Australia awaits: Pacquiao vs Horn
Luke G. Williams
Manny Pacquiao's WBO welterweight title defence against Jeff Horn on Saturday in Brisbane is set to be the biggest fight in Australian history. One of the country's leading sports writers - Grantlee Kieza - talks to BM about the bout...
When the promoters of Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao announced plans for a Pacman 'world tour' earlier this year the news was greeted with a fair amount of scepticism.
Similarly, when Australian schoolteacher Jeff Horn was first mooted as a potential foe for Pacman there was a bout of collective eye-rolling amid many in the boxing fraternity - despite Horn's status as Pacquiao's mandatory WBO challenger. However, it increasingly looks like the last laugh may be on the sceptics.
Pacquiao vs Horn is set to be one of the biggest boxing events of the year - with around 50,000 fans expected to cram into Suncorp stadium for the bout - while in the United States the fight will air on network television, making it Pacquiao's first non-pay per view contest since 2005.
The build-up to the fight in Australia has also really captured the public imagination.
"The atmosphere is electric," Grantlee Kieza, senior writer at the Brisbane-based Courier-Mail, told Boxing Monthly. "47,000 seats sold so far and it is set to be the biggest pay per view in Australia with more than 200,000 buys. The city is festooned with Pac-Horn banners and it is on the back page of the main newspaper The Courier-Mail every day."
Part of the appeal of the contest is the unassuming nature of challenger Jeff Horn, a 29-year-old former Olympian, who has now become a figure of international attention. In the best traditions of a Rocky-style underdog, Horn has engaged the public's sympathies and support.
"He's in fantastic shape - but ice cool," Kieza told BM. "He's the most gentlemanly and most accommodating sports person I've dealt with in 40 years as a sportswriter. Three days before he fights Pacquiao he's still posing for photos and shaking hands with anyone and everyone in Brisbane. A very humble and likeable man who is a schoolteacher by profession."
Although few expect Horn to win, the exposure that the fight is offering boxing in Australia is invaluable, as Kieza pointed out: "This is the biggest Australian fight ever - topping 38,000 for Jeff Fenech vs Azumah Nelson 25 years ago.
"It will be a massive boost for the sport in this country and a number of hot prospects are fighting on the undercard, gaining valuable exposure."
There is something special about big stadium boxing matches, and although Pacquiao's power and experience should prove too much for Horn, on Saturday night in Brisbane memories will likely be made that will last a lifetime.
And that can only be a good thing for boxing.