On June 13th at Manawatu Arena, Palmerston North, world ranked heavyweight Joseph Parker takes on Yakup Saglam in a fight that looks to have knockout written all over it. However, an equally exciting battles looms on the undercard in a match-up that is worthy of co-main event status.
Up-and-coming Australian welterweight Jeff Horn, 9 (7)-0-1 takes on the WBA 11th ranked Ghanaian Richmond Djarbeng, 19(15)-2-1 in a fight that you sense both fighters are not just coming to win, but win in impressive fashion.
For those in the know Jeff Horn has been tabbed as the most talented Australian fighter to emerge in the last decade and with a year that has so far been slowed with hand surgery the likeable yet destructive fighter is keen to make up for lost time. We caught up with Jeff to talk about his upcoming fight with Djarbeng and to also hear his thoughts on where the welterweight division is heading over the next 12 months and his role in it.
ESB: Jeff first things first how has the hand been coming along?
Jeff Horn: Yeah, it’s been great. It has healed really well and I’m not expecting any further problems. If anything, this campaign is the best I’ve had, regarding my hands.
ESB: I know it will be six months since your last fight, yet you’re coming straight back against an opponent who has a nice 19 fight win streak going. Any concerns about ring rust?
Jeff Horn: No, not at all. I feel fresh and mentally very hungry, and I’ve had plenty of hard sparring against two of my club mates, in particular, Sam Banney and Nathan Webber, who are both Australian amateur champions. Sam is a middleweight who won the Arthur Tunstall Trophy and is now a pro. He’s lightning fast and keeps me sharp. Nathan just won the 69kg division and is a very intense and skilful boxer. It’s great to have this level of sparring available.
ESB: What has the training regime been like since you’ve been on this injury break?
Jeff Horn: Glenn (my trainer/manager) eased me back in after the hand surgery, as we had time, which has been good. We laid a solid foundation, which has been a great launching pad for the hard work I am putting in through the final weeks. Training for a 12 round fight is tough, but it has to be of course. I am stepping into the ring with yet another world ranked boxer who has won 19 straight and hasn’t lost for over 8 years.
ESB: And for this fight how long has camp been and how much sparring have you been able to get in?
Jeff Horn: Training has been good. These last weeks, we’ve naturally increased the workload. I’ve been sparring 3 times a week, along with roadwork and heavy bag work. Glenn has always said he’ll only push me as hard as he has to, in order to get the job done, so whilst it’s hard, it’s what has to be done. He’s been my trainer from the very beginning, so I pretty much leave it to him. He knows when to back off a little and when I need to knuckle down.
ESB: Many people are picking your fight to be the fight of the night. Djarbeng is actually rated a couple of spots higher than you on the WBA ranking list.
Jeff Horn: Rest assured, I’ll be there to win and to entertain the crowd in the process. But fight of the night, I’ll let the crowd decide that. Joseph Parker is the main event. He’s a great guy and a very talented boxer. Like me, he also comes to fight. I reckon the crowd are in for a treat and will enjoy both fights. Last time we fought, we both KO’d world ranked opponents, which is what we need to do to get to the top.
ESB: That must be exciting knowing that a good win will propel you up the rankings?
Jeff Horn: Yeah, it helps to know that you’re fighting for a reason – that there’s genuine upside. I don’t want to spin my wheels by fighting easy opponents. I am highly competitive and need to be pushed to get the best out of me.
ESB: You’ve also been known as a fighter who favours high risk/high reward scenario’s fighting much more highly ranked fighters several times in your career thus far. What is your mindset going into this fight bearing in mind you have had a little bit of time off as well?
Jeff Horn: My team has a lot of confidence in me and I like that. It gives me the motivation to train hard. My mindset is the same for every fight I go into. Prepare myself well, maintain good form and work rate through the fight. Losing is not an option.
ESB: I know fighters are loathed to give away too much of their strategy pre-fight for obvious reasons but is there anything specific you can tell us about what you have been working on since getting back into fulltime training?
Jeff Horn: I am always further developing and refining my skills with my coach Glenn, so the extra time has allowed us to do some more work in this area. He says we are all a ‘work in progress’ and he is always striving to improve us. As we get closer to the fight, the skill work stops and we focus more on conditioning and refinement. This fight has been different in that we know nothing about Djarbeng, so we have simply had to prepare for what we believe will be a very tough opponent. We have not underestimated him, so there is no complacency.
ESB: So you haven’t been able to pick up any tape of Djarbeng yet?
Jeff Horn: We have not seen any footage whatsoever of Djarbeng, so we are going in blind but that doesn’t phase us. As an amateur, you often know very little about your opposition, so you learn to adapt quickly. He is obviously a puncher, as he has a 68% KO record. I like that, as he is obviously coming to fight.
ESB: This will be his first fight out of Ghana yet from what I’ve read he sounds very confident and as you say, he is definitely coming to fight. Would you agree that this is potentially a crossroads fight for both of you in the sense that the winner should get a nice bump in the ratings?
Jeff Horn: Yes, he says he is coming to KO me and sounds very confident in that, so we will see. I certainly hope this pushes me higher in the rankings; however, I have little control over that. All I can do is to win and be as convincing as possible. Hopefully, the various sanctioning bodies will be impressed enough to elevate me in the rankings.
ESB: I know you were lucky enough to attend the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. As someone that campaigns in the same division what did you make of the fight?
Jeff Horn: I thought it was an entertaining fight. The atmosphere was amazing there and 90% in favour of Pacman. Mayweather just showed how good he is at shutting down a good fighter.
ESB: As an up-and-coming fighter what did you make of the actual atmosphere and how valuable was it in terms of being able to acclimatize yourself to those types of surroundings?
Jeff Horn: The energy at the MGM was unreal. I would love to fight in a place like that. I think a crowd like that lifts my performance.
ESB: Mayweather seems adamant that he will retire after his September fight and with Manny’s shoulder his future also remains up in the air. Without the division’s two most dominant figures how do you see things potentially unfolding for contenders like yourself over the next 12-18 months?
Jeff Horn: As much as I would dearly love to fight Mayweather or Pacquiao; if they retire before I get my opportunity, it’s certainly not the end of the world. There’s still brilliant fighters in the division. Fighters like Khan, Thurman, Brook, Maidana, Porter, Bradley and many others. The welterweight division has been a powerful division for many years now, even long before Mayweather and Pacquiao came along. There’s been Robinson, Leonard, Hearns, Duran, de la Hoya, Trinidad and a host of other awesome champions over the years. It’s the heaviest weight division with 8 ounce gloves and always produces many really skilful, powerful boxers. Further, welterweights are all over the world, whereas the lighter and heavier divisions tend to be more region specific. From my own perspective, I would like to get up into the top 5 ASAP and then aim for the number one (mandatory challenger) position. I am prepared to fight any of the world champions, so am not targeting one in particular. Let’s see where the opportunities unfold.
ESB: On one hand the two biggest payday fighters may be gone but it also leaves the division very very wide open and fresh for regeneration.
Jeff Horn: Absolutely. I do think there is a changing of the guard imminent and I’d like to be a big part of that. If I can get to the top fairly quickly, I believe I can stay there for quite some time, as I’m young and mentally fresh.
ESB: Taking Manny and Floyd out of the equation, what are the some of the top name fighters you’d like to face, and specifically which styles out there think would match up well to yours in respect to producing an exciting fight?
Jeff Horn: Glenn has trained me to be able to beat any type of fighter, so the styles don’t phase me greatly. That said, I like exciting fights as it is good for our sport. Amir Khan is a very classy boxer, so fighting him would be a very technical challenge. Maidana is a power puncher with a high work rate, so that would be physically demanding. None of these fights are easy but the prospect of fighting these guys is what keeps me at the gym each day.
ESB: Hopefully you come through this fight injury free and with a nice win. That being the case what is your schedule looking like for the rest of the year? How many more times would you like to fight?
Jeff Horn: We have lost nearly the first half of this year through injury, so we’re keen to make up some lost ground and provided I come through the fight okay, we intend to back up against another world ranked opponent on August 1. Glenn and Duco hope we can still get 4-5 fights in by the end of the year.
ESB: Those in the know in Australia have pegged you for big things, but now I guess it is a matter of translating that belief out to the wider sporting public in Australia. Australia do have a strong tradition of getting behind their world class boxers. What plans are you and Glenn and Duco looking to put in to place to get your name out there and when are you hoping to fight on home soil next?
Jeff Horn: Glenn, Duco and myself are all on the same page in that regard, which is why we chose Duco – they think like Glenn and I. We will actively pursue the best opponents available. Glenn has a pretty tough template for my opponents – world ranked, minimum of 90% wins, preferably over 20 fights. We believe that the public deserve great, entertaining fights – not mismatches. Boxing is an exciting, exhilarating sport and we intend to build the Hornet brand around integrity and honesty. I think the Australian boxing public appreciate boxers who are prepared to put their ego on the line and take on the best in the world. I know Duco have plans to have me fighting in Australia very soon but at this stage, I don’t have any firm dates. Rest assured, I’ll keep you informed.
We wish Jeff well for his fight on June 13th. If anyone has been lucky enough to see Horn fight before you’ll know that he is an all-action aggressive fighter blessed with fine defensive instincts and a helluva punch. A dominant performance against Djarbeng and an associated bump in the rankings could well see the popular Queenslander begin to figure much more prominently in welterweight discussions over the coming months.
You can follow Jeff on facebook at: www.facebook.com/jeffhorn88