BENDIGO, Australia — Jeff Horn’s dream of another title fight appears to be all but over after the former world welterweight champion suffered a shock loss to Michael Zerafa at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night.

In his first fight since flooring Aussie icon Anthony Mundine in Brisbane last December, Horn looked slow, sluggish and right off the pace of the younger Zerafa, who entered the fight as a 5-1 outsider with most bookmakers.

The Queenslander was knocked down early in the second round, suffering a nasty cut over his left eye, and although he came out more aggressive in the third, he never looked on top.

A flurry of shots to Horn’s face late in the ninth round had trainer Glenn Rushton throwing in the towel to hand Zerafa the win. The Melburnian now boasts a professional record of 27-3 and remains undefeated on Australian soil.

“I’m a bit shattered. It’s not fun losing, that’s for sure,” Horn said. “I felt really sluggish. I felt heavy. I just felt like crap going into it, but well done to Michael for landing those beautiful shots. You could see I wasn’t myself and I had no answers for him tonight.

“I wasn’t that well earlier in the week, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse because I felt fine tonight. Full credit to Michael Zerafa.”

From the first bell Zerafa looked composed and on his A-game, while the combination of speed, agility and aggression upset Horn. He connected with a number of brutal shots that rocked Horn and as the fight wore on he grew in confidence.

“It’s not a shock to me. I called this weeks ago,” Zerafa said. “I went out there and proved it. I knew he was out of his [depth] fighting a guy with my experience, my style and my power. I knew it wasn’t going to last.

“We had a game plan coming into this fight. I knew he was a little bit shorter and his reach was a little bit shorter so I stayed on the outside and picked my shots. We stuck to it and it worked.”

A big money fight against Japanese middleweight superstar Ryota Murata in Tokyo was on the cards for Horn had he won, instead it’s Zerafa who may end up with the bout.

For Horn, a second loss in 18 months does not bode well for his chances of landing another title fight and there has been some suggestions that the 31-year-old may retire.

“I don’t want to be doing this forever, getting battered and bruised,” Horn said. “I’ve got two beautiful girls and Jo.”