Thirty years have elapsed since Jeff Fenech became an overnight sensation in his native Australia by winning a version of the world bantamweight title in only his seventh professional fight. In the interim, most of the top Aussie fighters (think Kostya Tszsu and Vic Darchinyan) have been transplants from other countries. But that may be changing. Native son Lucas Browne owns a piece of the world heavyweight title and Jeff Horn, a welterweight, is on the brink of becoming a big star in the Land Down Under. To achieve that distinction, Horn (13-0-1, 8 KOs) must overcome former 140-pound world champion Randall Bailey when they lock horns on Wednesday, April 27, at the Brisbane Convention Centre. Horn has a distinct home field advantage in Brisbane — he’s the nephew of the city’s Lord Mayor – but he may be biting off more than he can chew in the form of Bailey (46-8), a big puncher with 39 knockouts to his credit.
Jeff Horn represented Australia in the 2012 Olympics. He advanced to the third round where he lost to Denys Berinchyk, a boxer from the Ukraine. The “draw” on his professional ledger came in his fourth pro fight. Horn appeared to be on his way to a comfortable decision when a cut resulting from an accidental head butt terminated the contest in the third frame. In another time and place, this would have entered the books as a “no contest.”
A former PE teacher, Jeff Horn comes from a middle class home. Randall Bailey, by contrast, was raised by a single mother in the trouble-plagued Carol City neighborhood of Miami, Florida, where he was repeatedly in trouble with the police, eventually serving 64 days in jail following a second arrest for carrying a concealed weapon.
The American is long in the tooth; he’s 41 years old. However, Bailey has lost only one of his last nine starts, that coming at the hands of Devon Alexander in the first defense of his IBF World welterweight title. He won that strap with a devastating right uppercut to the chin of previously undefeated Mike Jones.
This bout would have transpired sooner if not for an injury that Horn suffered in training, a collapsed larynx. To heal the cartilage, he underwent a surgical procedure that involved placing a metal plate in his neck. In response to a question by Aussie sportswriter Phil Lutton about how this would impact his performance, Horn said “I’m going to keep my chin down, my shoulders up and I’m not going to get hit there.” American boxers have been known to discard their motivation to win before entering the portals of Australia, but all things being equal, the odds favoring the hometown hero (Horn is roughly a 4/1 favorite) appear much too wide.
The Horn-Bailey bout will be televised in Australia on the Fox Sports network. In an undercard bout of note, 20-year-old Willis Meehan, a massive heavyweight with a 4-0 record, opposes debutant Riki Barclay. Willis Meehan has a rugby background, as did his father, Kali Meehan. The elder Meehan came within a whisker of winning the WBO heavyweight title in 2004, losing a split decision to Lamon Brewster in Las Vegas.