Jeff Horn has a cheeky plan to floor Manny Pacquiao
SO HERE we are in the van.
I’m sitting next to Jeff Horn and two rows behind us Manny Pacquiao – one of the greatest boxers of all time – is clutching his sides as tears stream down his face.
Horn hopes for a similar result on July 2 when he challenges the Filipino senator for the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title.
Instead, we’re outside a gym in an industrial hub at Tullamarine in Melbourne, where Eddie Maguire has just hosted a press conference promoting the Battle of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. Thirty thousand seats have already been sold.
Pacquiao, dressed like Horn in a dark suit and tie, has been besieged by fans queuing outside. All want to touch this godlike figure tipped to soon become the president of the Philippines.
Inside the van, Pacquiao does not present like a sporting deity who has earned more than $500 million from boxing. He’s rocking side to side with laughter at the Australian accent of Jim Banaghan, a rugby league identity organising his publicity for the fight promoters.
“Maybe I could just tell him a joke before the fight,” Horn says.
“He might not be able to recover.”
It’s the fourth day of the Pacquiao’s tour of Australia’s East Coast.
Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury with Manny Pacquiao and Eddie McGuire. Picture: Kylie Else
Pacquiao arrived in Brisbane on Monday with his wife, Jinkee, her sister, brother-in-law, two cornermen and his Canadian adviser Michael Koncz, who constantly refers to Pacquiao as “boss”.
On Anzac Day as a film crew captured Pacquiao in various Brisbane locations for television vignettes, Koncz tried to show he was the boss, telling them Manny was not to spend too much time in the Queensland sun, that he needed water by his side at all times and that only he or Manny could open the bottles, that Manny was only going up the Kangaroo Point stairs once and that he would not – repeat not – be doing any push-ups on uneven ground.
Pacquiao was met by thousands of fans at Brisbane’s South Bank. Picture: Peter Wallis
Pacquiao had two bodyguards with him throughout his Australian visit.
At South Bank, where he was filmed shadow boxing in a ring erected beside the Brisbane River, the champ was met by 3000 cheering, chanting fans waving Filipino flags and holding placards.
Some elderly women burst into tears as they threw their arms around him.
Pacquiao insisted on shaking every hand.
Later in the afternoon at Lone Pine he cuddled a koala, patted a kangaroo, waved at a Tasmanian devil and played two-up with Banaghan.
He met Horn for the first time at a film studio in Bowen Hills on Wednesday morning and despite the fact they will try to tear pieces off each other on July 2, they warmly embraced and posed for photos.
On Wednesday, Pacquiao and Horn attended the official launch of the fight at Suncorp Stadium and Horn admitted they both almost burst out laughing when they were asked to stare menacingly at each other for the cameras.
That afternoon they flew to Sydney, on separate flights, for another round with the media there.
Pacquiao poses with koala at Lone Pine in Brisbane. Picture: AAP
After he alighted the Virgin flight Pacquiao wanted to use the gents. One bodyguard stood at the entrance while another guarded the stalls.
On Thursday, NSW Origin rugby league coach Laurie Daley presented Pacquiao with a Blues jumper and then Pacquiao and Horn flew on the same flight to Melbourne at lunchtime. Pacquiao was in the wide seats and Horn in economy, not that the Fighting Schoolteacher seemed to mind.
Outside the cage fighting gym in Tullamarine, Horn had a huge smile on his face listening to Pacquiao laughing his head off at Banaghan’s accent.
Pacquiao asked the minder to have the Park Royal hotel prepare five lots of the only dish he seemed to eat in Australia – steak, asparagus, rice and sauteed mushrooms.
“Salted mushrooms?” Banaghan said.
“Not salted, sauteed,” Pacquiao replied.
Jeff Horn has a sneaky plan to topple Manny Pacquiao. Picture: Kylie Else
Then began a long comedy routine about Australian accents. Banaghan started talking about the “van” and Pacquiao pointed to the artery in his wrist.
“This is a van,” Pacquiao said.
“No that’s a vein, you idiot,” Banaghan replied.
“It’s a van,” Pacquiao said, again mimicking the Australian accent.
And so it went. The difference between the words “sword” and “sawed” sent Pacquiao into hysterics.
Taking all of this in next to me, Horn said Pacquiao was such a nice guy it was a shame they had to punch each other on July 2.