Horn vs Pacquiao and Australia’s Rich Boxing History

News broke yesterday that Jeff Horn will challenge Manny Pacquiao for his WBO welterweight title at a venue to be determined on April 23 (April 22 US time). Suncorp Stadium is favoured to host the bout but Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium and an offer from the UAE to host the bout abroad are also possible.

pacquiao-hornIf this fight comes off on Australian soil it will be one of the bigger boxing matches ever held in Australian boxing history but despite certain news sites reporting that this fight will be the biggest in Australian history, there  have been bigger fights on Australian soil before. The Jack Johnson vs Tommy Burns heavyweight title fight
drew a crowd of 15,000 with 25,000 unable to get tickets to the bout. Now I know that Suncorp Stadium holds 50,000 spectators but in 1908 when this fight took place, Australia’s population was just over 4 million compared to today’s population of 23 million and 50,000 isn’t such a big number.

Lionel Rose, one of Australia’s most popular world champions, made a defense of his world bantamweight title against British and Commonwealth champion Alan Rudkin at the Kooyong Tennis Stadium in Victoria. The fight was broadcast on free to air television across the country. Now Rudkin is definitely no Pacquiao, but Horn is definitely no Lionel Rose either. Lionel Rose fought in an era when boxing was televised for free and covered in the press. When Rose won his world title it was televised on free to air television. Jeff Horn has spent a large part of his professional career fighting in New Zealand. Horn, like all of our boxers, deserves to be better known than he is but in the Mundine/Green era of boxing our contenders for world titles are talked about less than the NRL players who do the sport to keep fit in the off season.

Pacquiao also isn’t the greatest boxer an Australian has ever challenged. Hector Thompson travelled to Panama to challenge Roberto Duran, considered by many one the greatest lightweights of all-time, in 1973. Tony Mundine challenged Carlos Monzon, considered by many one of the greatest middleweights of all-time, in 1974. Paul Ferreri challenged Carloz Zarate, considered by many one of the greatest bantamweights of all-time, in 1976.

Now you may say that Pacquiao is considered by many one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all-time because of the amount of weight classes he has won titles in. Not many boxing historians hold that opinion. It is notoriously easier to win a world title in the current era of boxing and there are many more weight classes to win titles in. Pacquiao is never talked about like the previous three men are when it comes to discussing who is the greatest of all-time in their weight class. He was a terror at featherweight and junior lightweight and his wins over larger opponents like Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Oscar De la Hoya have made his legend but he never cleaned out a division like Duran, Monzon or Zarate did.

I’m not having a dig at this fight at all either, in fact I’ve been researching accommodation and flights in case it happens here, I just think it’s a little insulting to disrespect our rich boxing history and I think it’s disrespectful for the media, after years of only reporting the latest mismatch involving Anthony Mundine or Danny Green or whichever NRL player has last taken up our sport as the only boxing worthy news, now coming back to the sport and calling this fight something that it isn’t. Considering all we have to go on is that this fight is Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn, calling this fight the greatest boxing match in Australian boxing history is insulting!

What if the fight flops? The initial Anthony Mundine vs Danny Green fight didn’t sell nearly as many tickets as projected. What if Horn gets knocked out in the first few rounds? This could happen; Horn has been down before and Pacquiao is a huge step up in class and while he might not have Randall Bailey power, he has way more speed than anyone Horn has faced before. If either of these situations happens or a combination of the two, will people still be calling this the greatest boxing match in Australian boxing history?

On the other hand, if Horn does defeat Pacquiao in front of a sell-out crowd, then we have something to discuss.