Friday, June 8, 2018

Can Horn Continue To Answer His Critics By Pulling Off Another Upset?

One of the bigger stories of 2017 in the sport of Boxing was the emergence of undefeated Welterweight contender Jeff Horn, who scored what many felt was a shocking and controversial upset of future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao in July of last year in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia. Despite putting forth a “Game” effort in defeating Pacquiao via twelve round unanimous decision to win the WBO Welterweight world championship, Horn was not given the credit or the respect normally shown to a world champion following the fight. This was due largely to the opinion of some that he had benefited from a “Bad” or “Corrupt” decision.

In this observer’s coverage of that fight, I called the encounter known as “The Battle Of Brisbane” “A Great Fight With A Shadow Of Controversy.” While I believed Pacquiao had done enough to retain his world championship, it was a shame that such a grueling battle between two world-class fighters would be more known for the “Controversy” in regard to the scoring in the eyes of some instead of the great fight that took place. I also stated as I have done over the years when similar “Controversies” emerge that there is always a remedy “A Rematch.”

Although the outcome of Pacquaio-Horn seemed to create the ideal scenario that would warrant a second encounter, a rematch between the two did not materialize. The new champion would instead make the first defense of his crown in December of last year when he faced WBO number ten rated contender Gary Corcoran in Brisbane, Australia. Horn dominated the fight stopping the “Game” Corcoran in eleven rounds.

This victory for Horn, his eighteenth of nineteen bouts as a professional set up an opportunity to attempt to further answer his detractors by facing another elite fighter with “Superstar” status in the sport. The undefeated two-division world champion Terence Crawford.

Crawford, a native of Omaha, NE has won world championships in the 135lb. Lightweight and 140lb. Jr. Welterweight divisions, amassing a record of 32-0, with 23 Knockouts. In his last fight, Crawford successfully unified the Jr. Welterweight division to become the Undisputed Jr. Welterweight world champion by scoring an impressive third round knockout over previously unbeaten fellow unified Jr. Welterweight world champion Julius Indongo in Lincoln, NE. Crawford’s reign as the one and only Jr. Welterweight world champion was short as he soon vacated the WBC, WBO, IBF, and WBA crowns to set his sights on a third weight class, the 147lb. Welterweight division.

Crawford, per his being a world champion of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) at a lower weight prior to his decision to move up in weight, was named the number one mandatory challenger for Jeff Horn in a bout that was scheduled to take place in April of this year.  As many Boxing fans know, the bout was postponed due to a hand injury suffered in training by Crawford. The bout was rescheduled and will take place on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

Beyond this being an intriguing clash between undefeated world champions, this fight will all be one of the highlights of ESPN’s recently launched subscription streaming service ESPN+ in the United States. A digital network that has in it’s nearly two months of existence featured Boxing prominently.

A battle between two offensive-minded fighters that has the appearance on paper of being an entertaining fight. What will be of interest in this fight to this observer will be what approach the champion will take. Horn is a fighter that likes to come forward and apply consistent pressure on his opponent while looking to set up opportunities to land a focal point of his offense, his right hand. What can be overlooked about Horn’s offense however, is he can mix his offense up to the head and body by landing combinations and has also shown that he can keep a fighter at distance and unable to be effective throughout his career.

Horn does have the theoretical advantage of being the naturally bigger fighter, who is fighting at his natural weight against a fighter who will be competing as a Welterweight for the first time. Despite a one-inch height advantage over Crawford, the challenger has a two-inch reach advantage.

One thing that I believed was a contributing factor in Horn’s world championship victory over Manny Pacquiao was that although Pacquiao appeared to outwork him over the course of the fight, Horn did succeed in bringing the fight to Pacquiao and was able to back him up. Although one might expect Horn to use a similar approach in this fight, it is important to keep in mind that Terence Crawford is a world-class counter puncher who has a good mix of hand speed, punching power, and is effective in being able to switch stances to keep an opponent off-balance and unable to execute their offense effectively.

The story of this fight in my eyes will center on whether Horn will be able to effectively disrupt Crawford’s ability to get into a rhythm as he was able to do at points in his fight with Pacquiao and whether he can deal with Crawford’s hand speed and ability to adjust as the fight progresses. For Crawford the two-part question that will be asked of him in this fight is the same as all fighters who move up in weight. How will his body respond to fighting at a higher weight and how will he respond to being hit by naturally bigger fighter. It is also normal to ask whether his punches will be as effective or perhaps more effective at the higher weight than has been the case in lower weight classes.

Of course, Crawford was dominant in the Lightweight and Jr. Welterweight divisions and will come into this fight with a slightly higher career knockout percentage of 72% in thirty-two professional bouts as compared to Horn’s 69% in nineteen professional fights. A fair question to ask given the statistics of the two fighters is what effect will Crawford’s punches have on Horn when he lands.

Despite the “Controversy” surrounding his victory over Manny Pacquiao, Jeff Horn is after all an undefeated fighter who only has a technical draw that he earned in his fourth pro fight against Rivan Cesaire in 2013 as an official question mark on his record. Although Horn will be facing a fighter with considerable pedigree and more experience as was the case when he faced Pacquiao, the champion had scored wins over former world champions Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka prior to that fight so while Horn’s resume is shorter in comparison to fighters like Pacquiao and Crawford, he does have an impressive one. Some may question whether facing another fighter regarded as a superstar in the sport and wanting to answer those who have been critical of him because of the outcome of the Pacquiao fight, if Horn will be overly aggressive from the outset in looking to make a statement in what will be another career defining fight for him.

A fight with a storyline of an underdog world champion looking to further establish himself as a player in the sport against a fighter seeking his third world championship in as many weight classes. A storyline that has been present in fights throughout Boxing history in various weight classes that has produced encounters that many consider classics.  While Crawford is likely to be a heavy favorite in this fight, a fighter with something to prove, who might feel underestimated and overlooked should always be considered dangerous.

In our recent Twitter Reader Poll we asked readers as to whom they felt would win this fight. 71% of voters who took part in the poll believe that it will be the challenger Crawford who will emerge victorious while 29% of voters feel that the champion Horn will come out on top and retain his world championship in what will be his second title defense. Whether or not the poll and/or discussion regarding the outcome of this fight will serve as an accurate illustration of what takes place in the ring is something no one can answer right now.

What the results of the poll do demonstrate however, could be a perception of how fans view the combatants prior to the fight, as well as lend credibility to the stance of some both fan and expert alike that despite his victory over Manny Pacquiao, Horn remains an underdog who is still an unknown to some particularly those who are casual fans of the sport. While it is true that Crawford is more known and has been able to benefit from international television exposure and does have a stellar resume, if Horn can again defy the odds, it will be time for those who have been critical of him to give credit where it’s due. Something that regardless of how one feels about the scoring of Horn’s fight with Manny Pacquiao, is frankly overdue in the eyes of this observer.

We will see what happens on Saturday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Horn vs. Crawford takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, June 9th) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. The fight as well as full undercard can be seen in the United States exclusively on ESPN’s new digital streaming service ESPN+. Undercard bouts will begin at 6:30PM EST/ 3:30PM PST. ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app and is available on streaming devices such as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. For more information about ESPN+ and to subscribe to ESPN+ online please visit:

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on BoxNation beginning at 1:30AM (Sunday, June 10th Local UK Time) For more information about BoxNation and availability in your area please visit: Check your local listings internationally.

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