Battered, beaten but Horn still smiling
EVEN with 26 stitches in the torn skin around his eyes Jeff Horn was still smiling after losing his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title by ninth round stoppage to the slick American Terence Crawford in Las Vegas.
Horn will leave for Vancouver for a three-week holiday with wife Jo proud that he gave everything he had against a brilliant opponent who is the best boxer in the world regardless of weight division.
Eleven months after he stunned the world with his victory over Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium, the Fighting Schoolteacher was taught a painful lesson in speed and movement at the MGM Grand by a fighter so tough he once drove himself to hospital after being shot in the head.
But Horn is likely to fight again in Brisbane in November or December and negotiations have already started over a possible rematch with Crawford, a mooted return fight with Pacquiao or possibly even a ``money fight'' with Anthony Mundine.
"They all sound good to me,'' said Horn who pocketed $2.5 million for the fight, taking his earnings for the year to nearly $5 million.
Horn said he had felt fine in the lead-up to the fight but just couldn't get his timing right against the fleet-footed American who is now unbeaten in 33 fights.
Las Vegas referee Robert Byrd mercifully halted the action at 2min 33 sec of Round 9. Horn had been dropped and while he climbed back to his feet, Crawford was firing both hands full blast.
``I definitely I felt I still had more in me but at the end of the day the referee had my best interests at heart,'' Horn said. ``I'm sure my wife Jo is glad that he stopped it when he did.''
Horn said he was frustrated by Crawford's style and skills.
``The whole time I was thinking what someone like Jeff Fenech would be saying right now. It would have been `stay on his chest, stay on his chest'. But I just couldn't get on him. His boxing skills were very good.
``I knew he would fight on the back foot and I thought I could beat him coming in, but he clipped me too many times.
``Well done to him, he's a great fighter.''
Crawford collected his third world title after having held world championships at lightweight and light-welter.
Horn suffered his first defeat in 20 pro fights.
He posed for photos with Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg in the dressingroom before the fight but he couldn't follow trainer Glenn Rushton's script to beat Crawford to the punch.
With other stars such as singer Lady Gaga and ``Black Panther'' actor Chadwick Boseman ringside, Crawford gave a stellar performance.
All three judges - Adam Height, from Brisbane, Nevada's Burt Clements and Italy's Guido Cavalleri - had Crawford up 80-72 at the stoppage, meaning he had won every round.
Horn was all class but could not match Crawford for speed or punch accuracy.
The first round was fairly even. Horn was clipped early but came back strong.
Crawford dominated the next two rounds with his silky skills and in the fourth was so confident of victory he started smirking towards Horn's corner.
In round five he started poking his tongue out at the gutsy Brisbane fighter who was marked around both eyes.
The Hornet tried to swarm Crawford in Round 6 but he was met with sharp repellent every time in the shape of the challenger's deadly combinations.
Horn's defence was porous. Even when he managed to land some hard shots Crawford met him with big body blows and sizzling uppercuts and at times was able to throw him into the ropes.
By round seven Horn was fighting on desperation, well aware that while he had taken the early rounds against Manny Pacquiao in winning the title he was conceding rounds to Crawford.
The few hundred Australians in the crowd at the MGM Grand tried to lift him with chants of ``Hornet! Hornet!'' but Crawford countered his every assault.
Crawford's punch placement and movement were mesmerising.
In Round 8 he set Horn back on his heels but the brave battler from Acacia Ridge kept coming. He was badly staggered at the end of the round as Crawford cut loose and appeared to be on the verge of going down.
In Round 9 Crawford finished the job, winning his third world title.
"Why you lookin so sad,'' he asked the Australian press contingent, ``y'all mad?
"Y'all tried to compare me to Manny Pacquiao. Look what I just did.
"We knew how he was gonna come at me.
"He came in there with the intentions of roughing me up and being aggressive. He didn't realise how strong I was."