ALL eyes were on Brisbane for the beginning of Jeff Horn’s reign as WBO welterweight champion.
A plethora of stars and influencers crowded the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre to witness Horn’s eleven round dismantling of Gary Corcoran, which was complimented by a six-fight undercard featuring a handful of selected Australian boxers in fights designed to raise awareness for Queensland natives Rohan Murdock, Shannon O’Connell, Alex Leapai and Paul Fleming.
We recap another world class night from Duco Events, while summarising the rising or falling stock of the competing fighters.
Despite being the owner of arguably the best resume for an Australian-born fighter after nineteen fights since Jeff Fenech, a slew of unfair criticism has followed the WBO welterweight titleholder.
The softly-spoken Brisbane resident continues to do his talking with his fists, overcoming a brave challenge from Gary Corcoran (17-2, 7 KOs) to make a successful first title defence, after the Londoner’s corner rescued their charge in the eleventh heat of their battle.
To the casual fan and an outside observer, there doesn’t appear to be much substance behind the attacking prowess of Horn (18-0-1, 12 KOs). But irrespective of circumstances, and with an at times difficult clash of styles at hand, the 29-year-old thrived, breaking the rhythm – and eventually the spirit – of a determined challenger that came to win and provided several difficulties early on.
Having secured a showcase win in his inaugural title defence, Horn is now on the fast track to an unenviable date with former undisputed light welterweight champion Terence Crawford in April, with the Nebraskan’s ringside absence validating the continued rumours of an eventual meeting.
The American doesn’t appear to rate the skill-set of Horn, who will be handsomely compensated if he agrees to fight one of the most avoided pugilists at world level.
Is there anything that isn’t to like about West Australian firebrand Nathaniel May?
The dexterous switch-hitter almost stole the show on Wednesday night, lighting up the previously unbeaten Aelio Mesquita in five one-sided heats to pick up the vacant WBO Asia Pacific featherweight bauble, as one of two regional title fights contested on the televised prelims.
It goes without saying that Mesquita (now 16-1, 14 KOs) holds a resume that makes for light reading at closer analysis, but the fact remains that May (19-1, 11 KOs) highlighted this with a performance that would’ve caught the eye of Top Rank aficionados Carl Moretti and Bruce Trampler.
Perhaps the Indigenous ace is somewhat underestimated due to a disputed loss to Waylon Law earlier in his professional career, but if the Australian boxing public weren’t paying attention to the explosive 22-year-old before, they certainly are now.
After a well publicised series of issues with his weight, which have previously seen May fluctuate between featherweight and light welterweight, the Peter Stokes schooled prospect seems to have hit a hot streak in the past twelve months.
Alex Leapai needed only three rounds to stamp his authority on lumbering heavyweight Roger Izonritei.
However, an unfortunate clash of heads – which resulted in a nasty gash on the forehead of Izonritei (now 12-6-1, 11 KOs) – led to an abrupt technical draw that robbed Leapai of a second win in as many months. The Brisbane-based strongman landed multiple flurries of thudding blows on his Nigerian-born counterpart, and was unlucky to leave without a win.
Despite his dominance, the former heavyweight title challenger, best known for an unsuccessful challenge at Wladimir Klitschko’s lineal championship in 2014, ends the year with an unnecessary blemish that could’ve been a comprehensive win.
While the result is unlikely to impact the future plans of Leapai (now 31-7-4, 25 KOs), the ringside physician didn’t call an end to the fight, with Leapai’s team believing that Izonritei retired, which should go down as a stoppage win for the 38-year-old.
Since turning professional shortly after the Summer Olympics in Beijing, big wraps have followed the prodigiously talented Paul Fleming.
However, after nine years as a professional, Fleming (now 25-0, 17 KOs) is no closer to a world title than the aforementioned Nathaniel May, who has been competing in the paid ranks for less than half the duration and appears to be within reaching distance of the IBF featherweight crown, currently held by Welsh wizard Lee Selby.
Those surrounding the fleet-footed southpaw will argue that the 29-year-old is the best super featherweight in the country, and they’re probably right. But a distinct lack of credible names on the likeable Fleming’s resume remain a talking point while a presumed run at a super featherweight title is being negotiated in the background.
Although he looked spectacular in dismantling capable Filipino Vergil Puton (now 17-9, 8 KOs), better opposition surely awaits Fleming, who boasts a promotional deal with Top Rank.
“Jeff Horn did what he had to do to get the job done, but I’m a totally different fighter than Gary Corcoran. I have more power and more speed than Corcoran. When he steps into the ring with me, it’s going to be a very different story.”
“When I move up to the 147-pound division, everyone is going to see a bigger, stronger fighter and a harder puncher than they saw at 140 pounds. I plan to do the same thing at 147 that I did at 135 and 140 and clean out the division.”
“There are holes in everybody’s game. There’s a lot of holes in Jeff Horn’s game, and everyone will see that when he gets in the ring with me.”
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images