Jeff Horn’s team left to right: Adam Copland, Phil Murphy, Dundee Kim, Jeff Horn, Glenn Rushton, Stephen Edwards, Ben Horn. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Jeff Horn’s team left to right: Adam Copland, Phil Murphy, Dundee Kim, Jeff Horn, Glenn Rushton, Stephen Edwards, Ben Horn. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

Inside Horn’s corner: KOing the ‘voodoo round’

How much more punishment can Jeff Horn take? Even in victory against Michael Zerafa last Wednesday he looked like he'd been hit with an axe.

With a fight against Tim Tszyu on his horizon, many among his family and friends wish he'd call time on the brutal, bloody business in which this Nature's gentleman ironically excels.

Horn has become a byword for courage and grace under pressure and that was evident before, during and after last Wednesday's astonishing triumph in Brisbane as the Horn team took The Courier-Mail on an exclusive look behind the scenes.

The middleweight limit for the fight was 72.55kg and both boxers confronted the scales at the official weigh-in the day before the fight.

 

Horn was sitting comfortably at 73.9kg two nights before the fight and woke up on the day of the weigh-in at 72.7kg. Two hours before the weigh-in he had a hot shower for five minutes and was 72.35kg. He officially weighed in at 72.2kg in his undies at midday last Tuesday. Zerafa was 72.55kg.

Horn was comfortable and relaxed, rather than dehydrated as he had been at many weigh-ins.

Zerafa, who claimed Horn had cost him an $800,000 world title shot by enforcing their rematch clause, looked angry and Horn believed that the Melbourne's fighter's frustration and negative emotions would cause him to burn more energy over the 36 hours to fight time.

Immediately after the weigh-in at the rules meeting between the two fighters' camps and ringside officials, Horn's trainer Glenn Rushton advised everyone that Everlast had prepared custom made gloves for Horn. Rushton inspected the two pairs of "Rival'' brand gloves custom made for Zerafa. They were perfectly legal and approved but Rushton believed they had less padding over the knuckles than the Everlast gloves and reserved the right to wear Zerafa's spare pair the following night.

 

Jeff Horn has his hands wrapped by trainer Glenn Rushton. Picture: Annette Dew
Jeff Horn has his hands wrapped by trainer Glenn Rushton. Picture: Annette Dew

 

Although Horn said he felt strange wearing a pair of gloves branded "Zerafa'', Rushton felt it would be a psychological edge over his opponent.

In Horn's dressingroom, cutman Stephen Edwards covered the Fox Sports camera with a towel so that Zerafa couldn't see Horn's warm-up on the Main Event coverage which was going to both dressing rooms.

Horn warmed up well on the punching pads with Rushton and fitness guru Dundee Kim. Special attention was made on his jab and foot movement to the left away from Zerafa's right hand. He received a good luck Facetime message from Queensland rugby league coach Kevin Walters.

For the first time in many fights, Horn walked out to the ring first as he was now the challenger but all through his preparation he insisted that being the underdog would bring out the mongrel in him.

At the opening bell Horn showed his bite by launching a huge overhand right. It missed but it let Zerafa know that he was in for one almighty dogfight.

Horn looked a vastly different model to the unfit boxer Zerafa manhandled in Bendigo four months earlier.

 

Jo Horn and Jeff’s mum Liza. Picture: Annette Dew
Jo Horn and Jeff’s mum Liza. Picture: Annette Dew

 

From agony to ecstasy for the pair. Picture: Annette Dew
From agony to ecstasy for the pair. Picture: Annette Dew

 

Horn's jab had returned like a battering ram, his feet were moving again and he was a far more elusive target.

But a head clash in Round 1 opened a deep three centimetre cut over his left eye.

"Bloody hell,'' Stephen Edwards thought. "Couldn't Jeff at least give me three or four rounds peace before getting cut?''

Edwards went to work repairing the wound at the end of Round 1 and despite the injury Horn's team were upbeat at the aggressive tone he had set.

The cut wept a little but it behaved itself for most of the fight.

After Round 8 as Zerafa started to move his head and counter more, Rushton told Horn to include more feints to break up Zerafa's counterpunching and fire more body-head combinations to spoil Zerafa's head movement.

Then came Round 9, one of the most dramatic three-minute stanzas in Australian boxing history.

Horn always calls Round 9 his "voodoo round''. Manny Pacquiao almost stopped him in the ninth and Terence Crawford and Zerafa did.

 

Horn’s corner work on his cut. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Horn’s corner work on his cut. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

 

In Zerafa's corner his trainer Blake Caparello, himself the world's No. 3 light-heavyweight, told his fighter to make the most of Horn's superstition and immediately go for the kill.

As Horn was still thinking about how much he hated the ninth, Zerafa launched into him, landing one huge blow after another.

The fight changed instantly.

Edwards noticed that when referee John Cauchi called "break'' Zerafa ignored the command to take one step back before engaging again and repeatedly launched big rights straight away.

Still Zerafa got away with it and the tactic worked.

Horn wobbled but unlike his disaster in Bendigo, he still had his wits about him though hurt; he was still throwing punches back and managing to close the distance to clinch and steal time.

Zerafa's punches opened Horn's cut eyebrow even more and as the blood cascaded into Horn's eye, the referee took him to ringside physician Dr Ben Manion to see if the bout should be stopped.

 

Jeff Horn drops Michael Zerafa with a “punch from the Gods”. Picture: Annette Dew
Jeff Horn drops Michael Zerafa with a “punch from the Gods”. Picture: Annette Dew

 

At ringside Horn's wife Jo was crying and yelling out "Stop it, Stop the fight''. She had seen him beaten up before and didn't want to go through it again.

Though a controversial move that Zerafa is protesting, the referee's action was standard procedure.

Zerafa claimed that the break in the action stalled his momentum and cost him a KO victory but the referee did the right thing. The cut could have caused the fight to be stopped at the doctor's discretion and if it had been stopped Horn would likely have been declared the winner anyway as he was ahead on the scorecards. The cut had been caused by a clash of heads, meaning Horn would have won by a technical decision.

Instead the fight continued. Horn wasn't as hurt as Zerafa thought and Brisbane's hero threw an overhand right that dropped Zerafa like a dead man.

As the crowd went ballistic Zerafa showed great toughness by getting up only for Horn to drop him again.

Horn had saved his career.

 

Maroons coach Kevin Walters delivers a message to Jeff Horn. Picture: Annette Dew
Maroons coach Kevin Walters delivers a message to Jeff Horn. Picture: Annette Dew

 

The Fighting Schoolteacher was exhausted at the end of the round and his face was a mess. Edwards did his best to clean up the wound with adrenaline solution and vaseline but the cut was huge and later needed 11 stitches.

Horn's corner was glad there was just one round to go. It was vital for Horn to keep moving, jabbing and feinting to get through the round.

When the final bell rang after the 10th, Horn was bloodied and physically spent.

Back on his corner stool as he awaited the points decision in his favour, Horn was given water by his team who also put ice on the back of his neck. Edwards eventually damned up the blood flow.

"All I was thinking about was Jeff's health and how proud I felt about what he just had pushed his body and mind through,'' Edwards said later.

"I said to him twice how proud I was of him to which he just replied 'thanks mate'. He had nothing left.''



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