Horn takes Pacquiao's title in stunning upset

Horn takes Pacquiao's title in stunning upset

Manny Pacquiao was the heavy favorite to retain his welterweight world title against unknown Jeff Horn in what most viewed as an easy fight, and Pacquiao sure looked like he had done just that when the final bell rang to end the action-packed brawl.

Pacquiao had rocked Horn, bloodied him and nearly stopped him a violently one-sided ninth round. But then the judges’ scorecards were read, and he was the victim of a hugely controversial decision, as Horn was awarded a stunning unanimous decision — a hometown decision, most will call it — before some 55,000 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia on Saturday night (Sunday morning in Australia).

Judge Waleska Roldan had it 117-111, and judges Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan both had it 115-113 for Horn. ESPN.com scored it 117-111 for Pacquiao, and ESPN ringside analyst Teddy Atlas also had it for Pacquiao, 116-111.

Pacquiao, the Filipino legend and boxing’s only eight-division world champion, has been here before, losing a split decision and a welterweight world title to Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2012 in one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history. Like he was after that loss — which he avenged twice — Pacquiao was gracious.

“That’s the decision of the judges. I respect that,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao holds the contractual right to a rematch, and he said he would exercise it.

“Absolutely, yes,” Pacquiao said of fighting Horn again in Australia. “We have a rematch clause, so no problem.”

The fight, which aired live on ESPN, was Pacquiao’s first non-pay-per-view fight since 2005 and supposed to be a showcase. That Horn was still standing at the end of the rough, tough fight was a surprise, but Pacquiao looked to be the clear winner — until his belt was handed to Horn, a 29-year-old former Olympian and former school teacher with a very thin ring resume.

Horn seemed as shocked as anyone that he got the decision, if body language means anything, but he said he thought he won what will go down as the biggest fight in Australian history.

“I thought I was coming forward more and landing the cleaner blows,” Horn said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Asked how he managed to win, he struggled for words at first.

“I don’t know. I guess with the crowd behind me and all the support,” said Horn, who was Pacquiao’s mandatory challenger. “I’ve just believed since I was young that I could do this. There’s lots of thoughts going through [my mind]. I managed to get the decision. It was close.”

It did not appear to be all that close, however, even though the action far exceeded the modest expectations going into the fight. Pacquiao also dominated the CompuBox punch statistics, getting credit for landing 182 of 573 blows (32 percent), while Horn landed 92 of 625 (15 percent). Pacquiao also landed more punches in 11 of the 12 rounds, according to CompuBox.

Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs) tried to rough Pacquiao up and landed a couple of shots in the first round, but he also had his mouthpiece dislodged. Still, he was extremely aggressive and busy.

But Pacquiao came back strong in the second round, landing two very solid straight left hands, but the chin of Horn, who has been knocked down a few times in his career, held up.

In the third round, Pacquiao continued to land, including opening a cut over Horn’s right eye, which got worse as the fight went on.

Horn was trying very hard to land big punches and spent the fight bulling forward and trying to smother the faster Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs).

In the sixth round, an accidental head butt opened a cut on Pacquiao’s hairline as blood streamed down his body. Then Horn rocked Pacquiao with a right hand in a stunning scene. Pacquiao quickly recovered, but it had to give Horn confidence.

There was another accidental head butt in the seventh round, and it cut Pacquiao, 38, again, this time near his left eye as more blood streamed down his face. Horn went right after Pacquiao after the ringside doctor took a look at the cut, and the crowd got very excited.

“I feel his power. He is strong,” Pacquiao said.

But Pacquiao, a southpaw, had a huge ninth round. He turned up his aggression and battered Horn, landing numerous brutal shots, especially with his left hand. Horn took them all and refused to go down, but he was in rough shape at the end of the round. Referee Mark Nelson went to his corner and told him he would not let him continue to take punishment; Nelson strongly considered stopping the fight. Horn convinced him to allow the fight to go on.

“He was a tough opponent,” Pacquiao said. “I tried to knock him out in the ninth round, but he survived. In the ninth round, I thought I am going to win the fight.”

Horn said he felt Pacquiao’s power in the ninth round but was able to recover.

“I felt fine in that corner. I wanted to keep going on,” Horn said. “I wasn’t really that hurt. I was a little bit buzzed in that round, but I recovered very quickly. He buzzed me a little bit. I felt a little off-balance in that round.”