THE spotlight of the mainstream sporting public will be on regional Victoria on Saturday night.
Former WBO welterweight ruler Jeff Horn will test the legitimacy of his middleweight credentials, facing former Commonwealth titleholder Michael Zerafa for regional title honours at Bendigo Stadium.
We asked our panel of experts for their opinion on a fight that is proving increasingly difficult to predict.
George Kambsosos, world rated lightweight:
Zerafa W12 Horn: This is a good fight for the domestic scene in Bendigo. I don’t think Jeff is a natural middleweight and is looking a bit soft around the edges.
But Horn is rugged and has an awkward style, matched with Zerafa’s boxing ability and toughness, this makes for an interesting fight. I think most experts will pick Horn, but I like to go against the grain, so I’m going to go with the underdog and pick an upset with Zerafa winning a decision.
Luke Jackson, former world title challenger:
Horn TKO8 Zerafa: I went to the world championships and Olympics with Jeff as an amateur.
To see him come so far is definitely inspiring to myself and all the fighters in Australia. You couldn’t get a better role model for the sport.
Zerafa has proved he belongs at world level, and he’s going to bring it to Jeff. I really think Jeff is going to be even better at 154/160 pounds, he’ll be too strong and awkward for Zerafa. I think Jeff stops him anytime after six.
Jayde Mitchell, world rated super middleweight:
Zerafa W12 Horn: This fight is huge for Zerafa and a massive risk for Jeff to take, jeopardising a potential world title shot with Ryoto Murata.
Jeff is tried and proven for mine, his win over Pacquiao was one of, if not the biggest win an Australian has had. On the other hand, Zerafa has come up short when he’s been in the big fights.
I think people forget that Zerafa is still so young, it’s easy to forget this because he’s been around a long time. In my dealings with him, I think he’s improved and most importantly matured, especially after the Brook fight.
In that scenario, he was completely out of his comfort zone and with a new team, but he proved he can hang with the best. My heart says Zerafa, but my head says Horn, but I’ve got to stick with my boy Zerafa.
Joel Camilleri, former Australian titleholder:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: The fight will start off very competitively, with Zerafa using his jab and reach advantage to control distance early.
As the rounds go on, I think Horn will find his rhythm and start getting in close. He’ll use his relentless pressure to land shots and take control of the fight.
Nedal ‘Skinny’ Hussein, former world title challenger:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: When I look at their styles, I see Horn being too awkward and too strong for Zerafa.
Horn has a clear game-plan and I can’t see Zerafa’s power keeping him away in this fight.
Tony Tolj, manager/promoter/advisor:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: This is a good domestic match-up, credit to both fighters and their camps.
This will be a competitive fight early, then I believe Horn’s pedigree will shine. With another world title up for grabs, I see Horn winning by a wide decision.
Chris McCullen, trainer:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: I love these high-class Aussie match-ups we’ve been getting lately, just like the fight between Tim Tszyu and Dwight Ritchie.
I think Zerafa will give Jeff a few problems along the way, Michael has a good skills set and knows his way around the ring. I can see Zerafa using his left hand to keep Jeff away.
As the fight progresses, I think Jeff’s power and style will be too much for Zerafa in the end. Jeff will try and maul Zerafa, and I see him eventually breaking him down in a good scrap.
Adam Wilcock, promoter/manager:
Horn KO Zerafa: A lot of people are saying Zerafa is fast, and he is at domestic level, but Jeff progressed through rounds at the Olympics, so he can box.
I’m always haunted by the knockdown Zerafa suffered against Rey Anton Olarte, and we know Jeff has serious power at this level.
Ben Harrington, trainer:
Horn TKO10 Zerafa: I feel like Horn breaks Zerafa down and stops him late with continued pressure.
Jeff is going in the right direction to get a few more big big money fights. I think Zerafa should only be a small fight to keep him busy along the way to those fights.
Horn is matched by the best matchmaker this country has seen in Stu Duncan, and Zerafa would’ve been carefully selected for a reason.
Will Tomlinson, former super featherweight titleholder:
Horn TKO9 Zerafa: I think Jeff will be too strong and effective on the inside.
He will use his unorthodox movement to get inside and take away Zerafa’s range, which is his biggest strength. I think he gets it done in the later rounds.
Pat Kennedy, matchmaker:
Horn TKO8 Zerafa: A good Australian match-up that is drawing some solid media attention.
I like Jeff Horn in this battle, although I’m sure Zerafa will have his moments. I think it ends with Horn by late stoppage.
George Reno, trainer:
Horn TKO Zerafa: Jeff Horn is such a tough fighter. I think he’ll be too rugged in this fight.
Looking at Zerafa, he’s a good and neat boxer, but he won’t be able to handle Horn’s toughness or strength. I think Horn wins, stopping him inside the distance.
Dan Attias, columnist:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: This fight shapes up as one of Australian boxing’s best fights of 2019.
Horn is undoubtedly the favourite, but in Zerafa, he faces a young fighter at the top of his game and one that has significant physical advantages.
Look for Zerafa to try and use his reach advantage and jab to keep Horn on the outside early on, with the Victorian taking the majority of the early rounds before Horn’s class shines through.
Horn’s awkward style and work-rate should see him close out the fight in a dominant fashion, en-route to a decision victory.
Marcos Amado, trainer:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: Once again, this a great fight for the Australian public, and I’m in two minds about the outcome.
They bring two vastly different skill-sets and strengths, but at the end of the bout, I think Horn will get his hand raised.
Reagan Dessaix, Australian light heavyweight champion:
Horn D12 Zerafa: This is another top Australian match-up that everybody will be watching around the country.
I can see Horn bringing his rugged and aggressive style on fight night, and I’m sure Michael will rise to the occasion to bring his best boxing performance.
I think it’s going to be a close fight that goes right down to the wire right at the end. I’m predicting what nobody is expecting, a draw.
Darragh Foley, former world rated light welterweight:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: I think neither Horn or Zerafa are really true 160 pound fighters.
It’ll be a close fight, and Horn won’t just maurad through him. But I don’t think Zerafa has the pepper to keep him off, I see Horn edging him by two rounds.
Anthony Redward, trainer:
Horn UD12 Zerafa: After watching Zerafa’s performance against Brook, I think he’s more than proven he can take it to Horn.
This is a top match-up, but I can see Horn proving to be durable early, and taking this to a points decision.
Gareth Williams, trainer:
Horn TKO9 Zerafa: After Jeff beat Manny Pacquiao, I vowed never to bet against him again.
Zerafa’s advantage in this fight is the weight and his size. Jeff is a lot more than a fighter, as everyone seems to think, you don’t become a quarter-finalist at the Olympics without being a good boxer.
I don’t think Zerafa will be able to work Jeff’s style out. He is so unpredictable and super strong. But in saying that, does he carry the same strength at middleweight? We’ll find out.
Photo: Steve Dilks/SAA Imaging