do you work around it?

Jeff: It’s annoying, but you have to accept that these injuries will occur as part of the job in training and fights at this elite level. I try to manage all injuries as best I can, treating all injuries as quickly as possible and searching for professional advice on how to treat and manage them.

ESB: Your last two opponents were fairly highly ranked guys, Richmond Djarbeng was #11 with the WBA and the WBO had ranked Viktor Plotnykov at #12 when you fought them, yet it seemed in both fights within a round or two, once they had felt your power and experienced your speed, both guys went into survival mode. How frustrating is that when you are wanting to put on a good show?

Jeff: Have no doubt, I like to entertain the crowd and to test myself against the very best. I’m very competitive by nature. As to how my opponent reacts both physically and mentally, I can’t control that, so I just adapt the best I can to their reactions and focus on the best solution. I don’t see any point in getting frustrated by the opponent’s strategy.

ESB: It seemed like the only shot Plotnykov was trying to land all night was the head butt which he finally succeeded in doing in the 6th when you were already well ahead on points. Did you sense that he was looking to use the head, was your trainer Glenn aware as well?

Jeff: Yeah, Glenn and I had discussed this before the fight. We were well aware that Plotnykov wanted to keep me on the end of his jab and if he lost his range, he would go in and clinch, rather than trade with me, which is exactly what he did. But he was a tough, experienced pro and knew to keep his chin down and push in hard at every opportunity. I hold no grudges because I don’t think watching it on replay that the clash was deliberate.

ESB: Some fighters react badly when they see their own blood, Juan Diaz being a prime example, but you seemed to handle it well. Was that the first time you’d been cut to any major degree in a fight and how did you feel when it occurred?

Jeff: Honestly, I couldn’t see or feel it and apart from the blood in my eye, which was causing a little blurriness in my vision, I was more than happy to finish the fight. My corner had been planning for me to go up a gear in the last three rounds, in an effort to stop him. I felt I was cruising and had plenty left in the tank. And yes, it was the first time I’ve had a serious cut.

ESB: How much does it alter your fight plan and how was the vision for the rest of the fight?

Jeff: As you know, it happened in round 6, although the referee didn’t appear to notice it when it happened. By the end of the round, I already had blood running into my eye. Glenn knew it was a bad cut and asked the doctor to look at it. She said she thought we could fight on, so he did the best he could and we went another round. In the seventh round, Plotnykov seemed to attack the cut at every opportunity. I wasn’t concerned about it but I know my corner was and yes, my vision was certainly impaired from the amount of blood that had run into my eye. The doctor looked at it again immediately after the seventh round and advised the referee that he should stop the fight, which he did.

ESB: Moving forward, your next opponent on October 15th is Alfredo Rodolfo Blanco, in what I understand is a mandatory defence of your IBF Intercontinental title. I know you had to put out an offer to a heck of a lot of contenders before Blanco signed for the fight. Can you talk us through the process?

Jeff: Yeah, as far as I understand, this will be a voluntary defence. It was supposed to be a mandatory defence but all of the IBF’s 15 contenders refused the fight for October 15, so I understand from Glenn that this will be a voluntary defence and my next fight will be the mandatory defence, which is against the highest ranked IBF contender that would accept the fight.

ESB: How has camp progressed for this fight and how much sparring have you been able to fit in since suffering the cut?

Jeff: Yeah, great. I have been back to the grind as usual. I had a month off sparring after the cut, but since then, the preparation has been normal.

ESB: Not wanting to look too far ahead, but should you get past Blanco, I assume with your ranking across all the organizations moving steadily up, an international named opponent must be on the horizon?

Jeff: I’m keen to have a crack at those ranked in the top few but all have their own agendas, as they’re within striking distance of a shot at the title. Glenn is always speaking with Duco Events, my promoter, seeking the best opponents possible for me. A few months back, Amir Khan had an opponent pull out and Duco immediately let it be known to them that I was available. They didn’t accept but we are looking for the big names.

ESB: Some of those potential big names look to be matching up soon. I would imagine that you would be in a position to take on either the winner or the loser of some of these fights?

Jeff: That’s certainly the plan. If I can keep fighting the best opponents available and push my way up the rankings of the four major sanctioning bodies, hopefully there should soon be an opportunity for an eliminator fight. We are continually on the lookout for any of these opportunities. With Mayweather now retired, that should also create some additional opportunities.

ESB: I have to ask as you fight in his division, do you think Floyd Mayweather will be back?

Jeff: I would not be surprised if he did come back in a year or two and do a promotion himself – one last fight. As time goes by I’m sure he will get the itch to come back. Especially when his name isn’t being mentioned as much. I can’t see why he wouldn’t aim for a neat 50 to surpass Rocky Marciano’s record and truly go down as the best ever?” Of course, everyone wants to fight Mayweather, including me, but I’m a realist and whilst I’ll always put my hand up, I know I have to earn the right to fight these great fighters, so that’s what I’m focused on. If I keep performing well, the doors will open.

ESB: Lastly, congratulations on being nominated for Australian fighter of the year. Can you tell us what the nomination means to you and how it would feel to win the award? There are some great names that have gone before you.

Jeff: I very much appreciate being nominated. It is a huge honour. There have been so many great boxers from Australia over the years and it is pleasing to see a new group of us now emerging on the world scene. I would love to do Australia proud and win a world title.

ESB: Thanks for your time Jeff and good luck for the next fight.

Jeff: Thanks Bryce. I really appreciate your support.

Jeff Horn 11(8)-0-1 takes on Alfredo Blanco 15(8)-3 at The Trust Arena, Auckland on October 15th.

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