Underestimating Horn could spell trouble for Pacquiao

Nobody comes to a fight thinking he would lose. That said, underestimating and overlooking Jeff Horn could spell trouble for Manny Pacquiao on July 2 in Brisbane.

Let’s be honest. If your life depended on it, you couldn’t tell me much of anything about Jeff Horn. You probably couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. It’s safe to say the average Australian would fall into this category as well.

Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11KOs) a former Olympian, having competed on behalf of Australia in the 2012 London games will be challenging for his first world title when he faces Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) on July 2 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title.

Pacquiao has clearly faced the tougher competition and has fought four times as many fights than Horn, the No. 2 world-rated contender in the WBO. However, to Horn’s credit, he has faced 10 top 15-world-rated fighters in his first 17 fights. Here are the reasons why Pacquiao, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer and first and only fighter to have accumulated eleven world titles in eight weight classes shouldn’t underestimate Jeff Horn.

The Odds

Before we get into the analysis, let’s talk about the very first place to look once a fight is announced. The betting sharps in Las Vegas know where the money is going to go based on the opening line and where the public is leaning. If we’ve learned anything from Las Vegas, it’s that the big shiny hotels and casinos that exist at every corner of the strip weren’t built because the casinos lose.

With that being said, Horn is a clear underdog as expected. Early betting lines have Horn between +500 and +650 according to www.sportsbookreview.com. However, no different than the “public” teams in the NFL, Pacquiao would fall into the same category in the fight game. There is such a thing as public perception vs. sportsbook reality. The numbers don’t lie. Fading the public is profitable. Sportsbooks will always know what side the public is on simply because they are taking the bets. The sharps will be able to pick up on this by following line moves and wager accordingly based on bet percentages and where they can find value. In this case, there is good value in betting on Horn.

For some historical perspective, Juan Manuel Marquez was +700 going into his 2011 bout with Pacquiao. Many ringside observers and fans around the world felt that Marquez won that fight. We all know what happened to Pacquiao in the follow-up to that fight in 2012. A more recent comparison is Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. is a +500 underdog going into his May 6 clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Many experts and fighters have been public in their feelings that Chavez, Jr. has a chance to win this fight. Expect late money to come in for Horn tightening up this line as the fight nears.

Perception

Don’t let Jeff Horn’s gentleman demeanor and sweet disposition fool you. He is neither a gentleman nor sweet once he steps in between the ropes. It’s part of his charm. My opinion is that he plays up the role of the former school teacher all around nice guy. He’s anything but that once the opening bell rings. When I asked the mild-mannered Horn about his thoughts regarding the July 2 fight, he said, “I’m going into the fight of my life. Becoming world champion was my goal from the very beginning of my career. I am fighting an absolute legend, and I not only plan on impressing him but shocking the world in the process.”

Horn possesses the style and skill set that could give Manny Pacquiao a run for his money in Brisbane should the Filipino Senator not be prepared. The only thing predictable about Jeff Horn is his unpredictability. Horn uses angles effectively, an odd and disruptive punching rhythm and he’s a lot stronger than he may look. He applies nonstop pressure and will throw punches from every position. Horn is also 10 years younger, has a four-inch height advantage and one-inch reach advantage than the champion, Pacquiao.

Horn’s greatest asset is that most of the boxing public and even the boxing purists couldn’t tell you much about him. I fell into that same category a year ago, however, things quickly changed once my client, former three-time, two division world champion, Randall Bailey, met Horn on April 27, 2016, in Brisbane. Horn was able to control the fight from the opening bell until Bailey retired on his stool after the seventh round. Bailey staggered Horn 20 seconds into the third round with his signature right hand. Horn proved he could recover and persevere en route to a TKO victory.

Apathy

Since the speculation of this particular fight began in January, the Pacquiao camp has seemed underwhelmed, to say the least. Many feel the deal struck in December 2016 between Top Rank and Duco Events to co-promote the now WBO heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker, opened the door for Horn, also promoted by Duco Events to get into the Pacquiao conversation for this fight.

Since then, a very public back and forth ensued as to who and where Pacquiao would be fighting. The bout was originally supposed to take place on April 23 until Amir Khan was brought into the mix of potential opponents. Once it was known the Khan fight was not going to happen, all of sudden, Horn looked attractive again.

To a certain extent, Pacquiao has become Horn’s reluctant dance partner after more attractive options didn’t materialize. Pacquiao and his team seem very unenthusiastic about this fight and have not been shy to express how they feel.

Pacquiao’s advisor, Michael Koncz told me, “From our perspective, this fight got made as a result of our inability to conclude financing for the Amir Khan fight prior to Ramadan which starts on May 26.” Koncz added, “I continue to work on Amir Khan for October and November.”

Pacquiao’s longtime head trainer Freddie Roach appears to be looking past Horn with comments he made last week.

In a recent interview, Roach told Fox Sports Australia, “The thing is I like this fight [with Horn]. There’s a chance Manny could be fighting Mikey Garcia or Amir Khan or Terence Crawford next. Manny needs a fight like Jeff Horn to get ready for a bigger fight. Activity has always been the key for Manny and when he’s busy he’s always at his best. We want activity and me and Manny love to see the world. I’ve been to Sydney once but never to Brisbane. I’ve been to 36 countries. I have the greatest job in the world training fighters and seeing the world.”

Koncz also told me “This Jeff Horn is something else. It’s as if he is having flashbacks to the days of teaching school and giving a lecture to his fourth-grade students or something, but someday he will come to the realization that on July 2, it’s a different world. It’s a different arena, it’s the world of professional boxing, where respect is earned through years of dedication to the sport.” Koncz continued, “He (Horn) will be the fourth-grade student getting schooled and wish he was back in a classroom instead of the ring with a true legend.”

If Pacquiao isn’t overconfident, his core team certainly is. Sometimes this has a way of rubbing off on a fighter subconsciously. At 38 years old, it wouldn’t be in Pacquiao’s best interest to buy into the tune-up concept and look past Horn.

Timing

There is no doubt regarding Pacquiao’s legendary status as one of the greatest boxers of all time, however, in a sport of what have you done lately, Pacquiao is 5-3 in his last eight bouts and hasn’t scored a knockout victory in eight years, going back to his technical knockout victory over Miguel Cotto in 2009 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao has clearly faced the tougher competition to date, however, that is the past.

Boxing is a young man’s game and fighters have a habit of getting old in a single fight. This could and has happened to many fighters that have fought one fight too many or stuck around past their prime. I’m not saying this is going to be the case for Pacquiao, but it is certainly a viable concern. The last thing to go for a fighter is power. As referenced above, Pacquiao hasn’t had a knockout in eight years. Pacquiao’s speed and quickness are not what it once was either. Combine this with inactivity and it could be a recipe for Horn’s success. The only opponent that still remains undefeated is Father Time.

Nothing to Lose

This is the fight of Horn’s life. Horn will be unfazed by Pacquiao. It’s not part of his nature. Nothing seems to bother him or put him off his game.

Horn can come into the ring on July 2 with no pressure. Horn only has to be perfect for one night in front of a potential 50,000 plus audience cheering on their countryman. The one thing I admire about the Australian boxing community is their delusional optimism. In this case, I think it just might rub on Horn.

While in Brisbane last year, I asked Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton about his training philosophy with Horn and he simply said, “Bite off more than you can chew and then chew like hell.” Many will say that Horn bit off more than he can chew by chasing Pacquiao, but Horn wouldn’t have it any other way.

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