SYDNEY, Australia, Oct 13 – Boxer Jeff Horn’s stunning upset of Filipino great Manny Pacquiao has earned him one of Australia’s top sporting honours as the most inspirational athlete of the year.
The unheralded 29-year-old stunned the boxing world with a unanimous 12-round decision over Pacquiao in Brisbane on July 2 in a hotly contested result that rattled the Philippines.
In recognition, he walked away with ‘The Don’ award at the annual Sport Australia Hall Of Fame dinner in Melbourne on Thursday evening.
Named after cricketer Donald Bradman, prior winners of the prize include swimmer Ian Thorpe, runner Cathy Freeman, cyclist Cadel Evans, hurdler Sally Pearson, golfer Jason Day and last year’s recipient jockey Michelle Payne.
“It is massive,” Horn said, calling it a career highlight.
“I can remember growing up being inspired by previous winners such as Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe.
“To know I am potentially inspiring the future generation of athletes like these guys have done for me is an incredible feeling.”
Horn said he still sometimes found it hard to believe he took down one of the world’s greatest ever fighters, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
“Many days I have thought to myself, did that really happen? It’s been very hectic since the win but recognition and awards like this certainly help,” he said.
Pacquiao pulled out of a planned rematch in Australia later his year, with Horn close to finalising another opponent to defend his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title.
Englishman Gary Corcoran is shaping up as the most likely challenger, with the fight expected to be in Brisbane in December, local reports have said.