Bloodied Horn wins incredible instant classic
In a blaze of glory, Jeff Horn dragged his career from the ashes and fired back to win his revenge battle with Michael Zerafa by a 10-round decision at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday night in one of the most exciting fights Australia has seen.
Horn, cut and badly hurt, was on the verge of being stopped in the ninth round when he roared back and dropped Zerafa twice to get back into a fight he had been dominating.
Fighting with a savage intensity totally opposite to his mild-mannered demeanour outside the ring, Horn, 32, rekindled the same passion and power that had propelled him to his epic victory over Manny Pacquiao two years ago at Suncorp Stadium.
He took off to a flying start against Zerafa in the opening round and kept his foot on the accelerator all night.
While Zerafa had talked a good game in the fiery lead-up to the fight, Horn's fists spoke the loudest when it mattered most. He won by scores of 94-94, 98-90 and 97-92.
Zerafa, 27, came into the ring under an Aboriginal flag in honour of his friend Dwight Ritchie, the former Australian champ who died sparring him on November 9.
Horn immediately set about shattering his confidence throwing big shots from the opening bell.
``The Hornet's back. It's a great feeling. I'm going to enjoy Christmas and talk about what's next with my family, whether I fight again,'' Horn said.
``There could be a world title opportunity for me so we'll see what happens.
``Michael deserves all the respect in the world. I know he said a lot in the lead-up to this but he's a good guy, I reckon, and he put in a champion performance.''
Zerafa, who had stopped Horn in nine brutal rounds in Bendigo on August 31, made no excuses.
``Jeff was the better man on the night but I'll be back. I'm only 27 years old. Congratulations to Jeff and his team and Merry Christmas to everyone.''
In round one Horn was cut beside his left eye but landed a big right.
Horn was trying to take off Zerafa's head with every punch in the early going and Zerafa's confidence evaporated.
In Round 2 Horn continued the assault. Referee John Cauchi warned Horn for hitting to the back of the head but the Queensland had Zerafa on the back foot as chants of ``HORNET HORNET'' became louder and louder.
Zerafa landed a good left hook in Round 3 but he came back strong. Zerafa was starting to find his range and connected with a right hand but Horn was a much different fighter to what we saw in Bendigo.
He was a much more difficult target and in Round 4 his jab pumped again into Zerafa's startled face. Zerafa began lunging with punches and Horn was landing brutal counters.
Zerafa's trainer was giving his corner advice by text message from his Melbourne home but Zerafa had to cop the punches by himself.
Horn, wearing a pair of Zerafa's boxing gloves after a last minute change of equipment, was setting a frenetic pace. In Round 5 he was warned again for hitting behind the head but he had Zerafa rattled. In close Horn was doing a lot of damage.
In Rounds six and seven he kept the pressure on as Zerafa missed wildly trying to nail him.
In the end, Horn's calm composure saved the day.
As Zerafa found new legs and new punches in the ninth round, Horn was under siege and badly hurt. His father Jeff Snr, climbed out of his seat five rows from ringside and headed towards his corner as though ready to stop the fight.
But just as he did, Horn nailed Zerafa right on the chin. Zerafa went down, got back up and then staggered into another bomb.
He went down again and it was the moment that sealed Horn's victory.
As Zerafa tried to turn it around again in the 10th Horn was one step ahead and when the final bell sounded the crowd erupted in delight for the hometown hero.
Horn was inspired by his Stretton Boxing Club team-mates last night.
After two knockout losses to start his career, Horn's younger brother Ben Horn, 30 won his first pro fight outpointing Billy Holland from Toowoomba in a four-round welterweight bout.
And Horn's southpaw team-mate Andrew Hunt scored a unanimous eight-round decision over former world title challenger Czar Amonsot, a heavy punching Filipino from Melbourne.