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Horn vs Corcoran: Fight preview and matchup

Jeff Horn returns for his first WBO title defense on Wednesday in Brisbane.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Jeff Horn

Manny Pacquiao v Jeff Horn Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Record: 17-0-1 (11 KO) ... Streak: W14 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 68" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: Jeff Horn probably shouldn’t be here. Most of us felt Manny Pacquiao, while challenged in spots, did enough to beat Horn at Suncorp Stadium in July. But all three judges gave it to Horn, one of them (Waleska Roldan) on a 9-3 tally. It is what it is. It’s boxing. Life goes on, and people defend titles they shouldn’t really have.

This isn’t really meant to talk down on Horn, mind you. He’s a likable fighter with a good story, and he can fight. Pacquiao, even if you thought he won the fight, was not the Pacquiao of old but rather an old Pacquiao, and Horn gave him more of a challenge than was anticipated. Maybe the surprise of Horn at times bullying Pacquiao swayed the judges. Maybe it was the home crowd. Maybe Horn really deserved the win!

Either way, Jeff Horn is the WBO welterweight champion, and now he’s back to make his first defense. A rematch with Pacquiao was expected in November, but the Filipino Senator couldn’t make it work with his schedule, so Horn had to fight someone, and that’s how we got here.

There’s really nothing special about Jeff Horn, in terms of being a top fighter among top fighters, someone really elite. But there have been plenty of world champions in boxing history — and are plenty today — who fit that bill. It’s what happens when there are up to five or six or seven people claiming to be “world champion” in a given division.

Horn can fight. Again, that has to be made clear. And he is favored here, and he should be. He’s a better fighter than Gary Corcoran. Maybe after this we see him rematch Pacquiao in April, or maybe he gets thrown in with new WBO mandatory Terence Crawford. In either of those fights, he’ll be widely considered the underdog. But if you accept it on the surface, Jeff Horn’s is a great story, and however you slice it, Jeff Horn can call himself world champion. Can’t take that away from him.

Gary Corcoran

Boxing at Copper Box Arena Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Record: 17-1 (7 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: N/A / N/A ... Age: 27

Thoughts: Gary Corcoran of England started his career as a welterweight in 2011, moving up to 154 pounds in 2014, where he’s done most of his “serious” fighting — that is, fights against non-scrubs, which started in 2015.

He beat Rick Godding and Rick Skelton, both unbeaten at the time. He beat veteran domestic contender Danny Butler. These were solid wins for the level. Then he fought Liam Williams for the British 154-pound title in July 2016.

It was a tear-up, a mean-spirited fight where Williams stopped Corcoran in the 11th round. There was plenty of nastiness and chippy behavior in the fight, and a rematch was considered, but never came around.

Instead, Corcoran moved back down a division. He beat veteran job guy James Gorman in March of this year, then won a split decision in July over prospect Larry Ekundayo. And because Boxing Is a Business, he is now fighting for a world title.

Why is Corcoran fighting for a world title? Because he beat a fighter who was 13 fights into his career for a vacant, minor WBO trinket? Well, yeah. More importantly, though, Horn needed an opponent when Pacquiao fell through, and the Horn side doesn’t see Corcoran as a real threat. This is meant to be a Jeff Horn victory lap. Gary Corcoran will plan to spoil that and shock the Australian fans.

Matchup Grade: C-. Honestly, here’s the thing: this is a sub-standard world title fight, yes, but I do expect a spirited effort from Corcoran, and if Horn has taken him lightly, who knows? Horn is pretty good, but not so good he can start overlooking fellas who are coming in for the fight of their life, perhaps the one and only chance they’ll ever get at a world title. After seeing Sadam Ali, Caleb Truax, and Mickey Roman score big fight upsets already this month, I’m not totally counting out Corcoran here. ‘Tis the season, and at worst, I expect some decent action.

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