'Hopefully, he’ll be my world champion nerd': Horn's wife
JEFF Horn loves boxing, but the love of his life is the girl he met in Year 8 at MacGregor High School in Brisbane.
And when he shapes up to Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow she will be shouting her head off, willing him on in his quest to become world champion.
When Jo Horn met her future husband at school he was a shy, introverted kid getting kicked around by bullies.
But yesterday, Jeff and Jo Horn walked the red carpet together at a "Legends Lunch" at the Brisbane Convention Centre, cheered on by boxing greats such as "The Hands of Stone" Roberto Duran, Jeff Fenech, Timothy Bradley and Joseph Parker.
Horn, who took up boxing to protect himself from bullies 11 years ago, fights Pacquiao for the world welterweight title in a bout that will draw more than 50,000 people to Suncorp Stadium and be watched by a television audience of almost a billion people.
Probably the biggest media contingent yet to cover a sporting event in Brisbane descended yesterday on the Horns, both 29. Jo couldn't help but shake her head.
"This is all just like a dream,'' she said. "It's like something from the movies.
"Who could ever think that this could happen for us and that the shy, quiet boy I met at school would not only become a boxer, but fight in a worldwide bout like this?''
Jo admitted she found the prospect of her husband tackling one of the greatest boxers of all time "a little scary'', but the world title contender she always calls Jeffrey has told her he'll be sweet.
"He's got a great trainer and great people in his corner,'' she said.
"I know he'll do Australia proud. My nerves are OK now, but I know I'll be pretty emotional at the fight and I'll be yelling loudly for him.
"Jeffrey was a bit of a nerd when I first met him. He still is a bit of a nerd, but hopefully, he'll be my world champion nerd at the end of the fight.''
Horn's beloved grandad, Ray Horn, had to miss yesterday's lunch with a bad flu, but the 89-year-old slugger says he'll be sitting beside Horn's cornermen come fight time tomorrow afternoon.
Horn said he was full of confidence to score the upset victory and had a great team in his corner with trainer Glenn Rushton, Horn's brother Ben, cutman Stephen Edwards and rising boxing star Adam Copland.
"This is my big chance,'' Horn said.
"I can't thank Brisbane and the rest of Australia enough for supporting me.
"It's unbelievable the way everyone has sent me messages of encouragement, and I'm going out there to prove that anybody - even if they're a kid getting picked on at school - can achieve great things if they knuckle down and have a go.''
While the Horns tried to keep a low profile at yesterday's lunch despite the huge media presence, Pacquiao took to the stage to pay tribute to the world champion guests - particularly Duran and Fenech - and to promise Brisbane a fight for the ages tomorrow.
"To everyone, thank you for supporting this fight,'' he told the crowd. "I am sure me and Jeff will give you a good fight and you will enjoy it.''
To a rousing cheer, Fenech told the crowd: "I think we're going to have a new Australian world champion.
"Jeff is younger, bigger and stronger. He has to make Manny work hard and wear him down.''
Throughout the campaign, Horn and his trainer Glenn Rushton have tried desperately to not get caught up with the massive hype around the bout.
"I keep looking at Jeff all the time, I talk to him," Rushton said.
"I only have to look at him to see if he is coping, and he is coping well.
"His eyes are bright and clear. He is good.''