It wasn’t quite Tyson-Douglas although the scorecards were surprising. In the end, Australia’s Jeff Horn pulled off the upset of the year, becoming the WBO World welterweight champion with a 12-round unanimous decision that many felt went to the wrong fighter.
Whether you felt he won or not, Horn (17-0-1, 11 KO’s) exceeded expectations, fighting in front of his fellow Australians (55,000-plus, the largest boxing crowd in the nation’s history) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The 29-year-old unorthodox boxer was a bigger underdog going into this fight than Conor McGregor is for his Aug. 26th date versus Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KO’s) looked sharp defeating Jesse Vargas last November but his 38-years showed on this night. Horn took the first two rounds with surprising aggression, using his strength to bully Pacquiao around the ring and showing a willingness to stand and trade.
Pacquiao began timing his rushes in the third, and seemed to have command by the middle rounds but Horn was still landing. Their styles led to several clashes of heads, one inducing a cut next to Horn’s right eye while Pacquiao suffered bad cuts on his hairline and above his right eye. At times, he was a crimson mess. He also was wobbled by a flush right at the end of the sixth. The Philippine statesmen is still a solid fighter but his speed – both hand and foot – are levels below what they once were and his combinations were predictable.
Nevertheless, Pacquiao went back to work in the seventh, pasting Horn with counters as the Australian waded in. The eight-division champ nearly pulled off the KO in the ninth, rocking Horn with a hard left. “Pacman” unloaded an onslaught but the game Horn refused to wilt. It looked as if he was out on his feet when the round ended but he bounced back with a strong tenth.
Both fighters were fatigued during the sloppy championship rounds but Pacquiao appeared to have the advantage. The judges didn’t agree, awarding Horn the victory by scores of 117-111 and 115-113 twice.
So, what’s next for Pacquiao? At this stage, it’s unlikely he can handle any of the other top welters, such as Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr. or Danny Garcia. But he is still good enough to beat most fighters in the world and that may spur him to continue fighting.
As for the new champion, he expressed a willingness to fight Pacquiao again and called out Mayweather. The latter’s unlikely but with a title hand, an undefeated record intact and a new standing in the sport, expect to hear more from Horn in the coming months.