They came by the thousands on Saturday to Brisbane, Australia in hopes of seeing the Manny Pacquiao of old. Instead, more than 55,000 saw an old Manny Pacquiao, and an incredibly controversial decision.
In a stunning upset, hometown hero Jeff Horn relied on relentless pressure and big heart to score a disputed unanimous decision over Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium.
Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs), a massive underdog, captured the WBO welterweight title by judges scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113. CBS Sports scored the fight even (114-114) while most had it in favor of Pacquiao.
At 38, Pacquiao looked a step slower throughout and, at times, a shadow of his once great self despite entering the fight firmly entrenched on most pound-for-pound lists. But the Filipino senator, no stranger to wildly disputed defeats following his 2012 loss to Timothy Bradley Jr., was incredibly gracious in defeat.
"I didn't expect that ... that's part of the game," Pacquiao said. "That's the decision of the judges. I respect that."
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), who had a rematch clause in his contract, showed no hesitation in wanting a second chance.
"Absolutely, yes. We have a rematch [clause] so no problem," Pacquiao said. "Yeah, yeah. He beat me."
Horn, a former school teacher, entered the bout without a signature victory and was almost universally regarded as a significant step down in class for Pacquiao, who was fighting off of PPV for the first time since 2005 in hopes of refurbishing his brand in a showcase bout.
But Horn's awkwardness gave Pacquiao fits from the opening bell, as did his constant aggression, which forced his aging opponent to fight all three minutes of every round. Despite facing a significant disadvantage in terms of technique and experience, Horn kept the fight close and wasn't afraid to toe the line of being dirty.
Horn clinched intelligently and often mauled Pacquiao until referee Mark Nelson could separate them. And despite being outlanded 182-92, according to CompuBox, and landing just 15 percent of his punches, Horn did damage with a pair of accidental head butts -- one that opened up a cut on Pacquiao's hairline in Round 6 and a second that drew blood from above Pacquiao's left eye in Round 7.
"[Horn] was a tough opponent. I didn't expect his toughness in the ring," Pacquiao said. "[The head butts] affected me a lot because a lot of blood came out of my head."
Not only did Horn's odd rhythm keep Pacquiao from settling in and getting comfortable, it also prevented PacMan from consistently hitting him clean. That all changed in Round 9, when Pacquiao battered Horn, swelling the right side of his face and causing him to bleed.
"I tried to knock him out in the 9th round but he survived," Pacquiao said.
Horn was lucky to make the final bell in Round 9, which could've easily been scored 10-8 for Pacquiao. After the round, Nelson approached Horn's corner and warned him.
"I'm here to protect you, OK? I think you've had enough," Nelson said. "Show me something in this next round, or I'm going to stop the fight."
Not only did Horn respond, he came out running from the opening bell in Round 10 and backed up Pacquiao to the ropes. To his credit, Horn kept up the aggression until the final bell to end the fight.
"I felt off balance and overmatched in [Round 9] but I recovered quickly," Horn said. "I thought it would be a little harder to get the decision. I thought I managed to get the decision but it was close. I thought it would be more of a knockout if I was going to win this fight."
Horn instantly talked of a rematch after the fight, saying, "That's fine. Bring it on." But he also used the spotlight to take a jab at Floyd Mayweather, who returns from a two-year retirement on Aug. 26 to face MMA star Conor McGregor, in a fight that has been widely panned by those in boxing.
Horn held up a cane and a pair of boxing gloves and said, "This is no joke, which one does [Mayweather] want? The walking stick or the gloves. Come have a real fight."
While Pacquiao refused to complain about the division and insisted he was OK to continue fighting in his career despite obviously losing a step, he revealed that he caught a cold during the week in Australia, which affected him during the fight.
Pacquiao vs. Horn scorecard
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Pacquiao vs. Horn
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