MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, still one of the most popular athletes in the world, will return to the ring on April 22 against Australia's Jeff Horn.
The news, reported by ESPN's Dan Rafael early Wednesday, was met with confusion from boxing fans. Several people replied to Rafael's tweet with "Who?"
Those fans cannot be blamed for not knowing who Horn is. According to BoxRec, the 28-year-old Horn has yet to fight professionally outside of Australia or New Zealand.
Horn, a native of Brisbane, took up boxing after helping a high school friend fight off bullies, according to an interview with the boxer from Sunshine Coast Daily.
"I thought it would be a good thing to learn how to protect myself and learn self-defense, so I decided to join my local boxing club," he said.
He joined the Stretton Boxing Club in 2006, where he met Glenn Rushton. Six years later, Horn fought in the 2012 London Olympics, where he became Australia's best performing boxer. He made it to the quarterfinal stage of the 64-kg division, eventually losing to Ukraine's Denys Berinchyk.
One year later, he turned professional, beating Jody Allen in his debut at the Grand Star Receptions in Victoria, Australia.
While he embarked on a professional boxing career, Horn also became a school teacher. He has a Bachelor of Education degree on Health and Physical Education/Fitness from Griffith University, and taught part-time at Pallara State School.
Still trained by Rushton, Horn put together a solid record, with the lone blemish coming in his fourth fight when he settled for a draw against Rivan Cesaire. His most impressive came against former world champion Randall Bailey, whom he stopped in the seventh round of their April 2016 bout to claim the WBO intercontinental title.
His big break came late last year, when his promotional company, Duco Events, partnered with Top Rank. Bob Arum was in attendance when Horn knocked out South Africa's Ali Funeka in an event in Australia in December 10, and believed he did enough to impress the promoter.
The 5-foot-9 Horn ended 2016 as the WBO's No. 2 ranked contender in the welterweight division, just behind Timothy Bradley, Jr.
Arum told ESPN that he initially wanted to build Horn up first and pit him against either Bradley or Jessie Vargas, before matching him against Pacquiao later in the year. However, he later decided to fast-track the Australian boxer's career path.
"The Aussies wanted to do the fight right away and the people in the Middle East [in the UAE] find him acceptable as an opponent for Manny, so why crap around with putting him in with a Vargas or Bradley?" Arum told ESPN.
Horn is well aware of his low profile.
"I know a lot of people in America don't know much about me," he told ESPN. "But after (April 22), they most certainly will."
Horn, who goes by the moniker "The Hornet," has spent the past couple of days telling Australian media outlets that he believes he has what it takes to beat the still-formidable "Pacman."
"It's a fight I can definitely win," he said. "Manny is a lot shorter than me, and I fight well against guys who are shorter than me and who are coming forward."
"I've got youth on my side," he added. "He's 38, I'm 28. He's got the experience, but I think he's slipped a little bit. He's still got very good movement and sills, but he has dropped form just slightly, and that means a lot at the top level."
His trainer, Rushton, backs up Horn's claim.
"I believe Jeff will win," he said. "He's like a younger, stronger Pacquiao. He has the same deception in his moves, the angles, a very high work rate. They're both hunters. It's going to be a blistering fight."
Pacquiao has yet to publicly comment on the fight or on his opponent.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.