On a hot Sunday afternoon in Brisbane, 51,000 people inside the spectacular Suncorp stadium witnessed Jeff Horn claim the WBO welterweight title in just his 18th professional fight. In Rocky-esque fashion, former P.E teacher Horn gifted boxing legend Manny Pacquiao his 4th defeat in his last 9 fights to become champion of the world. Although this was supposed to be a routine defence for Manny, it unravelled to be very, very different, leading to whispers of retirement for the smiling Filipino.
Although you have to congratulate the underdog on an inspiring victory, it was a hugely controversial decision, with numerous people believing Pacquiao had done enough to win. But, that was just the problem, Pac Man looked as though he was trying to do ‘just enough’ throughout the whole fight, with rounds 8 and 9 being the exception. He looked like, at 38, a fighter who was at the end of their career. From the off, he struggled to gauge the distance and find his range, he struggled with his own timing and ultimately struggled to record the knockout which has eluded him for 8 years.
At the end of the eventful bout, which included 12 hard fought rounds and plenty of blood, all 3 judges scored it unanimously in favour of Jeff Horn. The scoring is what caused the most controversy; 2 of the judges scored the contest 115-113, however, the other judge scored it widely at 117-111. Now, it may seem as though Pacquiao ought to have won. The 8 division, 11 time world champion landed 182 punches in comparison to Horn’s 92. Despite this, the judge’s seemed to enjoy Horn’s relentless approach and although he landed a lot less clean punches, his work rate was rewarded.
During the pre-fight build up, Jeff Horn showed Pacquiao complete respect and seemed very nervous for the biggest fight of his career. Even during his ring walk, he seemed apprehensive and new to the big stage. But, as soon as the first bell sounded he flicked a switch and put his game plan into practice. Constant jabs, fast movement and power shots were thrown from the fresher, younger man; rough and rugged approaches were taken when on the inside to smother Manny’s work.
This obvious clash of styles resulted in an entertaining fight for the mass crowd inside the stadium and the thousands watching live on TV. Accidental head clashes inflicted cuts on Pacquiao, with blood streaming down his face round after round despite the best efforts of his corner to stem the bleeding. Then, in round 8 the distance between the 2 fighters started to close, allowing the shorter Filipino to land more shots. With Horn’s right eye bloodied, Manny laid on an onslaught in round 9, Horn looked out on his feet, but failed to find the decisive blow to nail The Hornet to the canvas.
As a result, referee Mark Nelson approached the challengers’ corner and said: “I’m here to protect you. Do you want to continue? You’ve had enough, show me something in this round or I’m going to stop the fight”
Horn was happy to oblige, finding a second wind and showing immense heart in rounds 10, 11 and 12. With both fighters clearly fatigued, it was Jeff who showed more intensity, even if the power was missing at this stage. Agreed, Pacquiao did land some stiff jabs and eye-catching shots in these championship rounds, but the Australian was relentless, aggressive and almost bullied the Filipino. Especially in the last round, which was crucial to both fighters, Horn took the initiative and most people, more importantly the judges, awarded the round to him.
Ignoring the disappointment, Pac Man showed grace in defeat, stating: “That’s the decision of the judges. I respect that”
Legendary Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who Pacquiao is under the tutelage of, also shared the same views as his boxer: “I have to go along with Manny and say I respect the decision of the judges” and went on to add “Well, 2 of the judges [who scored it 115-113]. I did think Manny won, but Jeff Horn showed a lot of heart. He is a big, strong fighter, and I congratulate him.”
When the dust has settled, I feel people will start to acknowledge how brilliantly Horn fought and recognise him as a deserving world title holder. Well, providing everyone stops labelling it as a robbery that is.
But, what’s next for the now WBO welterweight world champion. The Hornet crazily called out Floyd Mayweather Jr, and Errol Spence Jr showed interest, but there was a rematch clause within the contract. When asked if this clause would be exercised, Pacquiao answered: “Absolutely, yes. We have a rematch clause, so no problem”