By Vince Rugari
Rising Australian boxer Jeff Horn says the titanium plate inserted in his throat won't be an issue in his showdown with powerful American veteran Randall Bailey next week.
But the inch-long scar it has created will be a bullseye for Bailey, a three-time former world champion who stands as the toughest opponent yet in Horn's burgeoning career.
Horn's road towards a possible world title shot within the next 18 months begins when he faces Bailey on Wednesday night at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Originally scheduled for last month, the bout was pushed back when Horn, 28, took a hit to his throat during a February sparring session and suffered a fractured larynx.
He was told by doctors that without surgery, another blow would lead to suffocation.
But Horn, who represented Australia at the London 2012 Olympic Games, insists he will not be in any extra danger if Bailey can breach his defences and reach his windpipe.
"I'm going to keep my chin down, my shoulders up and I'm not going to get hit there," he said.
Horn is unbeaten in 14 fights (13-0-1) and is considered Australian boxing's great hope but faces a daunting task in silencing Bailey, better known as the 'Knockout King'.
The 41-year old from Miami, Florida has 39 career KOs to his name and has lost just once in the last six years.
Horn admits he has to be "smart" against Bailey.
"I can't just go in willy-nilly and throw punches without covering myself," he said.
"I've got to think about his counter every time because he waits for that moment when you're tired and that's when he'll attack.
"That's when you'll be waking up going 'what happened?'"
Horn is the No. 5 contender for American Tim Bradley's title in the glamorous WBO welterweight division previously dominated by the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Billed as the 'world's toughest schoolteacher', Horn has signed a big-money multi-fight deal with Fox Sports that his promoters hope will not only turn him into a household name, but reinvigorate the sport in Australia.
Rain spoiled what was supposed to be a public sparring session in Brisbane's Queen Street mall on Thursday, but he still had the hundred-strong gathering crowd in the palm of his hand, telling them: "I believe there's only one king in Queensland and that's Wally Lewis."
Bailey said he had plenty of respect for what Horn has been able to do in their weight division in such a short space of time, but warned: "My record speaks for itself. When I put people down, I put them out."
Horn's trainer Glenn Rushton said he has watched every piece of footage he could find to identify a chink in Bailey's armour.
"Everyone has weaknesses, everyone has flaws - nobody is perfect," Rushton said.
"There's things there we can see that we can capitalise on, without going into detail."