Jeff Horn’s stunning upset victory over Filipino legend Manny Pacquaio has made him the first boxer to win The Don Award as the athlete to have most inspired Australia in 2017.
Horn claimed the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title with a unanimous points win over Pacquiao in July in Brisbane.
“Many days I have thought to myself, ‘did that really happen?’,” the former school teacher said.
“It’s been very hectic since the win but recognition and awards like this certainly help.”
Horn is expected to announce his next fight in coming days, with a likely title defence against Englishman Gary Corcoran in December in Brisbane.
He told the annual Sport Australia Hall of Fame function on Thursday night in Melbourne that winning The Don was a career highlight.
“It is massive,” the 29-year-old 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.”
Among the other finalists was 100m hurdler Sally Pearson — one of only two sportspeople to have won the award twice.
After a couple of years ravaged by injury, Pearson coached herself to a dramatic second world title in London.
The other finalists were the Australian women’s football team, swimmer Emily Seebohm, surfing world champ Tyler Wright, AFLW star Erin Phillips and rugby league champion Johnathan Thurston.
The award is named after cricketer Sir Donald Bradman.
Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor and marathon runner Heather Turland were the joint inaugural winners in 1998.
Michelle Payne received the nod from the judges last year after becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015 on Prince of Penzance.