It was exciting, a hard-hitting and bloody brawl, it was awkward at times, and in the end it was as controversial as you could imagine.
In an upset that almost nobody — except possibly for Jeff Horn and his team — thought was possible, Horn, the hometown boy and former school teacher who got into boxing after being bullied as a kid, scored a stunning upset of WBO welterweight champion and future hall of famer Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night before a record and raucous crowd at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
It was nationally televised in the United States by ESPN.
The fight was nearly stopped in the ninth round as Pacquiao picked apart Horn and had him staggered and on the ropes. Referee Mark Nelson told Horn after the round that if he doesn’t show something in the next round, Nelson was going to stop the fight.
Boy did Horn show something in those last three rounds, proving to the hometown crowd that while he might have an awkward style and a hard head, he also has plenty of heart and character.
“I guess it’s the crowd behind me and all the support,” Horn said over the roar of the 55,000 deliriously happy fans after ring announcer Michael Buffer announced the decision. Then Horn held up a cane and a pair of boxing gloves and called out Floyd Mayweather Jr., saying, “This is no joke. Which one does he want? The walking stick or the gloves?”
Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs) was asked about that one-sided ninth round that was a 10-8 round on many cards for Pacquiao. After the round Horn’s corner had to talk to Nelson into continuing on.
“He buzzed me a little bit (in the ninth round) I got caught a little bit and fell off balance, but I recovered quickly,” said Horn, who said he has believed since he was very young that he could do this.
Judge Waleska Roldan of New York scored it 117-111 and Chris Flores of Arizona and Ramon Cerdan of Argentina both scored it 115-113 for Horn. USA TODAY scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao. ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas was incensed by the decision and said he thought there was no way that Pacquiao lost the fight. But, in fact, he did.
Not that Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) isn’t used to controversial decisions. His first fight in 2012 against Timothy Bradley, who, ironically, was doing color commentary for ESPN on Saturday, was considered one of the worst decisions to ever come out of Nevada. His promoter, Bob Arum, was so upset by the scoring he took it all the way to the Nevada Attorney General. Nothing changed that decision but they fought twice more and Pacquiao won both times.
“I’m professional and I thought the judges should be professional, too,” said Pacquiao, 38, who had cuts from head-butts on both sides of his forehead that poured blood throughout the second half of the fight. “It’s the judges’ decision.”
Pacquiao said the bleeding from the cuts affected him during the fight, “Because a lot of blood came out of my head.”
He called the 29-year-old Horn a tough opponent and said he tried to knock him out in the ninth round, “but he survived,” said Pacquiao, who landed 123 power punches to 73 for Horn over12 rounds. According to CompuBox statistics, Horn landed only 15% of his total punches.
Pacquiao, the first-term senator from the Philippines, said he would invoke the rematch clause in the contract. “Absolutely,” he said when asked if he would come back later this year for a second fight. “We have a rematch clause, so no problem.”
Answered Horn, who sported a major gash over his right eye that bled throughout most of the fight: “Yeah, that’s fine. Bring it on.”