Jeff Horn was stunned by the death of former Australian champ Dwight Ritchie, who collapsed during a sparring session.
Jeff Horn was stunned by the death of former Australian champ Dwight Ritchie, who collapsed during a sparring session.

Horn hurt by boxing’s brutality

JEFF Horn took the worst beating of his life against Michael Zerafa in Bendigo in August and then came off a bad second best in the subsequent war of words to announce next month's Brisbane rematch.

But nothing the former world champ had ever experienced in his career had shown Horn the sheer brutality of the fight game quite like the death of ex-Australian middleweight champ Dwight Ritchie, who died sparring Zerafa in Melbourne two weeks ago.

``I was absolutely stunned by the news,'' said Horn, a gentle soul away from boxing. ``I was shattered and I couldn't believe what I was reading.

``Boxing is a tough sport but what happened to Dwight just shows you how hard and dangerous it can be. No one ever plays at boxing.

Jeff Horn takes a hard right from Michael Zerafa at the Bendigo Stadium on August 31. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)
Jeff Horn takes a hard right from Michael Zerafa at the Bendigo Stadium on August 31. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

``I don't think anyone yet knows all the circumstances or if Dwight had a medical condition but it just shows that boxers have to be so careful and take every precaution. I have every possible medical check-up for my heart and brain.''

Ritchie, a 27-year-old father of three, will be buried at Shepparton's Pine Lodge Lawn Cemetery on Monday after suffering a suspected heart attack in sparring. Despite the trauma of his friend's death, Zerafa will be in Brisbane tomorrow to announce he plans to beat Horn again at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on December 18.

Horn's father Jeff Snr is well aware of the dangers in boxing. It was him who ordered Horn's brother and cornerman Ben Horn to throw in a rolled up T-shirt in lieu of a towel of surrender as Horn was being belted in the ninth round against Zerafa three months ago.

 

Michael Zerafa (left) and Jeff Horn facing off ahead of their fight at the Brisbane Convention Centre on December 18. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Michael Zerafa (left) and Jeff Horn facing off ahead of their fight at the Brisbane Convention Centre on December 18. (AAP Image/Darren England)

 

Before Horn's win over all-time great Manny Pacquiao in 2017, Horn Snr made Ben watch a 60 Minutes segment on the death of Davey Browne, who died after a fight in Sydney in 2015, and told him he had to be vigilant in protecting his brother from harm during a bout.

Horn was the red-hot favourite against Zerafa before the Bendigo disaster but this time he is a decided underdog.

He is training three times a day, five hours a day.

``I know I have to do this if I'm going to beat Zerafa in the rematch,'' he said. `` I boxed like crap in Bendigo and I want to be a new version of the `old Jeff Horn'.''

``I'm getting into the shape I was in before I beat Pacquiao. If I can be that fit and fight like that I'll beat Zerafa this time.''


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