JEFF Horn knows how it feels to cover up from an avalanche of punches.
He points to one incident during his school days when over two dozen boys threatened to beat him up and his friend for practically no reason. Horn remembers getting punched in the face. He wanted to retaliate but he and his friend were greatly outnumbered. He ran away and felt his self-esteem melting like an unattended lighted candle as the boys called him a “coward” and other unsavory nicknames.
Horn admits being repeatedly bullied in school. At the end of each incident, he didn’t feel like somebody just stole his lunch box, he actually felt losing his worth as a human being. Thoughts about taking his own life swirled inside Horn’s head until the day he decided to stop running away and confront his fears. That was the day Horn walked into the gym of martial arts expert Glenn Rushton and taught the rudiments of boxing.
The gym became Horn’s second home, his fortress of solitude. By the time he had been taught the basics, he yearned for more and soon started taking part in amateur boxing contests. He represented Australia in the Olympics before turning pro in 2013.
Horn, 29, has since amassed a record of 17-0, 1 draw with 11 knockouts. He knocked out five of his first six opponents as a pro and has actually metamorphosed into a bully inside the boxing ring. When an opponent gets too close for comfort, Horn is never shy to shove him with his elbow and flatten him with his patented left to the body/right straight to the head combination. He relishes every knockout victory, having found the ideal forum to release all his pent-up anger.
Though already a licensed teacher, Horn is looking to act out the role of a bully anew when he faces his toughest test to date: world welterweight kingpin Manny Pacquiao.
The two are booked to swap leather before an expected mammoth crowd at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Pacquiao, 38, remains the smart money bet but Horn is going into the fight with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Horn’s arsenal is limited. He moves like a robot in the ring, offering very little head and upper body movement. He tends to plod and drop his guard when charging in, making him susceptible to well-timed uppercuts. Last December, an unknown Ali Funeka caught an incoming Horn with a right uppercut and floored him. To his credit, Horn is tough as nails, getting up on the two occasions that he had been knocked down (against Funeka and former world champion Randall Bailey) to score conclusive victories. In the 11 knockouts he had scored, Horn displayed a potent right straight, a weapon he intends to use against Pacquiao.
Horn trained in earnest for Pacquiao, tapping fitness coach Dundee Kim and working on raising his threshold for pain. He recently went 16 rounds with coach Kim to show his improved stamina. Notably bigger than Pacquiao at 5 feet 9, Horn figures to bully Pacquiao in the ring, make the Filipino feel all of his 38 summers. This translates to Horn pressuring Pacquiao, working on pinning him against the ropes and leaning on him to make him feel his entire body weight. Horn looks to be overly aggressive to prevent Pacquiao from adopting his patented in-and-out offensive flurries.
Pacquiao is under pressure to score a knockout and the guess is that he will take some chances in this fight. Horn relishes the idea and promises to introduce Pacquiao to his version of Juan Manuel Marquez’s counter right. Horn judiciously studied Marquez’s epic knockout of Pacquiao in 2012 and plans to take a page off it when he faces Pacquiao.
Oh, Horn also admits watching Pacquiao’s historic upset of Oscar de La Hoya in December 2008. He vividly remembers how De La Hoya looked defenseless while getting peppered by a torrent of punches from Pacquiao, as if he was facing an armada of punchers. Horn prays it won’t happen to him, but if it does, the experience he had in school where he came close to being beaten up by over two dozen boys figures to come in handy. Horn had faced the same fear and scenario, but this time he will retaliate and not run away.