New breed of fighters take barbs on the chin
AUSTRALIA’S new combat sports heroes Jeff Horn and Robert Whittaker have shown grace under fire, both during and after their memorable world title wins.
WBO welterweight boxing champion Horn and UFC interim, middleweight belt holder Whittaker are the right kind of representatives for sports that haven’t always attracted positive publicity.
Modest and gracious, both men weathered adversity during their respective title bouts.
Horn survived a brutal ninth- round onslaught by Manny Pacquiao and Whittaker prevailed against Yoel Romero despite re- injuring a knee in the first round of his fight.
It was the stuff of legends, with Horn’s upset of a modern great breathing new life into Australian boxing, while Whittaker became the nation’s first UFC champion.
Horn remained unfazed by the firestorm of criticism on social media of his points win.
Whittaker’s post- fight test came in the octagon immediately after, when regular champion Michael Bisping aimed an expletive- laced tirade at the Australian, calling him all sorts of names.
“The fact you’re standing there with that f..... g belt on like you’re a champion makes me sick, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Bisping said.
Sydneysider Whittaker didn’t flinch or verbally retaliate, he just smiled and replied respectfully.
Whittaker has won the right to challenge Bisping, who couldn’t make a scheduled title defence against Geroges StPierre because of injury, which led to the interim title fight being sanctioned.
UFC have scheduled a promotion in Sydney in November, but it remains to be seen if either man will fight on that card, with Whittaker not getting scans on his knee until returning to Australia.
In the post- fight TV wrap, Whittaker called Bisping a “doyen of the sport” prompting the exasperated Englishman to say “stop being so nice, we want to sell a pay for view.”
Bisping gave the Australian credit for his performance but couldn’t bait Whittaker into a trash- talk war.
“I respect you, of course I do, you’re a great guy, you handle yourself with class, that was an amazing fight,” Bisping said.