Welterweight boxer Jeff Horn goes through some training moves after a press conference in Brisbane.
Welterweight boxer Jeff Horn goes through some training moves after a press conference in Brisbane. DAN PELED

Jeff Horn goes from bully fighter to world beater

JEFF Horn only took up boxing after helping his schoolmate fight off bullies.

Now he is one of the best welterweights in the world and could soon be fighting for a world title.

The Queenslander was a pupil at MacGregor State High School in Mt Gravatt when he was forced to help his friend out.

And after getting involved in a few fights, he decided it was time he learned how to defend himself.

"I got into a few scraps at high school,” he recalled to Australian Regional Media.

"The main reason for that was I stood up for a friend.

"I then thought it would be a good thing to learn how to protect myself and learn self-defence, so I decided to join my local boxing club.”

Horn went along to the Stretton Boxing Club, which is where he first met trainer Glenn Rushton, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Rushton saw something straight away in the slightly built youngster and began teaching him the tricks of the trade.

That was in 2006 and Horn has not looked back since.

Thanks to the help of Rushton and his own dedication, Horn had a sparkling amateur career that took him to the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.

He lost there to eventual champion Everton Lopes in the second round before heading off to London and the 2012 Olympics.

While he admitted he was starstruck, he said he went into the Games with no other thought except winning - something that he has carried through into his professional career.

"Just to be around the likes of Stephanie Rice, Lleyton Hewitt and other big-name athletes and casually having a chat (to them) was unbelievable,” he said.

"I also remember being next to Novak Djokovic in the food court.

"But I always had belief in myself and my boxing and I was aiming for gold.

"It wasn't a case of worrying just about getting an Australian tracksuit, I wanted to bring back a medal.”

Horn almost did that, defeating Zambia's Gilbert Choombe and Abderrazak Houya from Tunisia in the 64kg light-welterweight division, before losing in the quarter-final to the eventual silver medallist, Ukrainian Denys Berinchyk.

It was not long after returning from the Games that Horn, who also had a career as a physical education teacher, decided to turn professional.

"I decided I wanted to stoke up the world of boxing with my style,” he said.

"I wanted to give it a real crack and I think that's what I have done.”

Horn won his first fight on March 1, 2013, against Jody Allen and has hardly looked back since.

In fact, the only slight blemish on his professional record was a draw with Rivan Cesaire in his fourth fight.

He has won every other bout, including a rematch with Cesaire, to give him a record of 14 wins, no losses and a draw.

His last fight was in April as a welterweight against American Randall Bailey, a contest that some gave him little chance of winning.

But after forcing Bailey to retire in the seventh round at the Brisbane Convention Centre, Horn, 28, said he was glad to make a point or two outside the ring as well as inside.

"A few people were surprised I beat Bailey, with the experts saying I should not have beaten him,” he said.

"They said I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew.

"I love that pressure.

"It makes you train harder to show them (the doubters) you can do better than they thought you could.

"It was good to prove them all wrong.”

The win over Bailey has moved Horn up the WBO rankings to No.3 and he can go even higher - maybe up to second - if he defeats Germany's Rico Mueller on October 21 at the Sleeman Sports Complex in Brisbane.

Horn said he would have his hands full with Mueller but said the rewards could be great.

"He's a world-rated youngster,” he said.

"He has a lot to gain from this fight. If he wins he takes my spot at No.3 and if he loses he could fall dramatically down the rankings.

"If I win this fight I could go to No.2 and then I could end up with a world title shot against Errol Spence jnr.”

Some experts have suggested Horn is one of Australia's best ever boxers and is up there alongside the likes of Lionel Rose, Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tszyu.

"I already feel proud that people talk about me in the same breath as Rose and Fenech,” Horn said.

"If I can keep pushing myself to the limit, then one day I will deserve those accolades.”

Until then Horn will keep doing the only thing he knows how to do, which is to work hard, keep doing his best and give it a crack.

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