Steve BunceBoxing writer for ESPN
Today should be the first day of Manny Pacquiao’s permanent retirement from boxing.
On Sunday afternoon in Brisbane he was pushed, hit, cut and made to look old, predictable and slow at times by an Australian called Jeff Horn.
Pacquiao, now 38, had smiled his way through a pleasant stay in the Queensland city, walked to the ring with the same calm and was then dragged into a very strange brawl.
Horn was not given a hope and played the innocent and grateful traveller perfectly until the first bell; it was apparent very quickly that Horn was not in the ring to make up the numbers and soon a crowd of some 51,000 started to watch their very own little classic.
The iconic Filipino’s timing was woeful, his positioning was terrible and Horn slugged away for six rounds against a stunned opponent. There was still a feeling, certainly after six or so rounds, that Horn would suddenly tire and that Pacquiao would start to find his range hurt him. However, by the end of round seven, two accidental head clashes had opened ugly wounds just under the hairline on either side of Pacquiao’s brow and the so-called pushover job was a bloody battle in the Brisbane sun. A battle the veteran was losing.
In round eight and nine, Pacquiao fought his way back and it looked like he would get a late stoppage to retain his WBO welterweight belt — but by that point it was a piece of costume jewellery that had stopped being important after the first round or two.
Horn just survived the ninth, wobbling back to his corner with cuts over his right eye and a bruised and swelling face. There was real theatre during the minute break when the referee, Mark Nelson, walked over to tell Horn: “I think you’ve had enough. You better show me something in this round.”
Horn and his corner made their promises, but at that point it looked like it would be easy for Pacquiao. Horn then won the 10th round, which saved his fight and brutally exposed how far Pacquiao has slipped from the sickening finisher of a decade ago. The story of the fight should be Pacquiao’s failure to finish Horn in the 10th round and not the scores.
At the final bell Pacquiao looked like a beaten man and he was: one crazy score of 117-111 for Horn was way off, but the other two judges delivered identical and correct scores of 115-113. Horn had beaten the legend, won the belt and somehow found himself at the very centre of a spectacular debate about the scoring. The outrage from people in the boxing business who should know better was close to pantomime at times.
Pacquiao has been in world title fights since 1998, he has made millions of dollars in some of modern boxing’s greatest fights. In the Brisbane ring he often looked like he was fighting from instinct and that is not something that his real fans will want to watch again. It is time now for Pacman to stop and he will leave the sport as one of the finest boxers from the last 25 years.
Horn deserved his two-round win, Pacquiao looked utterly dreadful for six rounds and hopefully the Australian will get the recognition he deserves — after everybody stops screaming hysterics about a robbery.