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Why Jeff Horn's awkward, unconventional style might be too much for Terence Crawford

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Few boxing fans had ever heard of Jeff Horn before Manny Pacquiao decided to fight him for the WBO welterweight title in Brisbane, Australia, last year.

The bout essentially was a showcase for Top Rank, Pacquiao’s promoter, on what it could deliver for ESPN in a long-term deal. The Horn bout was Pacquiao’s first off of pay-per-view in more than a decade and delivered an astonishingly large audience for ESPN.

Horn won a unanimous decision in that fight to claim the title from Pacquiao, leading to a howl of protests from the very loud and extraordinarily rabid Pacquiao section of the fan base.

But anyone with even a remote sense of neutrality saw the fight far differently, and knew it was a close one regardless of how it was scored.

Timothy Bradley, who will call the bout between Horn and Terence Crawford for ESPN on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, knows what it’s like to win a decision over Pacquiao that the Filipino senator’s fans think he won.

At one point, Bradley was so overwhelmed he admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

Though Bradley is personally close with Crawford, he can sympathize with Horn and knows that the Crawford bout will give Horn the opportunity to erase any doubts.

“He’s in the same situation as I was, similar,” Bradley said. “A lot of people felt that I didn’t win the first fight against Pacquiao, but I felt I did win the fight and everyone around me thought I won the fight. But at the same time, Jeff Horn, he’s pretty new in my opinion to America. You know what I mean? Very known in Australia and everything and what he’s done by beating Manny Pacquiao, but he still has a lot to prove.”

Jeff Horn (18-0-1, 12 KOs) has the opportunity to erase any doubts about his abilities on Saturday vs. Terence Crawford. (EFE)

Horn is an awkward and rugged welterweight who throws punches from angles his opponents don’t expect. Professional boxers learn the rhythm and timing of a fight and most fighters stay within those boundaries. Horn, though, is like a change-up, and he has the ability to mess up an opponent because he’s throwing his punches when the opponent doesn’t expect them and at angles the opponent usually doesn’t see.

That is going to be an issue for Crawford, until he proves he can deal with it. The punches one gets hurt with are the ones a fighter doesn’t see coming, and Horn seems as if he’ll be the most unconventional opponent Crawford has met.

“Every single fight, of all the fights we’ve taken, the actual guy has watched me and thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to take this guy out pretty easily. He doesn’t look that great,’ ” Horn said. “But once they get in with me, they’re surprised at my strength and the angles I come off.

“They’re completely shocked and they start second-guessing themselves. I think that’s what is going to happen to Crawford.”

That’s not the only advantage Horn will bring to the ring. Crawford is arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Horn is larger and figures to have a significant weight advantage on the night of the bout.

Horn’s size gave Pacquiao, who once dominated Antonio Margarito to win a 154-pound world title, fits. Horn believes Crawford will have a problem dealing with his size.

“I think [size] will be a factor, especially if the fight goes into the later rounds,” Horn said. “The bigger, heavier guy on the day of, which I presume will be myself, will be laying on him, leaning on him more and he won’t be used to that type of physicality in a fight scenario. It’s going to tire him and he might not want to be in there too much longer.”

Crawford, though, is about as good as it gets and he’s a master at making adjustments and avoiding difficulty.

And surprisingly, Horn trainer Glenn Rushton, who devised the plan that upset Pacquiao, doesn’t think the size will work in Horn’s favor.

Horn, though, is used to going head-to-head with larger men and Rushton thinks that could shift the fight in Horn’s direction.

“Personally, I do not believe we will have this huge size advantage that everybody is saying,” Rushton said. “We do have a one-inch height advantage, and that is something Terence cannot change. I would not be surprised, and I do expect Terence to come in about the same size as Jeff. What we will have is the advantage of having been consistently fighting welterweights since we started.

“But for Terence, this is the first step up for him. We are used to having a strength advantage rather than a size advantage coming into the fight. That is my opinion, since I think Terence will come in here a lot bigger than a lot of people think so there will not be an incredible size advantage. And Jeff is incredibly strong.”

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