Jeff Horn determined to make his name at Pacquiao’s expense

Ryan Songalia
Jeff Horn determined to make his name at Pacquiao’s expense
Few had heard of Jeff Horn before he signed to fight Manny Pacquiao. He wants to make sure no one ever forgets his name

BRISBANE, Australia – Glenn Rushton, the trainer/manager of Jeff Horn, understands why there’s a large disparity between his fighter’s purse, and that of Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, according to reports, is making a guaranteed $10 million to head to Horn’s hometown here and face the unbeaten contender on Sunday, July 2 at Suncorp Stadium. Horn, while getting his biggest payday to date with a reported 6-figure guarantee and bonuses depending on crowd size, “is not gonna earn even a tenth of what Manny will earn,” says Rushton, the well-spoken guru who first put gloves on a teenaged Horn to teach him how to defend against bullies.

Pacquiao, aside from being the defending WBO welterweight champion, is one of the last remaining legends still active in the sport. His presence brings credibility to the event, even if most of the crowd on the Brisbane Broncos’ home pitch will be rooting for Horn.

What Horn brings to the table is the hope of a nation eager to see one of their boys make it big in the opportunity of a lifetime. He’s an affable young man who at age 29 is in the prime of his youth. Much has been said of the local boy done right, a graduate of Griffith University who worked as a schoolteacher before representing Australia at the 2012 Olympics, and who rose to become the number two contender with the World Boxing Organization and earn a shot at Pacquiao’s title.

Pacquiao may be the champion, but the possibility of a massive upset is the reason a reported 46,000 in tickets have been sold for the fight, according to Horn’s promoter Dean Lonergan of Duco Events. If 50,000 are in the crowd as is expected, 45,000 are going for the local fighter.

Horn’s team knows a win means the beginning of greater paydays and big fights – while Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach says he might advise Pacquiao to retire if he can’t get by Horn.

“I really can’t contemplate how big it would be. I think Jeff – win, lose or draw – is going to become a national sporting icon,” said Lonergan, a former rugby league player from New Zealand during the 1980s.

“I think no matter what happens, this is going to be a war. I think Australians will look upon Jeff Horn as someone they’re very, very proud of.

“We fully expect him to go out there and do the business, and when he does, this will be one of the biggest things that Australia’s ever seen.”

Biggest in history

Lonergan adds that there is a rematch provision for later in the year, should Horn pull off the upset. He says the fight is already the biggest in Australian history, with the previous attendance record being the nearly 38,000 who attended the rematch between Jeff Fenech, Australia’s most popular champion, and Azumah Nelson at Melbourne in 1992.

“Just the media pick-up on this, this is truly a national event. They’ve never had a fight here of such international exposure, where it’s going to 150 countries around the world, particularly it’s going primetime to the US,” says Lonergan.

BIGGER CHECKS. Jeff Horn will be signing his name to bigger checks if he can beat Manny Pacquiao. Photo by Wendell Alinea

Australia has had world champions through the years, but hasn’t had a fighter break through to become a major star in awhile. Horn would fit in that role perfectly if he can win.

“You never know when another legend is about to be born,” says Rushton. “I think Jeff is capable of going on and doing great things. He’s an exciting boxer to watch, he’s unpredictable. He can knock you out with any punch. He’s got a granite like chin, he’s efficient, his legs are great. He’s got all the skills and attributes.”

When Pacquiao was asked at Wednesday’s press conference if he’d had any premonitions or dreams about this fight, as he had before his losses to Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao said he hadn’t, but would let us know if he did. Horn says he visualizes victory.

“I don’t know if it’s a dream or I just keep picturing it in my head that many times that it just feels like it’s gonna become real, but I just keep seeing my hand getting raised in that ring,” Horn said, to the applause from Australian media.

While the local media and fans have latched on to Horn, most boxing fans have dismissed this fight as a stay-busy effort for Pacquiao and a quick payday.

Pacquiao, 38, has become a globally known name for his wins over Oscar de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Erik Morales, among many others, and won the world title again last year in his spare time while working as a senator.

Horn, much younger at 29 and slightly larger physically, has fought no opponents recognizable to the general public. His biggest name opponents to date are Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka, who are about a decade removed from relevance.

“As great as Manny is and we really respect him, he’s just a man,” Rushton reminds. “He can’t hit Jeff with a ‘right experience’ or a ‘left legend’ or anything like that or his record. None of that’s gonna matter. It’s just two fists.

Horn, his team is quick to point out, made it to the same Olympic quarterfinals as Errol Spence, the fast rising American star who won the IBF welterweight title. But unlike Spence, Horn had relatively little hype surrounding his career until he was floated as a possible Pacquiao opponent after Pacquiao defeated Jessie Vargas last November.

Even Pacquiao had said he hadn’t heard of Horn while seeking a fight with Amir Khan, before eventually signing after the money failed to materialize for the Khan fight. Pacquiao says he isn’t looking past Horn, but hasn’t drifted from his “he’s OK” assessment of Horn as a fighter.

Horn could take inspiration from the case of Jeff Harding, an Australian contender who was dismissed for his lack of big fight experience up until the moment he was standing over the erstwhile WBC light heavyweight champion Dennis Andries in 1989.

“I guess that I’m not that well known yet. But I think I’m gonna be after this fight,” says Horn. 

“Especially if I win,” he said before correcting himself. “When I win.”

Horn’s job now is to make sure Pacquiao – and the boxing world – never forgets his name. –

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