Jeff Horn stuns Manny Pacquiao to win WBO world title
Australian secures unanimous 12-round decision in Brisbane welterweight bout
Manny Pacquiao was beaten by unheralded Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP
Under a hot winter sun in Brisbane, Australia, future hall of fame fighter Manny Pacquiao was defeated in an unanimous points decision by Jeff Horn to win the WBO welter weight championship in a fairytale finish.
In a pulsating fight the unheralded Australian, known as the Hornet, showed little respect for Pacquiao’s reputation, defeating the Filipino legend with an improbably brave and relentless display.
The Australian public and press had delighted in Horn’s unique story before a punch was thrown, yet few believed he could beat the venerable Pacquiao.
Horn, a former teacher who had taken up boxing as a young boy after being tormented by bullies in the school yard, had been given a once in a lifetime shot against a living legend of his chosen sport. Everything about this fight seemed improbable, from Pacquiao being convinced to travel to Australia, to Horn beating the form book, but the Australian told anybody who would listen that he would dethrone the legend.
Before the bell rang there was a fear that the Queenslander would be overawed by the occasion, compounded by one of his cornermen taking selfies with the 55,000 crowd.
However, any fears of Horn being overawed ended in the first round. The Australian started the fight as the aggressor, finding frequent success with combinations and Pacquiao responded with a goofy grin that displayed surprise at his young opponent’s impertinence.
Horn had been typically charming and polite to Pacquiao before the fight, but in early exchanges he rattled his storied opponent in the clinch, showing zero respect for reputation.
Horn was considerably bigger and stronger than Pacquiao, but this has been a frequent occurrence in the diminutive Filipino’s career. In the second round Pacquiao rattled Horn with an uppercut, and he finished at the bell with an Ali shuffle to the delight of his thousands of adoring fans who waved the Philippine flag throughout the fight and chanted his name.
Both Horn and Pacquiao are fighters defined by non-stop industry. The third round drew large shots from both fighters who started and finished aggressively.
Horn’s pale skin around his eye was marked with a cut which proved Pacquiao was finally landing his power shots. However, Pacquiao’s speed, which was once so significant, looked in decline. At times he looked too bemused at the effrontery of his Australian opponent to compete with him physically. In the fourth round he spoke to Horn in the clinch and looked momentarily annoyed. Pacquiao was looking uncharacteristically sloppy and missing with wild shots.
The Filipino press contigent also looked bemused halfway through the fight, so used to seeing their national hero dominate opponents abroad.
Horn was becoming increasingly successful. The former school teacher Horn had taught countless lessons in maths to his pupils. Here, he usedhis gloves as a protractor, measuring his angles perfectly. Pacquiao was bleeding with a large gash on his left temple potentially from an accidental head clash, and that only served to spur the Australian and the home crowd on further.
The seventh round was wild, and Pacquiao’s cut flowed easily, blood moving into his eyes. Like a tormented bull, Pacquiao banged his gloves and chased Horn with venom.
Horn had built a strong lead on points, and his corner may have urged caution, but Horn’s first desire is always to attack, leaving himself exposed to painful shots. Pacquiao used all of his experience to finally hurt Horn in the eight round and find his way back into the fight.
Pacquiao’s best work came in the ninth. After an incredible fight which will do so much for boxing in Australia, Horn was moving backwards for the first time in the fight. The Hornet’s legs and arms were losing strength, sapped by his early heroics. Horn’s corner looked momentarily cautious about sending their brave fighter out for the tenth after their charge absorbed such sustained punishment in a brutal round.
Both fighters had a lengthy hug at the start of the last round, both gentlemen in the most brutal of sports. Both Horn and Pacquaio’s faced were etched with cuts and blood, yet they stood toe to toe, unable to stop throwing punches, giving hope that Australia had a new sporting superstar.
The judges confirmed the crowd’s suspicions with a unanimous decision, Horn was the new WBO welterweight champion.
Glenn Rushton, Horn’s trainer stated before the fight, “Manny can’t hit Jeff with experience, he can’t hit Jeff with reputation.”
His words proved prescient for the new Australian world champion who dethroned a legend of boxing. Pacquiao will return to Australia for the rematch, and hope that the ticking hands of time haven’t finally beaten him once and for all.
This Hollywood script now has a sequel.