THE biggest fight in Australian boxing is on the verge of being finalised.
On the back of separate high-profile wins on Australia’s pay-per-view platform, the teams of Horn (20-2-1, 13 KOs) and Tszyu (15-0, 11 KOs) looked destined to come to an agreement for a potential domestic super fight in 2020.
While the particulars are yet to be ironed out, given the enormity of the event and the scope of potential destinations, there’s no doubting the inevitability of the fan-friendly clash, according to leading broadcaster Ben Damon.
“That’s a massive fight for Australian boxing,” Damon told Hurt Business Radio.
“They’re the two headline acts on pay-per-view at the moment, so we’d expect that the audience for that fight would be huge.”
The interest from both sides, led by promoters Dean Lonergan and Matt Rose is clear. However, the timing is yet to be confirmed, with Horn’s long-time trainer and manager Glenn Rushton preferring a showdown in the second half of next year.
With the options domestically outside of each other proving to be slim, Damon forecasts an alternative for either camp, citing the availability and public interest in Michael Zerafa, who recently split two fights with Horn.
“There seems to be an appetite from some within the Horn camp, maybe most notably Glenn Rushton, to stay away from that fight for now,” explained Damon.
“He’s not that keen on that fight yet, and it would be understandable to not to want to put him in another war like that after the two that he’s had in recent times. There’s every chance that these two fighters, being Tim Tszyu and Jeff Horn, go away and have a different fight in between.
“Michael Zerafa looms as a potential opponent for both of them. The trilogy, as I said on the coverage, at super welterweight with Jeff Horn does make sense. That is not an easy fight, that’s not a keep busy sort of fight.
“I don’t think we’ll see that next for Jeff Horn, but I’d imagine we’d see the trilogy at some point. It’d be crazy not to do that. With those things being as they are, I’d imagine that Tim Tszyu gets an international opponent for the first quarter of next year.
“But that all being said, there’s every chance that there’s a phone call between Dean Lonergan and Matt Rose next week, and they can say let’s just do it because this government has come up with this amount of money, or this stadium has given us this deal.
“At the moment, it looks most likely that they’ll have different opponents.”
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Complexities aside, the immediate future of the fight appears to be heavily dependent on the next move for Horn, with the 31-year-old coming off a pair of tough nights against the aforementioned Zerafa at middleweight.
Having confirmed his decision to no longer campaign two divisions above his natural fighting weight, Horn may test the waters at light middleweight, a division he skipped to pursue a lucrative fight against Anthony Mundine in 2018.
Given Horn’s desire to chase high-profile fights and an elusive second world title, the window of opportunity to secure a meeting with Tszyu is fast approaching, as Damon explains.
“There’s a school of thought that they (Horn’s team) would rather freshen him up, Horn doesn’t need that tough fight straight up,” he continued.
“It does look like Tim Tszyu is getting better and better each time. Maybe they go back and do this Tim Tszyu fight right away, but that’s not the conversation that’s being had. They’re not going to put him in against a battler, he’s not going to get up for that sort of fight.
“He only wants three-and-a-half to four more years in the sport at most, he’ll be in a tough fight. But it won’t maybe be that sort of world class domestic match-up like we’ve seen with the Zerafa fight.”
The success of a fight between Horn and Tszyu will likely be measured on the general interest of the wider sporting public, who invested heavily in the last Australian super fight between long-time rivals Anthony Mundine and Danny Green.
As mainstream interest in the parallel career paths of Horn and Tszyu continues to increase, the probability of this clash reaching such lofty heights will only improve.
“I think we’re on the cusp of it being that. I think there’s plenty of merit in that,” he concluded.
“It’s starting to get that mainstream attraction. Look at the amount of newspaper coverage that fight got the other week, particularly in the Courier Mail, I don’t know if you had a look at the paper on fight day, it had like nine pages, front and back page, and everything in between.
“The Sydney papers were going really hard as well to that fight, there was a lot of Tim Tszyu mentions. It really is starting to get that mainstream appeal, obviously 2019 has been the breakout year for Tim Tszyu, being the next big thing with his presence on Main Event.
“There’s every chance to really build that fight into something really big for the back half of next year.”
Photo: Betelgeuse Films