The result led to jubilation for Jeff Horn, agony for Manny Pacquiao and despair for boxing at large.
In one of the biggest upsets of the decade, the 29-year-old former schoolteacher secured a unanimous decision over one of the all-time greats, despite being outpunched 182 to 92, and claimed the WBO welterweight title in only his 18th professional bout.
Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis declared on Twitter: “This is what’s wrong with boxing. Horn was very game but I’m hard pressed to see how he could have won that fight by any stretch.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers added: “Boxing is a joke, and it proves it again tonight. Are you kidding me with those scorecards?”. NBA legend Kobe Bryant reacted with a gif of a confused-looking Ice Cube.
That such varied athletes, saw fit to comment on the result at Suncorp Stadium is concerning for the sport in general, still bruised from questionable judges calls in the past; not to mention the non-event that Mayweather-Pacquiao was.
In a year where boxing has slowly rebuilt its prestige with Anthony Joshua’s iconic victory over Wladimir Klitschko and the countdown to Canelo Alvarez v Gennady Golovkin, this wasn’t welcome.
Especially with the farce that will be Conor McGregor v Floyd Mayweather on the horizon. Maybe it was Horn’s ultra-aggresive style which swayed the judges as the Brisbane-native did throw 625 punches, – albeit with just 15 per cent of then – while Pacquiao looked a distinctly slower and less fluid version of his former self unable to put the challenger down when he was on top of the fight during rounds nine and 10.
As trainer Teddy Atlas said on ESPN: “They gave a trophy, a win, a huge win to Horn, the local kid for trying hard. You’re supposed to get it for winning!”
Horn’s best win had come against faded former world titlist Randall Bailey and it was believed facing Pacquiao would prove too much of a step up. It was a notion Horn, who worked as a substitute teacher in the early stages of his career, was keen to disprove as he showed his aggression early on.
Pacquiao opened up a cut over Horn’s left eye in the third round but the Filipino was left bloodied himself following accidental clashes of heads in the sixth and seventh rounds.
Pacquiao launched a savage counterattack in the ninth round and appeared to have Horn in trouble with some massive blows that left the Australian staggering. “The ref came over and said ‘show me something or I’ll stop the fight’,” Horn said.
“I thought, ‘hang on, hold your horses, I’m not that bad, I can keep going for sure’.” Horn recovered and came out strongly in the 10th, finishing the better of the two and earning the points from the judges. “That was just my heart that kept me going.”
Pacquiao has now lost four of his last nine fights and this latest setback could signal the end of his career, with trainer Freddie Roach saying in the build-up he would encourage his charge to retire if he was beaten.
Pacquiao didn’t hold a press conference, claiming he needed treatment on his head wounds. He did, though, speak briefly in the ring.
“That’s the decision of the judges. I respect that,” he said. “We have a rematch clause, so no problem.” Horn, meanwhile, has his sights set on Mayweather and a debut appearance in Las Vegas.
“This is just having a bit of a dig overseas to Floyd Mayweather, but this is no joke,” said Horn, as he hoisted a cane and joked about Mayweather being 11 years older.
“Which one does he want, the walking stick or the gloves? Come have a real fight. It is definitely a dream to fight in Vegas.”
There was a significant moment during the sixth round of Manny Pacquiao’s shock defeat to Jeff Horn when an accidental collision caused a thick stream of blood to spill from a gash on the Filipino’s forehead.
Pacquiao himself asked for the ringside doctor to assess the damage, and given the anguished expression on his face, you’d have forgiven him for thinking: “Why am I still doing this?”
Many observers have been wondering the same thing for quite some time. Calls for the 38-year-old to retire are nothing new.
They started after his chilling knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 and have followed him throughout his transition from sportsman to full-time politician in his homeland.
They reached a crescendo after his controversial points defeat to Horn in Brisbane on Sunday, the logical consequence of losing his WBO welterweight title to an opponent he would have ruthlessly outclassed during his prime years.
The consensus might be that he was the victim of erroneous scoring, but this was a close fight, far closer than expected, and it was inevitable that the image of a bloodied and ultimately defeated Pacquiao should be met with pleas for him to hang up the gloves.
For the sake of balance, nothing should be taken away from Horn’s effort. The Aussie was aggressive, rugged and determined as he imposed his will and made it his sort of fight. He dragged his legendary opponent into a savage brawl in the afternoon sunshine.
It certainly wasn’t what Pacquiao had signed up for, and he may well have been cursing his luck that the supposed riches on offer for his preferred option of a Dubai showpiece against Amir Khan had turned out to be fool’s gold.
The Filipino’s troubles could be explained by the fact he clearly underestimated his opponent, or that his rotten luck with cuts prevented him from bossing the second half of the fight.
But the danger there is that once the cracks are papered over and excuses are made, the narrative spawned by a set of questionable scorecards masks the wealth of evidence suggesting his decline is speeding up.
He may have out-landed the Aussie in most of the rounds, but he also struggled to cope with the home fighter’s youth and ambition, being physically bullied and taking some heavy shots in the process.
Save for a vintage ninth frame, when Pacquiao had that trademark bounce in his step and unleashed his full arsenal on a staggered and badly-hurt Horn, this was a poor performance and far below the standard he set in impressive wins over Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas last year.
A rematch with Horn now seems a certainty, but the bigger picture looks increasingly bleak for Pacquiao and the unavoidable question remains: Where is all this heading? He reneged on a promise to retire when he won a seat in the Filipino Senate last year, and while he has spoken of “one or two” more fights, it is difficult to believe him.
The cynics feel that he is fighting for the money – he earned $10 million (Dh36.7m) for facing Horn – while he says that he carries on because of his love for boxing.
That sounds an awful lot like Roy Jones Jr, who is living proof that even the most glorious body of work can be tarnished by going on past your sell-by date.
Whatever your opinion of the scoring in Brisbane, Pacquiao now has four losses in his last nine outings, and it would be tragic if his struggles Down Under set the tone for a wholly unnecessary final chapter in his Hall of Fame career.
The Filipino should be remembered for epic bouts with a host of Mexican greats, for stopping Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya – not for going life and death with a fringe contender in a rugby stadium.
Pacquiao could quite feasibly bounce back from this and dominate Horn in a rematch, but whether he fights on for money, or for the love of the sport, he is already doing so at a cost to his legacy.
Former schoolteacher Jeff Horn stunned world champion Manny Pacquiao to win the World Boxing Organisation welterweight crown with a unanimous points decision in Brisbane on Sunday.
Given no chance by most observers, the 29-year-old Horn’s ultra-aggressive style proved too much for Pacquiao, with the three judges scoring the fight 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113 to the Australian after 12 rounds.
Pacquiao, 38, is an eight-weight world champion considered one of the greatest fighters of his generation. His camp had predicted a “short and sweet” win over Horn, a 2012 Australian Olympian.
But Horn showed no signs of being overawed by the occasion, taking the fight to the Filipino great from the opening bell.
He moved forward relentlessly, not allowing Pacquiao time to find any rhythm.
Pacquiao did manage to land some left jabs in the opening rounds to take the early points, but Horn refused to back away and his brawling tactics paid dividends through the middle stages.
Pacquiao, bleeding profusely from cuts to the head high above both eyes, then launched a savage counterattack in the ninth round and appeared to have Horn in trouble, only for the Australian to come back and win the 10th as he reasserted control.
Both fighters began to tire in the final two rounds but Horn’s early lead proved too much to peg back as he claimed the biggest win of his career.
Pacquiao had been hoping to set up a second big-money showdown with Floyd Mayweather, but it was Horn who called for a fight with the unbeaten American immediately after his win.