Zerafa floors Horn twice en route to knockout victory
By Anthony Cocks
Michael Zerafa outpunched and outboxed Jeff Horn for eight rounds before stopping him in the ninth frame of their 10-round battle at the Bendigo Stadium in Australia on Saturday night.
It was a breakthrough win for Zerafa, who has lost three times abroad but maintained his unbeaten record at home in front of a capacity crowd of 4,500 fans.
Former WBO welterweight champion Horn looked sluggish in his first fight as a fully-fledged middleweight after nine months out of the ring.
But it was the 27-year-old Zerafa’s excellent game plan executed to full effect that was the story of the fight.
Zerafa started fast, strafing Horn with a stinging left jab and finding a home for his straight right hand. In the second round Zerafa had Horn on the canvas and in the third blood was leaking from a cut above the Queenslander’s left eye.
Despite the nasty cut Horn rallied late in the third and his expect cutman Stephen Edwards staunched the wound between rounds. The cut was never a factor in the fight.
In the fourth Horn had his moments but it effectively proved his last stand in a fight that was increasingly becoming one-way traffic.
Zerafa continued the pressure through the back half of the fight, regularly finding a home for his sweeping right hand often disguised behind a double jab. A smart right uppercut punished Horn every time he came in with his head held low.
The sluggish Horn looked out of sort and had no answer for the continued onslaught.
Late in the eighth round Zerafa saluted the crowd before launching a blistering combination that touched-up the favourite shortly before the bell.
The carnage continued in the ninth with Zerafa again bullying Horn, swarming him in his own corner and dropping him to the canvas.
A wobbly Horn returned to his feet before being quickly battered into submission in Zerafa’s corner.
Horn’s cornermen threw in the towel.
The loss has cost Horn a multi-million-dollar payday against Japanese Olympic champion Ryoto Murata but opened up an opportunity for Zerafa.
“We want that fight,” Zerafa said post-fight. “My team and I will obviously sit down and talk... but now we just celebrate with the team and everybody that stuck by me.”
Horn, 31, praised Zerafa for his performance but also said he didn’t right in the fight.
“I just felt really sluggish,” he said. “It’s really annoying — I hate using that as an excuse. But I just felt like crap going into it.
“Well done to Michael ‘cause he outboxed me... but I don’t feel like it was the best me in there tonight.”
“I just felt a little bit off. I don’t know why. I felt heavy, I felt sluggish. I don’t know if it was something I did leading up, or something I ate, but I just didn’t feel the right me.”
Horn has a rematch clause in his contract and indicated it was something he would like to pursue.