Thursday, April 15, 2021  |

News

Aficianado

Pacquiao-Horn leaves us disgusted once again: Weekend Review

Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn. (Photo by Jono Searle/Bradley Kanaris Photography)
02
Jul

What was supposed to be a showcase for Manny Pacquiao on regular cable turned into one of the biggest controversies in recent years. Here are the biggest winners and losers after a crazy day in Australia.

BIGGEST WINNER

Jeff Horn: The relatively unknown Australian entered the ring to fight the great Manny Pacquiao on Sunday afternoon in Brisbane as a designated sacrificial lamb. He left it a conquering lion.

Well, sort of.

I thought Pacquiao should’ve been awarded the decision, as did legions of others. I gave him eight of the 12 bloody rounds. Thus, I see the judges’ scores – 115-113, 115-113 and a ludicrous 117-111 (from Waleska Roldan, a big loser here) for Horn – as an injustice.

For me, it was simple: Pacquiao landed more punches. CompuBox statistics are far from definitive but they provide an additional window through which to view a fight. The numbers for this encounter: Pacquiao outlanded Horn in overall punches 182 to 92, or 15.2 to 6.8 per round, and Horn landed only 15 percent of his shots (compared to 32 percent for Pacquiao).

Outpunched 2-1. Fewer than seven punches landed per round. A low connect rate. Horn received a gift.

What should have happened was this: Horn loses a unanimous decision and then is celebrated among his people – and those worldwide who can appreciate what he did – for the type of spirited performance that captures the hearts of boxing fans.

The 29-year-old former school teacher, who was unknown to most boxing fans less than a year ago, used mauling tactics to turn a mismatch into a wild, bloody war that tested the will and constitution of both fighters.

The ninth and 10th rounds stood out for Horn, his face badly bruised and bleeding. He took a terrible beating in the ninth, after which referee Mark Nelson wanted to stop the fight before demanding that the Aussie “show me something” in the 10th.

To his great credit, he arguably won that round and finished the grueling fight on his feet.

That’s some determination, some courage, which should’ve given notice to other top welterweights that Horn (17-0-1, 11 knockouts) will take his opponents to hell even if he can’t beat them.

Of course, the fact he emerged with a victory and Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title lifted his accomplishment to a fantastic level. He beat a legend to win a major world title before 51,052 – the most ever to see a Pacquiao fight – in his hometown.

If that’s not a dream come true, I don’t know what is.

 

BIGGEST LOSER

Manny Pacquiao: The decision is one thing. My heart sank when I heard ring announcer Michael Buffer bellow the word “and new!” when he announced the decision, revealing a stunning upset that cost Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) his welterweight belt.

I hesitate to use the word “robbery” because Horn made the fight competitive but that’s what it was. Victory was stolen from a future Hall of Famer by the judges.

We’ll get over it, though. God knows it wasn’t the first poor decision in boxing and it won’t be the last.

It will be harder to get over the image of Pacquiao, 38, struggling as he did. The once-brilliant athlete seemed to fight in slow motion, at least relative to the dynamo who plowed through so many elite opponents not so long ago. I don’t know who that was in Brisbane.

Pacman seemed to get old – very old – overnight.

To be fair, that might be attributed in part to circumstances beyond wear, tear and age. I wonder about Pacquiao’s motivation for the fight. He must’ve seen Horn as the pushover we thought he was, a mindset that doesn’t light the necessary fire under a fighter.

I’m guessing that Horn’s uber-physical strategy took Pacquiao by surprise; I doubt he expected such a brutal fight, which included two cuts from accidental head butts. And remember: Pacquiao has never liked the sight of his own blood.

And, finally, Horn was the naturally bigger, stronger man, which made his mauling tactics all the more effective.

I’m reaching, though. Pacquiao simply isn’t Pacquiao any longer. I hate to use the word “shot” but that’s what comes to mind. Nothing short of serious injury is more gut-wrenching than watching our heroes deteriorate to such a state. And, sadly, it happens to almost all of them.

Colleague Tom Gray came up with an apt comparison: Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks I and II. Spinks snuck up on Ali and won their first fight while Ali, an old 36, had the focus and the muscle memory to win the rematch, “The Greatest’s” final victory.

Pacquiao would probably win a rematch with Horn but at what cost? His body has been through enough. The smart thing to do would be to walk away now.

 

WORST SCENARIO

The controversial decision spoiled what would’ve been a pretty good debut of Top Rank’s new boxing series on ESPN.

ESPN announced Sunday that the live broadcast had the highest ratings of any fight for a cable network since 2010, which is believable. It was Pacquiao’s first appearance on regular cable in many years and his name still carries clout.

The viewers saw a wild, brutal and entertaining fight that was closer than virtually all observers anticipated. The drama was thick.

Had Pacquiao won, I would’ve said that Top Rank and ESPN would’ve won too. The fact Horn was awarded the decision inspired disgruntled fans to fire off poison words on social media: “controversial” and “robbery” and “another black mark” and “bullshit!.” Choose your nasty adjective.

This will have been a rare instance where many casual fans tuned in for a major fight only to see boxing at its worst.

I cringed when I saw this tweet from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who happens to be one of my two or three favorite athletes: “Boxing is a joke, and it proves it again tonight. Are you kidding me with those scorecards? #joke #rigged.”

Too many felt that way. In the end, it wasn’t a great day for the sport.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Horn is in an unusual position. I don’t see him as a Top 10 welterweight or even a legitimate contender just because he beat a shell of a once great champion, particularly when his victory was so controversial. He just doesn’t have the skillset. At the same time, he did emerge with a victory over a fighter who was in everyone’s welterweight Top 10 and had a sanctioning-body title. That fact and the magnitude of his victory make Horn a marketable 147-pounder. He could make good money in a rematch with Pacquiao or against any other top welterweight. I can’t see him actually beating one of them, though. Keith Thurman? Errol Spence? Shawn Porter? Kell Brook? Danny Garcia? Jessie Vargas? Lamont Peterson? Lucas Matthysse? Even Luis Collazo? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no and no. I won’t be surprised if Horn turns out to be a one-hit wonder. … Poor scoring wasn’t limited to Pacquiao-Horn this weekend. IBF lightweight titleholder Robert Easter (20-0, 14 KOs) outpointed Denis Shafikov (38-3-1, 20 KOs) by lopsided scores of 120-108, 120-108 and 116-112 on Friday in Toldeo, Ohio, Easter’s hometown. One problem: Most believed the fight was very close, which renders those shutout tallies ridiculous. (I’m shaking my head.) … Diego De la Hoya (19-0, 9 KOs) outpointed a nondescript opponent in Alan Castillo (21-7, 9 KOs) on Saturday in San Luis, Argentina. However, the fact the junior featherweight contender traveled so far to face an Argentine in his own country speaks well of him. Plus, the experience will serve him going forward.

LIST OF FIGHT RESULTS FROM THE PAST WEEK

Michael Rosenthal is editor-in-chief of THE RING Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @mrosenthal_ring