NOBODY in the boxing world thought Jeff Horn would be leaving Suncorp Stadium a champion.
The Aussie boxer went into the fight as the overwhelming underdog, facing the near-impossible task of stealing Manny Pacquiao’s welterweight belt. He started strong, landing a number of brutal combinations on the Filipino legend before sustaining a hefty cut to the eye.
Pacquiao looked to have Horn’s measure in the ninth round, prompting referee Mark Nelson to warn the Aussie he’d be ending the fight if he didn’t recover. “You’ve had enough,” he said. “Show me something in this round or I’m stopping the fight.”
But Horn prevailed, fighting through a barrage of Pacquiao’s punches before sending the fight to a decision. Then it all hit the fan.
Horn was announced as the world’s newest welterweight champion as a storming Brisbane crowd screamed in elation.
Rarely do blockbuster fights ending via decision escape controversy, but the fallout from Horn’s shock victory was something else entirely.
Post-fight stats revealed Pacquiao almost doubled Horn’s number of punches landed in a 182-92 split.
US sports media exploded at the judges’ 115-113 x 2, 117-111 result immediately.
Boxing expert Teddy Atlas was fuming, claiming the 29-year-old was gifted the decision for how hard he worked as opposed to how many clean punches he threw. The 60-year-old exploded on-air after Horn’s arm was raised, slamming the judges in an incredulous tirade.
“They gave a win, a huge win, to the local kid for trying hard,” he yelled. “You’re not supposed to get it for trying hard. You’re supposed to get it for winning and I thought Pacquiao won the fight if you go by the real rules of who lands the cleaner punches.”
But the boxing icon wasn’t done yet. He approached Horn after the fight, giving the new champion his opinion on the result.
“Congratulations, (you’re) a great athlete,” he said. “I thought you lost, but great effort. I thought (Paquiao) was landing the punches while you were throwing a lot that were missing. But you showed great heart. A heart of a champion, no doubt about that.
“Did you feel, after that ninth round when you heard the referee saying ‘I’m going to stop this fight if you don’t do something’, that you were winning that fight?”
ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn was equally outraged, claiming Horn won because the fight was held on his home turf. “No way in hell Horn won unanimously,” he tweeted. “A 117-111 card? Ridiculous. This is a hometown hit job. Manny looked old, but mostly in control.”
Famous sports columnist Skip Bayless also questioned if the result had to do with the fight taking place in Brisbane.
FOX Sports reporter Dieter Kurtenbach was even more critical, labelling the fight “rigged”. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took an almighty swipe at boxing, calling the sport a “joke”.
Stephen A. Smith, a commentator for ESPN, was fired up in his post-fight wrap on the network. “Are those officials from Australia? Are they? What did we just see? This is a horrible decision! Horrible!” he said.