A lot has been made in the media this past week about the news that former undisputed junior welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford 32-0 (23) will be wearing horsehair gloves when he attempts to win a world title in his third weight class against WBO welterweight champion Jeff “The Hornet” Horn 18-0-1 (12) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 9.
Much of the media and consumer commentary has centred on how much harder Crawford – who postponed the original fight date of April 14 due to a mysterious hand injury – will be able to hit.
But Horn is having none of it.
“I believe the postponement of the fight was more for Crawford to get used to sitting higher in weight,” said Horn in an exclusive interview with The Grueling Truth over the weekend.
“I don’t think horsehair gloves would have been his choice of glove if his hand was injured enough to postpone the fight.”
The 30-year-old former Brisbane schoolteacher makes a fair point. Why risk injuring an already damaged hand mid-fight by choosing to use the so-called “puncher’s gloves” that are more commonly avoided by boxers with brittle mitts?
Jeff Fenech, the only Australian-born inductee in the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s modern category, made an interesting point about Horn’s pressure fighting tactics in a video tutorial he recorded on infighting for the Fox Sports’ Fight Call Out program.
The former three-division world champion believes that one of the biggest advantages Horn takes into his fights is psychological.
“We can give you an example. Manny Pacquiao when he fought Jeff Horn. He thought he was ready for anything, but he wasn’t ready for the pressure Jeff Horn was going to put on him,” Fenech explained.
“Somebody bigger, stronger that was pushing him back all the time, using his elbows, using the upper part of his body, not as an illegal weapon but as a weapon to make somebody else tired and to make them worry about what was happening.
“That’s what I’m saying, pressure is not just being hit, it’s the thought of being hit, it’s when somebody is in your face and you’re making your opponent think what’s coming, what’s going to happen next.”
Horn has been sparring the usual suspects as he prepares for Crawford. Gym mates Nathan Webber and junior middleweight contender Dennis Hogan have been putting in rounds with the world champion, as has Australian 140-pound champion Liam Paro, a southpaw from Townsville who now resides in Brisbane.
But when pressed about training partners specifically brought into camp to mimic the Nebraskan’s unique switch-hitting style, Horn plays his cards close to his chest.
“We have got great sparring very close and available to us,” said Horn, who will fly out to the United States on May 30. “We will be getting international sparring leading up to this fight.”
Horn’s trainer, the enigmatic Glenn Rushton who was once described as a “cross between Chuck Norris and Anthony Robbins”, was more forthcoming. He revealed that world-rated American slickster Ray Robinson would be joining the camp to help put the finishing touches on Horn’s preparation.
“Ray is just the kind of clever boxer who can really put the polish on Jeff in the final two weeks of his sparring,” Rushton told Grantlee Kieza of Brisbane’s Courier Mail.
“He’s a very experienced world-class fighter and together with the Australian guys we’ve been working with he’ll make sure Jeff is ready for anything that Crawford has.”
With just a month to go until the fight and three weeks of sparring remaining, Horn says his conditioning is superb and the extra time in camp has only made him fitter for the imminent contest.
“This camp is very difficult. It feels like it’s been going forever,” he said. “The good thing is I am fit and strong and ready for a tough contest. It is similar if not a little harder than the preparation for Pac-Man.”
Speed remains one of the key factors for Horn is he is to cause a boilover.
“I am just training harder every day,” he said. “I love the underdog title I’ve been given and I fight even better when people don’t expect me to do well.
“I’m not doing too heavy of weight this time to keep my speed and avoid putting on extra muscle.”
Horn, a known bleeder who was busted up in the Pacquiao fight last July and suffered a nasty gash in training just a few weeks out from his inaugural world title defence against England’s Gary Corcoran in December, will have to contend with the possibility of blood at some stage during the fight. It’s the sort of thing that can worry a fighter before it even happens, draining them of much-needed energy reserves.
“Yes, the horsehair gloves will change the fight,” admitted Horn, who at the very least is experienced with a face torn-up during battle. “If we land a clean shot on each other it is certain to sting that little bit more. A KO has become much more likely.
“And the horsehair gloves will increase the chances of cut for sure.”
But Coach Rushton remains eminently confident that his boxer will have not only the physical edge, but the mental advantage as well.
“We give Crawford and his team all the respect they deserve. He’s a very clever boxer but he’s never been hit by someone with Jeff’s power and he’s never faced anyone with the same unbreakable spirit that Jeff has,” said Rushton.
“It’s going to be a thrilling fight but I will back Jeff’s heart, courage and power against any welterweight in the world.
Pressure is not just being hit. It’s the thought of being hit. And Jeff Horn brings both types of pressure in spades.