With 2017 counting down many boxing observers are reflecting on what a great year it’s been, like no other in recent memory, and 2018 looks to continue on the same path. As always, boxing is driven by its fights and fighters as it should be, but sometimes the ugly business side of it rears its head and that must be acknowledged too.
This year we saw some tremendous bouts in Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez I, Joshua-Klitschko and Canelo-Golovkin just to name a few. We saw fighters Naoya Inoue, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Vasyl Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Jermall and Jermell Charlo, too many light heavyweights and cruiserweights to mention, along with heavyweight Anthony Joshua all make big statements. And it’s probably a safe bet everyone named will be involved in a high profile bout in 2018.
One of boxing’s better stories started off on the wrong foot because of a controversial decision that was deemed by many a rip-off. I’m referencing the Jeff Horn vs. Manny Pacquiao WBO welterweight title bout that took place in Australia on July 2nd. The former 2012 Olympian Horn was seen as nothing but a tune-up for Pacquiao when the fight was signed. Due to his limited experience and exposure, Horn was considered only a minor blip on the radar to help ready Manny for a big fight against one of the other belt holders in the welterweight division.
The fight turned out to be the most controversial high profile bout of the year. Horn used his pronounced re-hydration weight and mauling, roughhouse style to push Pacquiao around the ring. Pacquiao landed the cleaner punches but it wasn’t as if Horn didn’t respond back, forcing Manny to break off a lot of the exchanges which in effect made the rounds tough to score. The bout went the distance and Horn was the unanimous decision winner. The boxing media was outraged. I scored it for Pacquiao when I watched it live, and that’s the only score that matters. Later I went back and re-watched it and saw it a little closer and today I can live with the decision. All fights look different the next day and Horn-Pacquiao is the perfect example.
I’m over the decision and have moved on. Jeff Horn is an honest, hard-working fighter that isn’t overly gifted. He gets the most out of what he has and there’s something to be said for that. I respect Horn as a fighter more than the multi-talented Adrien Broner who routinely squanders the talent he was blessed with at birth. There are too many pros today wrongly excoriated and overlooked because they’re not great fighters. But what’s missed in that is if all fighters were great, then being great wouldn’t be so special, would it?
This week Horn 18-0-1 (12) made the first defense of his WBO title. His opponent was unheralded English traveler Gary Corcoran 17-2 (7). And like Horn before he fought Pacquiao, Corcoran was viewed as no more than an opponent.
On paper Horn vs. Corcoran was an even match with the experience Horn gained fighting Pacquiao probably being the difference. And that’s pretty much how the bloody battle unfolded. Horn, the mauler, started out boxing Corcoran who was looking to push the fight and impose himself physically from the onset. But Horn resisted the temptation to brawl and used his feet to turn and spin away as he picked his spots to go on the attack. Starting around the ninth round it was easy to glean Horn picked up that Corcoran was becoming a little unraveled and easier to hit and he smartly escalated his attack. Corcoran had no answers and with his left eye cut severely, the referee stopped the fight in the 11th round (I had it 97-93 Horn going into the 11th round).
Based on his showing against Corcoran, Horn improved a little bit and fought more measured as a result of his 12 rounds fighting Pacquiao. Now it looks like he’ll be making his next defense against former unified junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford 32-0 (23), most likely in Las Vegas. It will be Crawford’s first fight as a welterweight, and if he wins, he will have won a legitimate world title in his maiden fight at the higher weight, which will immediately inject him into the title mix along with WBA/WBC title holder Keith Thurman and IBF champ Errol Spence.
Crawford will be an overwhelming favorite to beat Horn when they meet, as he should be. There’s simply too much separating them as fighters. Horn is a tough grinder who depends mostly on attrition to win. There isn’t one thing he can do in the ring half as good as Crawford and that will make for a non-competitive fight.
Crawford is the most versatile and skilled fighter in boxing and, to top it off, he has a very high boxing IQ. And by that I mean he sees and adjusts to an opponent’s weaknesses more clearly and faster than any fighter alive. If Horn really tries to go after Crawford, he’ll get beat up worse, but if he doesn’t really force himself on Terence, trying to manhandle him, there’s a chance he can extend the bout a few rounds.
The Jeff Horn story isn’t whether or not he can stay with Crawford and retain the title. The story is Horn, who started boxing because he was bullied as a youngster and wanted to learn how to defend himself, made it all the way to the Olympics, and then won a world title beating an all-time great who was at the end of his career. Beating Manny Pacquiao in July changed his life. His victory over Gary Corcoran was another nice payday and set him up for a showdown with Crawford. The money he should make fighting Crawford will most likely surpass what he’s earned his entire career.
And that’s the goal of B-level fighters such as Jeff Horn. Regardless of what he’s said, he wasn’t under any grand illusion that he could be a great fighter or be remembered as such when he turned pro. His limitations had to have been obvious to his management from the beginning. But they figured that with dedication, hard work, good management and a little luck there was a real chance he could make a lot of money, more than he could doing anything else. Well, he’s been dedicated and no doubt worked hard, he caught a little luck getting the decision over Pacquiao, and now he’s making money.
Not all fighters can become great, but there is a place for the middle of the road ones and with a little luck and smart people guiding them they have a chance to make money. Perhaps the most misunderstood thing about fighters like Horn is that you have to be really special just to reach his level. The odds against that are far greater than so many realize. That’s why I like the Horn story and am glad to see him gain some wealth from his boxing career. The goal when he began as a pro was to make some money and capture a title and parlay that into more money. So far that’s what has happened and if by chance he gives Crawford a good run, he’ll leave the door open for more substantial purses down the road.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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