Jeff Horn sits with wife Jo and has a quiet moment after the fight. Picture Peter Wallis
Jeff Horn sits with wife Jo and has a quiet moment after the fight. Picture Peter Wallis Peter Wallis

Jeff Horn conquered the world with wife in his corner

AFTER the Battle of Brisbane was over, Jeff Horn's wife Jo, expecting their first child, sat with him quietly in a small dressing-room while his eye was being stitched.

Eleven years ago she fell in love with a shy, introverted and bookish teenager at Macgregor High in Brisbane's south.

He was a bit of a nerd then, she recalls.

But yesterday Jo saw her husband beat one of the greatest boxers of all time in front of 51,025 people at Suncorp Stadium and a television audience of close to a billion people in one of Australia's greatest ever sporting events.

"He's still a bit of a nerd but now Jeffrey's the world champion,'' she said. "Wow. This has just been the most amazing day. An amazing day.''


Jeff Horn with his grandad Ray and father Jeff. Picture: Peter Wallis
Jeff Horn with his grandad Ray and father Jeff. Picture: Peter Wallis

With Jo cheering louder than anyone yesterday, his mother pumped her fists towards the heavens and his dad couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

And grandfather Ray Horn's misty hazel eyes glazed over with a mix of pride and joy as he declared seeing Horn win the World Boxing Organization welterweight title from Manny Pacquiao was one of the best days of his long life.

Horn's ailing "Pop'' is 89 and battling the flu and the weight of years.

There were grave fears he would be too crook to be ringside for yesterday's fight but just like his grandson he fought back and finally made it, slumped in a chair next to me right behind Horn's corner.

He had the hood of a Jeff Horn souvenir tracksuit pulled over his bare scalp to protect it from the savage Brisbane sun.


He's almost blind and pretty deaf but Ray broke into a huge grin when he heard the challenger's theme song Seven Nation Army' pumping from the loudspeakers, knowing that "young Jeff'' would soon be starring in Australia's biggest ever fight.

Marching to history, Horn stopped briefly on his way to the ring, to touch fists with the old man whose dream was to see his grandson win the title.

"Seeing Jeff become world champ is the thing that's kept me going these last few years,'' Ray said.

"He's always been such a lovely young bloke and I've always wished the very best for him. Nothing will top what he did today.''

After the fight Ray was embraced by Queensland Sports Minister Kate Jones, who had tears in her eyes after Horn's emotional triumph.

On Saturday night Pacquiao had led a bible class in Brisbane where he had prayed for Horn's safety as he has done for all his opponents in recent years.

Pacquiao should have been more worried about his own safety as Horn showed that he was a much more dangerous opponent that Pacquiao expected. The Filipino's camp had often derided Brisbane's Fighting Schoolteacher, saying that Pacquiao could knock him out at any time he tried.

But Pacquiao tried and tried in the early rounds, only to hit air more than target.

Horn dominated the first round as Pacquiao continually missed with his left.

Round 2 was another good round for Horn and he looked much stronger than the titleholder.

Pacquiao landed a couple of lefts but Horn was on fire at this stage as trainer Glenn Rushton shouted "recovery and gap control, you're too strong''.

Rushton was insistent that Horn keep his hands high when he came out of an exchange in the "recovery'' mode and that he maintained "the gap'' - the distance between the two fighters - not allowing Pacquiao to land a clean punch. In Round 3 Horn was cut over his right eye as it became a slugfest.

Ray Horn kept asking me "is young Jeff in front'' and I kept telling him he was.

Jeff and Jo Horn at the post fight party. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Jeff and Jo Horn at the post fight party. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Pacquiao was down from a slip in Round 4 and frustrated by Horn's movement. In Round 5, Pacquiao taunted Horn to come and fight, slapping his gloves together, trying to draw Horn onto his counter punches.

They traded bombs in centre ring. Horn was still bleeding from above the right eye but he could see the title in his grasp.

In Round 6 Pacquiao suffered a bad cut on the right side of his head but the doctor let the fight continue.

In Round 7 the left side of Pacquiao's head began to gush blood and Horn had bruises and bumps all over his forehead from the head clashes.

At the end of the round Horn's father, Jeff Sr, came over to Ray to tell him: "Dad, Jeff is about to become the welterweight champion of the world.''

But then Horn hit a roadblock, hard. There were more huge shots from both fighters in Round 8.

Pacquiao pushed Horn over but referee Mark Nelson ruled a slip. Horn finished the round with the right side of his face badly swollen and then Pacquiao surged in the ninth.

Horn refused to buckle but the American referee told him he was about to stop the fight.

"You've had enough. Show me something in this round or I'm stopping the fight,'' Nelson said. Nelson's shirt was splattered with blood but Horn was not about to quit.

He roared back into the fight in Round 10 and although Pacquiao still looked dangerous, Horn was back to using footwork to dodge shots.

In Round 11, the referee warned The Fighting Schoolteacher for pushing Pacquiao in the throat with his elbow in a clinch but at that point Horn didn't care what he did for victory and at the end of the bloodbath Australia had a new sporting hero.

"I'm just overcome,'' said his mother Liza Dykstra, who recalled having to wrap her arms around her son many times after bullies attacked him at school.

"I'm so proud. I know how hard he has worked for this. It's hard to believe this is the same boy who was picked on at school.''

Horn's father, Jeff Sr, said: "This has been a remarkable journey and it just shows what anyone can achieve with determination and a plan.''

News Corp Australia

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