Jeff Horn hits back: “I’m still pushed to the side”

JEFF Horn knows a thing or two about developing thick skin.

The former welterweight titleholder, who reached the summit of his division two years ago, continues to face criticism about his famous victory over eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.

As the future Hall of Famer added another chapter to his storied career, the former Olympian is left to justify his place as one of Pacquiao’s former foes, in the wake of another marquee result.

In an interview with leading Australian boxing broadcaster, Ben Damon, Horn speaks candidly about the sceptics.

“It’s so funny when you hear that you fought a past-it Pacquiao,” Horn told The Main Event Boxing Podcast.

“Then he goes on and stops a guy, and then he goes on and fights for a world title against a guy that’s still very much in the mix of it.

“I’m still pushed to the side, but I don’t mind, I can be the background guy. I think it’s good to keep people talking about me.

“They talk me down, it’s still me in the headlines. I still beat Pacquiao, it doesn’t matter what you think.

“It’s still in the record books, they [the WBO] even scored it again, I beat him. It’s just complaining, I’m so used to complaining and that bullying and cyber-bullying that you get.”

The faceless nature of social media feedback is a harsh reality for most professional athletes. Given the enormity of Horn’s most recent accomplishments, it almost comes with the territory.

But as Horn reveals, the significance of these opinions is relatively small by comparison.

“I’m confident in myself now that I can read that stuff all day and not feel anything,” he explained.

“It’s like, go ahead guys, take your best shot, but I’m just reading and getting the view on my Facebook anyway, it doesn’t really matter.”

The 31-year-old has been forced to sit on the sidelines, with fatherhood taking priority, leading to a myriad of potential fights falling through.

Among those was a high-profile challenge against WBA middleweight titleholder Ryota Murata, who offered Horn (19-1-1, 13 KOs) a substantial figure to travel to Japan for a salivating clash.

“It’s just money. You work hard and you strive for big things, money is not an object,” he continued.

“First of all, Jo (Horn’s wife) was due on June 20th. I didn’t want any fight in that time, especially a week or ten days before. It would be like a no-go zone, and then after as well, about two weeks after.

“Most people get time off work, at least a couple of weeks after anyway, so why couldn’t I do the same?

“It doesn’t matter if you’re offering me a million dollars.”

With the dust now settling on the birth of his second child, Horn will shift his focus, preparing to face former Commonwealth champion Michael Zerafa in Bendigo on August 31.

The looming challenge figures to be a sizeable task in more ways than one, with Zerafa (26-3, 15 KOs) providing a more physical presence at middleweight than any other opponent Horn has faced.

“I’ve always wanted to go up in weight, to make myself a multiple world champion,” he said.

“I guess it’s good to test the waters first as well. Michael Zerafa has been up there in that division and fighting very well, in top class as well. He was one of the best in Australia and we wanted to make the fight in Australia.

“It was the pick of the litter to fight. It’s a credit to him that he’s done great things, but I think we’ve got the skills and ability to beat him.”

Despite some harsh words from his opponent at their first face-to-face meeting this month, Horn has managed to see the lighter side of Zerafa’s opinion.

“He was very arrogant with what he was doing and what he was saying,” he concluded.

“They want to put themselves up on a pedestal to make yourself feel down. They said my achievements of beating Pacquiao and beating Mundine was nothing.

“He could’ve easily done it. He was mentioning about fighting old guys, but he was one that signed and agreed to fight Mundine and that fight fell over.

“It’s pretty funny how he can say all these things, but he wants them as well himself.”

Photo: Provided