Jeff Horn: From Pacquiao conqueror to pariah
For Australian welterweight Jeff Horn, the moment was indescribable. A kaleidoscope of emotions, the likes of which he may never experience again, flooded through him. Not only had the 29-year-old pressure-puncher annexed the WBO title, he had dethroned one of the finest fighters of this generation in his home city of Brisbane.
Then the taste of victory turned sour – very sour.
According to the majority, Horn, who is rated No. 8 by THE RING at 147 pounds, didn’t really beat Manny Pacquiao on July 2, 2017. The judges did. All three of them. Two officials gave Horn a 115-113 edge, while the third caused even more outrage by voting 117-111 in his favor.
The consensus was it was a robbery, but not everyone agreed. I had Horn winning. Not days after the fact, but on the night. I updated Twitter with my scoring after every round and was ridiculed before the official announcement. The challenger, for me, was superior early, outgunned in the middle and did enough late to secure victory.
Pacquiao was distracted, discouraged and flat. The Filipino idol looked a shell of himself and it was surely the worst performance of his championship career. Horn was a boomerang that kept coming back and even when Pacquiao broke through with a violent attack in the ninth, he couldn’t finish his man off.
The truth in all this is simple but hard for many to swallow. Horn was given literally no chance of victory. Australia was the first stop in a nice world tour for King Pacquiao and Horn was the royal barbeque. Every fighter, reporter, analyst, official and fan had a preconceived notion of how that fight would unfold and most of them couldn’t shift it.
“Some of the professionals out there have it in their head that an underdog can’t win a fight,” said Horn, a former Olympian who has been boxing professionally for over four years. “They expected Pacquiao to win easily and because of that, they seen the fight differently. They seen what they wanted to see.
“I feel like I took the fight to him, and I suppose that’s what you’ve got to do to beat a champion. I didn’t knock him out, and some people probably thought that’s what I had to do, but I definitely dominated the majority of the rounds.”
Teddy Atlas wears several hats. A pupil of the late, great Cus D’Amato, the excitable New Yorker is an acclaimed trainer, historian, writer and expert analyst. But he’s not a judge. Atlas provided commentary on Pacquiao-Horn for ESPN and was guilty of his usual hyperbole and clichés when the bell rang.
“The success that Horn’s having is like that old joke, when the guy jumps from the Empire State Building. He passes the 50th floor, looks in the window and asks, ‘How am I doing?’”
That was Atlas with 30 seconds remaining in Round 1, a session Horn appeared to win easily. Is it conceivable that such rhetoric, in a fight which had barely started, could be responsible for leading a television audience? I’m not referring to hardcore fans and experts. I’m talking about people who don’t know the difference between a 10-9 round and a merry-go-round.
“I haven’t seen the card with (Atlas) commentating but I know from the conversation that we had after the fight that he was very clearly on Pacquiao’s side,” said Horn. “He thought Pacquiao was robbed and that I didn’t deserve to win.
“His timing of saying that was quite frustrating for me because I was on such a high after getting the decision. I was a bit annoyed but I tried not to let it affect me.”
Atlas also had backup from Compubox. The guys who hit the buttons had Pacquiao outpunching Horn in 11 of 12 rounds. But there was one glaring flaw. The Compubox staff weren’t at ringside wearing factor 30 to shield themselves from the Australian sun. No, they were almost 10,000 miles away watching the ESPN broadcast in New York. Counting punches from television? There’s more chance of accurately guessing the amount of M&Ms in a family bag.
“The angles of a television broadcast don’t show all the punches that are being thrown or landed,” said Horn, as though stating the obvious. “It’s beyond difficult to count punches that way. That’s the thing with Compubox. I haven’t had much to do with it but some of the numbers were completely wrong. In my eyes, I won the first few rounds and there’s no doubt about it.”
Pacquiao’s team, including promoter Bob Arum and trainer Freddie Roach, were classy in defeat. The loss was a major setback, but attention quickly shifted to a rematch which Horn is contractually obligated to provide. Negotiations are ongoing, although it’s possible a return fight doesn’t happen until 2018.
Despite it all, Horn sounds like he’s enjoying his finest moment and understands how revered Pacquiao is. When the recently retired Tim Bradley was given what many, including myself, felt was an obvious bogus decision over Pacquiao in June 2012, he received death threats. Bradley, a humble family man and warrior inside the ring, was understandably infuriated.
“Manny Pacquiao is a legend and he deserves that reputation,” said Horn with sincerity. “He’s a good guy and he’s been very successful. He’s a very giving person and nobody wants to see a guy like that lose.
“But when he does lose; the people around him, the people who support him will turn on you. They’ll say bad things and take that attitude to their graves. I have plenty of respect for Pacquiao and I’ve been watching him since I started my career. But in the ring, I have to shut that off and treat him like any other opponent.”
When the rematch does come off, Horn will essentially be looking to avenge a victory. All the controversy has made Pacquiao even more of a sentimental favorite, and defeating him a second time is sure to be an even greater challenge. However, the unbeaten Australian remains quietly confident of springing another surprise.
“It will be similar to last time, but I know that Pacquiao is going to come at me even harder,” said Horn. “I’ll be prepared for that type of onslaught and if I can get through it, which will be difficult, then I will come out victorious again.”
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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