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Jeff Horn was sluggish by his own admission in a ninth round stoppage defeat by Michael Zerafa in the Battle of Bendigo.

Moving up to the middleweight division didn’t do Horn any favours as he was trailing on all three judge’s cards prior to Kiwi referee Ferlin Marsh stopping the fight.

Horn’s planned lucrative December 23 WBA regular middleweight bout against champion Ryota Murata in Japan looks to be off the table after this shock result.

Zerafa knocked Horn down twice and looked the fitter man from the outset.

“We had a game plan going into this fight. We stuck to it, stayed composed and it worked,” Zerafa said.

Using his height and reach to his advantage, Zerafa outpointed his older opponent in front of a sellout crowd at Bendigo Stadium.

Horn’s promoter Dean Lonergan, while disappointed with the result, acknowledged a well staged event.

“We wanted to build a relationship with the Bendigo City Council, Visit Victoria and Jeff Horn’s brand down here, which we’ve done,” Lonergan said.

The next step for the 31-year-old Horn remains unknown, as he accepted that he doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of such a hammering again.

“I had no answers to him on the night. Simple stuff that I was getting wrong out there,” Horn said.

“Straight away I felt like I couldn’t get my shots off. I had a bad fight, it wasn’t my night, but that’s boxing,” he said.

Promising Sydney product Brock Jarvis battled through the toughest contest of his career when he scored a points victory over Ernesto Saulong.

The main support to the undercard, Jarvis is now 17-0 professionally.

There was no such luck for Bendigo’s two local fighters, with Lorrinda Web and Damien Lock both suffering defeats.