Ben Horn has revealed a series of verbal taunts towards Nikita Tszyu led to the incredible final-round slugfest that almost saw the favorite sensationally knocked out in the dying seconds.
Despite heading into the fight as a massive underdog, Horn gave as good as he got against Tszyu, leaving the 24-year-old bloodied before Tszyu claimed a unanimous-decision win.
After Tszyu steamrolled through his first two opponents, many expected him to make short work of the 32-year-old Horn, and he looked to be headed down that way as the son of the iconic Kostya Tszyu unleashed a barrage of brutal body shots in the opening round.
AS IT HAPPENED: Horn and Tszyu go toe-to-toe in epic slugfest
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But Horn fought back in sensational fashion, getting some lusty blows of his own in, leaving Tszyu bloodied at the end of a brutal six-round super-welterweight contest.
As the clock ticked down in the sixth round, Horn caught Tszyu with a series of huge shots, leaving the favorite stumbling, before he was saved by the bell.
“I knew I was gonna go the distance,” Horn said after the fight.
“Funnily enough I was telling him in the sixth round, ‘Is that all you’ve got to the body? I think they’re soft, Nikita. Come on. Is that what you drop people with? Will you stop? Put it we!’.
“I think it made him a little bit angry. I should have started out round one. I might’ve cleaned him up with a few more good shots. He (talks) about the blood, but I love seeing him bleed as much as I like the man.
“He’s a top dude and great fighter and I can see him going a long way. I’d love to see him win a world title one day along with his brother, so good on them.”
Despite wearing an incredible 93 shots to the body, Horn said he was not hurt by a single one.
“In all honesty, I’m well conditioned to the body. I did not get hurt by one of his body shots,” he said.
“I could feel them all day, but none of them hurt me to the point of dropping. I’m well conditioned. Glenn (trainer Glenn Rushton) hits me every day to the body and absolutely smashes me.
“None of them had got me badly hurt and that’s why I was giving it to him (in) the sixth, mouthing off. It was good fun. Congratulations to him.”
Horn said he’d already approached the Tszyu camp about a potential rematch, and there was no mistaking he’d earned his opponent’s respect despite losing the fight.
“You know, it’s the perfect fight I could have had,” Tszyu said.
“These are the ones you learn the most from and the ones who you develop the most from. Ben, he’s tough. He is as tough as they get and it was a pleasure to share the ring with him.
“I was quite surprised. He can take a shot. And yeah, all credit to him. He is incredibly tough and a great learning experience.
“I told you guys this is going to be an entertaining fight. And what’s more entertaining than a war? We’re both smashed up in the face. There was blood all over the place. That’s what boxing is, that’s the beauty of it .”
Tszyu wasn’t the only one impressed either, with Australian boxing icon Jeff Fenech left stunned by his phenomenal courage throughout the six rounds as he kept eating shot after shot.
“What a chin he’s got! This is the performance of his life tonight. I’m shocked. I totally didn’t expect this. I was wrong. I’m going to say it without any hesitation,” he said.
“I honestly thought the fight would be over in a couple of rounds. His resilience has been amazing tonight.
“He’s tougher than I thought he was, this kid.”
The win leaves Tszyu with a 3-0 professional boxing record, while Horn dropped to 4-5 having lost his last three fights.
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