Jeff Horn has single-handedly changed the face of Australian boxing, sensationally defeating Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao.
The 29-year-old former schoolteacher beat his strongly-fancied opponent by unanimous decision in a bloody and brutal bout at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
The Brisbane local, who took up boxing 14 years ago to learn how to defend himself from bullies, has now cemented himself as one of the sport’s top drawcards.
In front of a packed hometown crowd, Horn punched his ticket to boxing’s big time with an incredible performance to win Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight championship.
The three judges scored the fight 117-111, 115-113, 115-113 and Horn immediately called out Floyd Mayweather Jr. after the bout.
He declared himself ‘no joke’ to the legions of boxing experts across the world who gave him no chance of beating the 11-time world champ.
‘I’ve just believed since I was very young that I could do this,’ Horn said after the fight.
‘This is not the best moment of my life – it is yet to come with my beautiful wife Joanna, she’s pregnant with our first child.’
He said if Pacquiao wanted a rematch, ‘bring it on’.
Pacquiao said he accepted the judges’ decision but was keen to fight Horn again as soon as possible.
‘I didn’t expect (he would be) that tough,’ he said.
Horn was given little chance of defeating the legendary Filipino fighter.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach tipped on the morning of the fight that Horn wouldn’t last three rounds and bookmakers roundly shunned the 29-year-old.
But intent on silencing his doubters and making a name for himself in front of a television audience in the tens of millions, he went the full 12-round distance with one of the greatest boxers of the era and came out on top.
Horn came out firing and gave his opponent plenty of cause for concern from the very first round.
Both fighters had their moments and traded turns as the aggressor and while Pacquiao may have landed more hits, Horn never stopped coming.
Pacquiao saved his best round for the ninth, launching an all-out assault on Horn that prompted referee Mark Nelson to tell his corner he needed to ‘show something’ in the next round or he would end the fight.
‘I was actually more worried about the look on his face. I wasn’t actually too bad. I was like, ”settle down everyone, I’m fine”,’ Horn said of the incident.
He responded by taking the next round, before seeing it out to extend his unbeaten record to 17-0-1 (11 knockouts).
The defeat is Pacquiao’s first since losing to Mayweather in their 2015 mega clash in Las Vegas, taking his career record to 59-7-2 (38 knockouts).
After a relatively subdued build-up, both sides dispensed with the niceties in the hours before the fight as bickering broke out over what hand wraps were permitted.
Roach objected to Horn’s use of brown wrapping tape and reportedly told Main Event presenter Ben Damon that he’d ‘never met such f***** disrespectful people in boxing. Manny knows about it and they’re gonna pay.’
Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton suggested Roach looked ‘rattled’ but agreed to use white tape to ensure there were no further problems.
Pacquiao went into the fight the hot favourite, but Horn’s camp was confident he could produce one of the biggest upsets in Australian boxing history.
Horn may not be as quick as Pacquiao but he is bigger, younger and, according to Rushton, was perfectly prepared for whatever sort of fight came his way.
‘We’ll work the entire target area. If people think he’s just going to throw the right hand and try to land like Jessie (Vargas) did, ain’t gonna happen,’ Rushton said ahead of the bout.
‘Jeff can KO with any punch. We don’t need a KO but we want it. We can work head, we can work body, long range, close range, mid range.
‘He’s a very all-round fighter. We’re not a one-trick pony.’
Rushton has been with Horn every step of the way, from the first fights of his amateur career to his 2012 London Olympics appearance, and believed the 29-year-old was primed to make history.
‘I think you can see from Jeff’s demeanour here, he’s not overawed at all,’ Rushton said after Saturday’s weigh-in.