Boxer Jeff ‘the Hornet’ Horn scored the upset win of 2017 when he outpunched legend Manny Pacquiao to take the WBO welterweight world title.
Horn’s win captivated a global audience and has now landed him the 2017 ‘The Don’ Award for the performance judged to have most inspired the nation.
In joining the likes of last year’s winner Michelle Payne, golf major winners Jason Day and Adam Scott and Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, Horn had to overcome a field of Australian sporting greats including two-time ‘The Don’ Award winner Sally Pearson, The Matildas and world champion swimmer Emily Seebohm.
Despite his achievement in defeating one of the greatest of all time in the Battle of Brisbane in July, Horn said to win ‘The Don’ was a career highlight.
“It is massive,” Horn said.
“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.”
“It’s been an incredible year for Australian sport. Everyone nominated has accomplished incredible achievements in their sport. To win out of the nominees is extremely rewarding and a very proud moment for myself and my family. It doesn’t get any better than this.” Horn added.
Horn said he had to pinch himself on more than one occasion since his epic take down of one of the world’s greatest ever fighters.
“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.”
Horn is set to announce his next assignment in the coming days, with a defence of his welterweight title likely to come against Englishman Gary Corcoran in Brisbane in December.
“I’ve just started the hard work, so I’ve got some heavy training coming up over the next couple of months. And of course, Jo is expecting our first baby on the 1st of January, which I’m even more excited about than the fight,” Horn said.
The Don Award is widely regarded as Australia’s leading contemporary sporting award and is named in honour of Australian sporting legend and first Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductee, the late Sir Donald Bradman AC.
Introduced in 1998, only two athletes have twice been awarded ‘The Don’ – with Olympic champions Sally Pearson (2013 and 2015) and Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) both laying claim to dual victories.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee chair Rob de Castella AO MBE said the criteria for the award is inspired by the words of Sir Donald at the time of becoming the first inductee in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
“The Don Award seeks to capture, celebrate, recognise and reward the individual or team who has ‘most inspired the nation’ through their performance,” de Castella said.
In accepting his inaugural induction, Sir Donald said “When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.” Hard work and dedication remain essential for all individuals who must embrace, with equal fervour, opportunity and responsibility”.
“The Don has become the ultimate recognition of this ideal and indeed the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon an athlete or team during their competitive career,” de Castella added.
Established in 1985, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame aims to preserve and celebrate the history of Australian Sport and excite the next generation of Australians to achieve their potential both in sport and in life. The aim is to preserve Australia’s rich sporting heritage by honouring these great athletes, and use the values and experience of Members to inspire future stars of Australian sport.