No need for the feel-good stories as Horn prepares for Corcoran

It’s time for the heartfelt narrative of the goodly school teacher-turned-boxing champion to be set aside – for the moment at least.

Jeff Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs) doesn’t need to be a Cinderella Man on Wednesday night in Brisbane. He needs to step out like a hardened pro and take care of business against a hand-picked opponent who stands in the way of a big-money US debut in 2018.

Gary Corcoran wasn’t the first option for Horn’s first defence of the WBO welterweight title, which was seized from Manny Pacquiao earlier in the year following a bout that dominated boxing headlines around the globe for weeks.

Nor was he the second, or probably the third. But he’s here, Mr Right Now, and saying all the right things before he steps into the ring at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The kid can fight; that’s all Horn needs to know.

“It’s very tough when you fight these guys that are unknown. You always have to be wary of guys like Corcoran, because they come to fight, he’s come to take the title,” said former light-welterweight champion Amir Khan, who was a keen spectator at Wednesday’s weigh-in.

“This is the biggest opportunity he’s [Corcoran] going to get. It’s going to be a good fight.”

Corcoran and his team have refused to let the hometown fighter and his future aspirations dominate the conversation. They feel they have been completely overlooked, much the same way Horn was against Pacquiao. Ring announcer Michael Buffer calling him “Gary Gallagher” as he called him to the scales probably didn’t help.

His team, notably hirsute co-trainer Frank Greaves, have done all they can to hurl a cat in the pigeon coop. Suggestions that Horn fights dirty – something Pacquiao and Freddie Roach may well agree with – have been seeping out for weeks.

Any pretense was dropped at the pre-fight press conference on Monday, when Greaves producing a video dossier of what they believe is Horn charging in with his head. Horn hasn’t seen the funny side. Their face-off on Tuesday was tense, real and worthy of a bout with much at stake, especially with Terence Crawford waiting in the wings as a mandatory.

Corcoran (17-1, 7KOs) could do with some good fortune, especially since it’s an away game. If referee Benjy Esteves jnr takes note and decides to clamp down on Horn’s head-on-chest style of fighting, it could make for some tricky adjustments. Or, as Jeff Fenech pointed out, they could stop complaining and adjust rather than admonish.

The 27-year-old hails from an Irish traveller family and lives in a north-west London camp, right in the shadow of the arch from Wembley Stadium. He’s one of 12 siblings and all of his eight brothers have stepped in the ring at one stage or another.

He arrived as somewhat of a sacrificial lamb for Horn, plucked from England due to his exciting style and aggression. Since he arrived three weeks ago, there has been a niggling feeling that Horn’s matchmakers have bitten off about as much as they can chew.

With Horn struggling to make weight – he did by just 16 grams – and distracted by impending fatherhood, Corcoran has firmed in betting. His trainer, Peter Stanley, has become more bullish by the day.

“He’s focused, determined. He’s as strong if not stronger. It’s the first time Jeff has been in a live fight,” Stanley said. “He’s got the skills. He’ll show it tomorrow [Wednesday] night.

“We’ve fought away from home before, in front of bigger crowds, more hostile crowds, against bigger boys. It’s nothing new here. I’m very happy and very confident.

“We’ve been completely overlooked since we got here. All this nonsense from the other camp saying they respect us. They picked us. They have picked us. When Gary wins, who’s fault is it going to be?”

And on Buffer’s bungled attempt at introducing Corcoran: “He’ll know his name afterwards, I guarantee that.”

Promoter Bob Arum has arrived in Brisbane, quick to remind both parties of what could be in their immediate future should they hold up their end of the bargain. Even if Crawford couldn’t attend due to visa issues, his shadow looms over the entire contest.

“Terence Crawford will be the mandatory for this fight. Buildings are on hold… the biggest building in Las Vegas, the T-Mobile Arena, is on hold. It’s going to be a tremendous year in the welterweight division and these two participants will be giving it all to see who will go ahead as part of these major programs,” Arum said.

That kind of contest will be salivating for Horn, who only six months ago was the one desperate to make a name for himself. Now he’s the champion, he must deal with hungry contenders like Corcoran, or his prized belt will be on the first plane to back to London.

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