HE’S a physical education school teacher turned boxer. Imagine if he shocks the world next Sunday by defeating Manny Pacquiao? Though that scenario is as unlikely as Golden State relinquishing the trophy next year — what a fairytale story for the Australian.
Jeff Horn’s story is inspiring. When he was a young kid in Brisbane, he walked out of school one day only to be told to drop on his knees and say sorry.
“Get on your knees and say sorry to my mate,” the big kids said to Horn’s friend. He took a knee and got whacked. “Now you,” they told Jeff. “No,” he replied. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” They slapped Jeff’s face. “Then I just walked away,” he said. “I couldn’t fight anyone let alone fight 30 of them. I remember walking back to my mate’s place that day. I felt so annoyed and so belittled.”
That story came from the Sydney Morning Herald. Soon after that traumatic experience, Jeff entered a martial arts gym. He then slipped on a pair of boxing gloves and won the amateur state trophy. Next, the Australian title in 2009. After that, he competed in the London Olympics where, as a light welterweight, he won twice before losing in the quarters.
And now, this: the biggest fight of his life and the most consequential boxing fight in Australia. For the 29-year-old who stands 5-foot-9 and carries a 16-win, one-draw (undefeated) record, this story is remarkable. This bout wasn’t supposed to happen, remember? Pacquiao’s first choice was Amir Khan, with event in the UAE.
The fight next Sunday will be held in the Suncorp Stadium, a venue mainly for soccer and rugby (it hosted the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final), and the promoters are hoping for a full capacity crowd of 55,000. They’ve also priced the tickets reasonably: 27,000 seats are sold at A$100 (Php3,800) and they’ve allocated 6,000 general admission tickets at only $39 (only P1,500).
In June of last year, I got the chance to visit Australia for the first time and, I must declare, of the numerous places that I’ve visited, Australia ranks at the very top. The weather at this time is perfect (9 to 22C). The Aussies are so relaxed and friendly. There is so much open space for bike lanes and jogging paths; lakes for kayaking and rowing; tennis courts littered everywhere; it’s an outdoor, all fresh air, let’s-go-out-and-sweat continent. Jana, Jasmin and I loved the visits to Syndey and Melbourne.
The fight will be in Brisbane and it’s scheduled at 1:30 p.m. That’s quite an awkward time for a sporting event. But they have to conform with the U.S. Saturday night schedule. So, to us here at home, it’s the same 11:30 a.m. schedule. The odds are obviously tilted in favor of MP. But this has only given the Aussie camp more impetus in that we’re-the-underdog inspiration.
“We want Manny overconfident and dismissive of Jeff’s chances,’’ said Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton. “Jeff’s a heavy puncher but the legs are the key to this fight. His legs are 29, Manny’s are 38.”
Prize money? Pacquiao is guaranteed $10 million while Horn will receive $500,000. Computing the disparity, the Pinoy will get 20 times more than the Aussie. As lopsided as this is, Jeff Horn won’t mind. It’s his biggest paycheck ever. Not bad for a bullied kid turned PE teacher turned boxer. Reminds me of Rocky Balboa.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 25, 2017.
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