JEFF Horn suffered a ‘knockout punch’ against Manny Pacquiao even before they could face inside the ring.
The unbeaten Australian was denied a guaranteed career fight after Pacquiao's bout against Amir Khan bout for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown was finally given a go on Wednesday.
Originally scheduled for April 23, the match has been finalized for May 20 at the United Arab Emirates following a two-hour meeting among key Pacquiao personnel, adviser Michael Koncz and Top Rank big boss Bob Arum in Las Vegas.
Yahoo Sports was the first to break the news.
Horn was earlier being angled by Arum as the next opponent of the 38-year-old pride of General Santos City, even announcing that Top Rank was able to reach a deal with Duco Events, the handler of the former schoolteacher turned Olympian from Brisbane.
But Pacquiao, who’s in the final year of his contract with Arum, didn't appear convinced with what Arum has on the table and instead, went to ask boxing fans – through a survey on Twitter – who they want him to face next.
The 30-year-old Khan, a native of Bolton, Greater Manchesyer, topped the survey featuring four fighters and more than 44,000 polled. Khan got 48 percent of the votes, while Horn was a far fourth with only seven percent.
“When I saw Amir ran away with it, I figured most of the votes were from England and a lot of them came from the UAE,” said Koncz of Khan, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent.
“But they told me that 86 percent of them were from the US,” he added. “That meant a lot. Obviously, Amir’s a big name in the US, too, as well as in England, and people saw it for what it is: A toss-up fight against two fast-handed guys.”
Khan and Pacquiao were longtime stablemates at the Wild Card gym and handled by the great trainer Freddie Roach. The Briton even served as sparmate of the eight-time world division champion in several of his title fights in the past, sharing training camp in Baguio City.
He is coming off a sixth round knockout loss to world middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez last May in a fight where Khan had to move up two weight classes.
Koncz was impressed by Khan’s willingness to move up from light-welterweight to take on Alvarez.
“I applaud him for stepping up and taking the fight against a good fighter like Canelo,” said Pacquiao’s longtime adviser.
“He (Khan) matches up well with Manny and like I said, it’s a 50-50 fight. I certainly think Manny will win, but he’s not guaranteed to win this by any means.”
Pacquiao came out of retirement last November to challenge and eventually, dethrone Jessie Vargas to regain the WBO version of the 147-lbs. title belt.