Interview by Paul Zanon
He’s known as ‘Horny’, he’s an East Londoner based in Essex, he’s undefeated as a professional boxer and he’s taller than you think. British Vintage Boxing took some time out to catch up with the 23-year-old Chigwell resident with a stellar boxing past.
“I’ve always been a sporty kid. My mum and dad were quite sporty. I started off with karate and also did swimming and a few other sports, but it was karate I settled into. I got my brown belt when I was 10.
“My old man had boxed when he was younger. He only had 13 fights but he was a big boxing fan. He took me down after the karate to my first amateur gym in Woodford, the Gator ABC. Tony Sims had it as a professional gym, but amateur fighters also trained there. I went down when I was 10, maybe two or three weeks off my eleventh birthday, had one session, got carded up within two weeks and had my first amateur fight just after turning 11.”
The affable flyweight’s dedication inside and out of the ring gave him options from a young age. “I was boxing the whole way through secondary school, but I couldn’t win a schoolboy title. I got to the semi-finals twice, but that was it. I took it quite seriously, but never knew at that point if there was a career for myself in boxing. I enjoyed my schoolwork and got good grades in my GCSEs, something like one A*, four As and six Bs. My uncle’s a stockbroker in Canary Wharf, my dad was a broker when he was younger and that’s what I wanted to do. Work up in the city. Boxing was more of a hobby at first. Then I won my first junior title at 15 and every national title I fought for since.
“When I got to Sixth Form at school, I thought, I could either go the A-Level route or maybe do a BTEC and still do the boxing. I had a meeting with the head teacher and asked if it was possible to combine them, and he said no problem. But within two weeks it was too much. Compared to the workload of the GCSEs and with the boxing training, something had to give. I chose to carry on with the boxing, do an easier BTEC and came out with three A-Level equivalents.
“I started with the AASE [Advanced Apprenticeships in Sporting Excellence programme] and that’s when I really started to enjoy my boxing that bit more. I won the Youth Three Nations in 2013, the senior ABAs in 2014 against Thomas Essomba and it sort of took off from there.”
Horn went on to win silver at the European championships in 2015 and then gold at the Under 22s European Championships in 2016. “In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting all that when I started boxing. My only goal was to box at the 2016 Olympics. Then when I got on Team GB at 18 in 2014, there was already well established boxers on the team and they were in the number one positions. It wasn’t until I won the silver at the European championships in 2015 that I thought, ‘You know what. You could take the top spot.’
“It all happened really fast. Within six months, I was in the top spot. But there was a bit of controversy with the selection [for the 2016 Rio Olympics], because Galal Yafai went instead of me. I was number one for a while and he got on the squad in December 2015, when I’d already won the European silver and fought at the world championships. He went out and got a bronze in his first competition. I knew he was a good fighter as I’d sparred with him, but I was very hard done by. A lot of people questioned the decision of him going, but it is what it is.”
Horn continued. “I had just over 80 fights as an amateur, including 27 internationals when I was on Team GB and the rest was for boxing club – Gator and then my second club, Repton [ABC]. I lost 11 fights in total, including internationals.”
Embarking in the pro ranks, Horn discussed his HHH (Horny Harvey Horn) moniker. “Horny! That’s been my nickname since I was 10. People think I’m trying to be clever or cheeky having the name. It was my dad’s nickname when he was younger and it kind of carried down. It was on my shorts when I was 11 and been there ever since.”
Eager to set the records straight on a few fronts, Horn corrected Boxrec’s height (mis)calculation. “5ft 2? That’s ridiculous! I’m one of the biggest flyweights in England and if there was a title at light-flyweight I’d get down for that. I’m 5ft 6, 5ft 7 with shoes on! 5ft 2? That’s a disservice!”
Horn turned professional under Frank Warren’s Queensbury promotions banner and the strict tutelage of Mark Tibbs. HHH discussed the adjustments that Tibbs Jr. had to make. “My style as an amateur was very focused on points scoring and I didn’t get many stoppages. It was all about hitting and not getting hit. It’s the same for professional boxing but Mark’s added a number of things to the way I fight. I would previously never sit in the pocket and throw a body shot. He’s kept all the assets which made me a good amateur and he’s added more strings to my bow and made me a more complete professional. Having Mark and [father] Jimmy Tibbs in the corner is a massive boost. There’s so much knowledge there.”
Horn had his debut on 9 December 2017 against the Czech Denis Bartos at the Copper Box Arena, on the undercard of James Degale versus Caleb Truax world title fight. The Essex fighter cast his mind back to the excitement of his first outing as a pro. “It was brilliant. It will stay with me forever that night. The only problem I had was that I started so early. I was originally third on, but then there were two cancellations and I was on shortly after 4.30pm. Most of my mates are West Ham supporters and they were at the game against Chelsea, across the road. By the time the game finished, they had to rush over. Thankfully, they made it in time and I got the stoppage [in the third round], which made it that much more special. The excitement of the night didn’t leave me for about a week.”
Horn’s next outing was on 24 February 2018 at the mecca of small hall boxing, against Patrik Bartos, the brother of his first opponent. “It was brilliant. I boxed there [York Hall] as an amateur a couple of times and it’s always been iconic, but for me especially. I live in Essex now, down in Chigwell, but I’m originally an east Londoner from Bethnal Green and many of my family, friends and supporters come from east London. The venue is about a five minute walk from where I used to live.”
From the Copper Box Arena and York Hall to the 02 Arena in London, on 23 June 2018, where he won a decisive points win over Gyula Dodu. “That was brilliant, but it was a little bit dampened. Billy Joe Saunders was supposed to be fighting Martin Murray in April, then that got cancelled to June, then cancelled again because Billy Joe pulled out. There was a lot of stress around that fight because I didn’t know if the show was happening and whether I’d be boxing or not. Stress aside, it was a good night and I boxed quite well.”
After a points win over Adam Hutchinson on 22 December 2018, Horn’s next destination was at the palatial surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall on 8 March 2019. He was back in against Patrik Bartos, but was on a mission this time round. “Best venue I’ve ever boxed in. Everything about it was brilliant. I sold a lot of the £40 tickets, the cheapest ones that were on sale and everyone said there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. I had a really good fight, but the only problem was, I was supposed to be a live TV floater, but I didn’t get put on until the end. Didn’t matter though because there was still a lot of people in the venue and the fans were all behind me.”
The 34 fight veteran Bartos came with 14 wins and 12 stoppages to his name. Horn continued. “I had it in my mind that I was going to stop him. I’d fought him in my second fight and he caused me problems because I didn’t know how to deal with that journeyman style of trying to survive every time I caught him. I didn’t know how to open him up and it was hard. I’d been used to fighting guys who came to win and fight until the last bell, so that was new territory for me. Although I won all the rounds, I wasn’t happy with the performance. But this time, when I got him again, I thought, ‘It would be nice to see how much progress you’ve made.’ I got in there and got rid of him in the first round. I think that showed how much I’d learned from the fights in between.”
Fighting on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders versus Shefat Isufi card on 18 May 2019, Horn beat Joel Sanchez over six rounds to extend his pro record to 6-0. The domestic 112lbs and 115lbs divisions are hotting up and Horn made it clear that he brings problems for any fighter in either division. “I’m very awkward. It’s very difficult to look good against me. Even in the fights that I’ve lost [as an amateur], the opponents have struggled against me. Southpaws are awkward anyway and I’ve got long arms for the weight and now I’m starting to dig. It’s one thing being rangy and hitting them, but I’ve got to be able to hurt them and keep them off. I you’re not hitting hard, they’re going to walk through you. Now I’m starting to dig a bit and maturing – a long rangy southpaw who can whack is a nightmare for anyone.”
Are there any other super flyweights Horn would like to gun for? “Yeah, definitely. There’s a thing about me and Sunny Edwards. He’s a super flyweight and there’s a been a lot of back and forth between us. That’s a fight a lot of people want to see I think. There’s also some other great domestic fights like Joe Maphosa and Jay Harris. Fly or super flyweight, I’m happy to take on whoever.”
From boxing opponents to boxing apparel. Horn explained how the opportunity arose to be involved with British Vintage Boxing. “My sport agent, Jordan [Jordan James Foster] from Portobello, got us into contact with them. We knew they were looking for boxers to be ambassadors for them and they put me and Charlie Duffield forward.
“The gear is brilliant. Top quality. You get a lot of Mickey Mouse stuff in this game, but you could tell this was different. We met Zen [Zenaide Martinoli, MD of British Vintage Boxing] and really got on with him. We knew, me and Charlie, that we wanted to be involved, but it was also the background behind the brand that we liked. Zen’s a real boxing fan and you could tell straight away he’s created the brand because he loves the sport, which is what we’re all in it for. Also, for a couple of east Londoners it’s that bit more special. The Henry Cooper vibe, the feel of something from the past, something retro. That old school. That’s us. Fits us down to a tee.”
Horn signed off with what to expect from him in 2019 and beyond. “Titles! If it doesn’t come by the end of this year, it’s inevitable for 2020. I just need to get a few more rounds under my belt, learn the professional game and then take on the big names.”