PERTH, Australia - From Down Under to the desert. From hometown hero to a faceless fighter fed to a famous star.
Forget about Jeff Horn fighting Manny Pacquiao in the former's native Brisbane, Australia in front of adoring home fans. Forget about barbecue weekend with ice cold beer on a stubby while cheering this homeboy who is out to slay a legend.
No, it’s not gonna happen and Australian boxing fans are unhappy. April 23, two days before the country celebrates ANZAC Day, will just be another cold autumn day in Queensland.
What could have been the biggest boxing promotion of all time in the land Down Under has just gone pfft.
According to Pacquiao's adviser, Michael Koncz, Pacquiao vs Horn will “100 percent be in the United Arab Emirates", either in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
The announcement apparently ended days of confusion on whether or not the fight will be staged at the 52,000-seat Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Still, the backers of the fight are not giving it up.
“We have executed the agreement and 100 percent the fight will be here in the UAE,” Koncz was quoted as saying in an interview with Gulf News.
“I apologize to the people of Australia and their government there for all the confusion. It took us a while to get this deal together, there was a lot of confusion as to whether this was going to happen here in the UAE, but I’m here with full authority and power,” he added.
It appeared the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council had locked down the fight set for April 23 but negotiations fell through.
Horn’s promoter Dean Lonergan couldn’t believe what he heard on Sunday. He said they were negotiating with promoter Bob Arum who he believes has the authority to represent the fighter not Koncz.
“For the last six weeks I’ve been dealing with Bob Arum and Top Rank, since he’s the promoter of Manny Pacquiao, to put this together,” Lonergran said in a separate interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’m talking today to Brad Jacobs, the COO [chief operating officer] of Top Rank, and the other people from the Top Rank team and we continue to organize the fight and until I’m told otherwise by Bob Arum, as far as I’m concerned, we’ll just keep moving forward with Brisbane and trying to get the deal done here.”
However, no less than the 38-year old Pacquiao has backed Koncz’s announcement as he took to social media on Sunday morning and posted: 'See you in UAE for my next fight.'
With the fight moved out of Horn’s hometown, the undefeated former Olympic quarterfinalist may have to face one grim reality in this business. Being the upstart climbing up the ring against a boxing demigod like the eight-division world champion Pacquiao, he is no less than a sheep thrown into the lion’s den.
Make no mistake about it. Rude as it may be, in the UAE, unlike Brisbane, Horn is just another nameless, faceless fighter being fed to a star.
According to boxing experts, the immediate impact will be on the fight odds and how it is going to sell to a new boxing market known more for hosting the rich season-ending F1 race.
The apparent change in venue and location will surely affect the young challenger’s chances. Not Pacquiao. The hometown crowd would have been the only fighting chance Horn has in his corner on fight night. The shift to UAE will turn everything to Pacquiao’s side given that the gulf nation is also home to thousands of Filipino overseas workers.
In UAE, Horn will not only be fighting for the first time on boxing's biggest stage, he will also be fighting in unfamiliar territory and, perhaps, in front of a predominantly pro-Pacquiao crowd.
While in Brisbane, Horn would have probably had at least 40,000 of the 50,000 in attendance in his corner.
It is also worthy to note that the 28-year old Aussie has never fought outside Australia or New Zealand.