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.”