Manny Pacquiao gave away a fight on free television. Then he got robbed.
The judges scored the Pacquiao-Jeff Horn welterweight title bout that witnessed the Filipino land double the punches as his opponent as a unanimous decision victory for the Australian. While two judges saw it 115-113 for Horn, one scorecard actually read 117-111 for the 29-year-old.
ESPN saw it 117-111 for Pacquiao. USA Today saw it seven rounds to five for the Filipino with the ninth a likely 10-8 round. CBS Sports scored the fight a draw. On the free ESPN broadcast, both Stephen A. Smith and Teddy Atlas became even more animated versions of themselves in decrying the injustice of the decision.
Horn made a statement by clearly winning the first round. Pacquiao rebounded and, though showing his age, tagged the Australian with power shots, opening up a cut near his eye. Horn, for his part, cut Pacquiao twice with head butts ruled unintentional. In the action-packed ninth round, Pac Man hurt Horn. He staggered the challenger but could not make him fall. The referee informed Horn between rounds to “show me something” or else he would stop the fight. Horn did just that by giving as good as he got over the last three rounds. He fought as a game and tough challenger throughout, moving forward and throwing a high-volume of looping punches. But he landed just fifteen percent of his output.
While most media observers saw a clear victory for Pacquiao, the judges in front of Horn’s countrymen unanimously scored the fight for the Australian.
While the scorecards left a bad aftertaste, the fight itself played out as an exciting slugfest well worth it for those staying up past midnight on the East Coast. The live, outdoor crowd of 51,052 under a midday Brisbane sun reacted loudly to every landed blow. Both men embraced the idea of a rematch. Fans who watched no doubt did too.
Pacquiao showed grace in defeat. “That’s the decision of the judges,” he explained after the fight. “I respect that.”