By Fahim Ahmed – Wow. It happened. Jeff Horn took Manny Pacquiao 12 rounds and won a unanimous decision to capture the WBO welterweight crown. However, many have disagreed with this decision, believing that Manny did enough to win and that Jeff Horn was not good enough. Hell, some have even slathered this fight with the word ‘robbery’, and have compared this decision to Pacquiao’s loss to Tim Bradley. It was a very close fight, and some of the rounds could easily have gone the opposite way. It all depends on what you prefer to see from your boxer: aggression, or effectiveness. That is not to say that Horn was not effective, because he most certainly was, and he was boxing very smartly at certain points too, tying Pacquiao up on the inside and not allowing him to get his shots away.
Despite the fact that Manny was the smaller man, he was often the one using his jab to keep Horn away, and Manny was even threatening to run away with the fight after that huge 9th round. Although Horn’s all-action style was extremely entertaining to watch, I do feel as though it was the wrong decision and that on my scorecard, Manny picked the fight up by one or two rounds. Although I hate to divulge into the world of boxing politics and ‘hometown advantage’ and all that jazz, I do think it exists, and I do think that more often than not, rounds that could easily be 10-10 are gifted to the home boxer, whether deserved or undeserved. In this case, I think some rounds were given to Horn, not strictly because of hometown politics, but because the judges may not have thought that Manny did enough to win the round, and that Horn was simply winning such rounds by default.
This fight, in more ways than one, reminded me of Ward-Kovalev I. Yes, I know it may be unfair to compare boxers across different weight classes, and yes, I also know that a lot of people cried robbery in that fight. Yes, I know. However, in the same way that it was aggressive vs. efficient (although I would also argue that Ward is a far more effective counter-puncher than Pacquiao), it always ends up being a matter of perspective. For some in that fight, Kovalev’s aggression and constant pressure won him the fight. For others, Ward’s body shots and inside work was enough to see him winning. The story was similar here, in that Horn’s aggressive style was hard for Pacquiao to do anything about in the early rounds, especially so given Horn’s height advantage over Pacquiao. Even so, I still think Manny’s work on the inside, and what looked like Horn’s incapability to deal with Manny’s dogged determination and speed. Even so, Horn more than held his own against one of the most bona fide world champions of our generation, and his work in this fight suggested that he would be a very capable opponent for the other world champions.
The 9th round was an absolute Pacquiao mauling. Hell, it could even have been a 10-8 round, given how badly Horn was getting beaten. Typical Pacquiao, beautifully timed shots, quick-fire left hands that his opponent can only feel and never see coming, it was a throwback to the Pacquiao of old. Despite this, as Manny has aged, he has shown himself to be perfectly competent at becoming a counter-puncher, and not the all-out aggressive boxer he once was. A moment in the 12th round demonstrated this perfectly, Pacquiao against the ropes delivered about four or five hooks straight to Horn’s head and body, all in quick succession, and Horn had no option but to take them and deal with it. It is a true testament to Manny, at the ripe old age of 38, in the 12th round, that he was still able to carry the speed and aggression that he became famous for.
Horn continually lunged forward, and Manny continually picked him apart, showering Horn with counter-punches that, dare I use this man as an example, Floyd Mayweather would be proud of. That all-out aggressive style of Horn does work, but only to a certain extent, as was seen in Round 9, where Pacquiao plastered Horn with that brilliantly simple but sumptuous left overhand.
If Horn walks straight forward and gets caught on the way in like he did in most of this fight, he probably would not survive against someone like Thurman (more later on him), Spence Jr., hell, even someone like Amir Khan (yes, I know he doesn’t deserve a world title shot, but I do feel for the boy), Horn would probably struggle. At certain points, the straight left of Pacquiao could not miss. Horn, time after time, walked straight into the straight left shot of Pacquiao, and even on the inside, Horn, again, almost stood straight upright and allowed Manny to fire shot after shot to his midriff. Horn’s style of fighting means that he is exciting to watch, but if he is in the ring with someone as strong as him on the inside, someone that can run circles around him, or someone that can attack him to the body enough to slow him down (insert Errol Spence Jr. fantasy here), then I think Horn’s opponents will pick him apart, and he will get found out. A lot of people are probably thinking, ‘well yeah obviously if you put Horn in there with someone better than him, he will lose. Duh.’ Yes, you aren’t wrong, but the question is, if you do put Horn in there with someone better than him, would he know what to do to deal with that situation? Against Pacquiao, he showed he had tremendous heart, but that can only get you so far. Does Horn know how to pick up rounds and properly keep his opponent at bay? Does Horn know how to bob and weave his way out of a barrage of shots? Does Horn know how to properly nullify his opponents? These are all unanswered questions, and based on this performance, it seems as though he will need a hell of a lot of work.
I also think Horn showed a bit too much respect to Pacquiao. Yes, Pacquiao is a boxing legend, and will go down in boxing folklore, but it seemed like every opportunity Horn could touch gloves with Pacquiao, he did. Maybe that is just something that bothered me personally, or maybe Horn was just really appreciative or in awe of Manny. Horn, at times, just seemed like an overexcited fan, using every opportunity possible to be on good terms with, or not to upset, Manny Pacquiao.
Oh, and before I forget, the whole Teddy Atlas controversy is probably the most petty thing I have ever seen. To throw a tantrum like a child and cry ‘robbery, corruption’ etc. because three men disagree with you is one of the most stupid things I have ever seen in boxing punditry. Okay, you may not agree with the judges. I didn’t agree with the judges. However, don’t throw your toys out of the pram like a child and then proceed to degrade and devalue all of the work Jeff Horn and his team put into preparing for this fight. It’s embarrassing. If you have something to say, you should, at the very least, conduct yourself in a respectful manner. There is absolutely no need to be this upset over three people disagreeing with you, no matter what the occasion or context. On top of that, to see Atlas attack Horn in the post-fight interview, essentially asking Horn how on earth he thought he won the fight. Fair play to Horn, he handled himself respectfully in that interview, but even so, from an esteemed name like Teddy Atlas, it is absolutely embarrassing, and I do sincerely hope he apologises.
I, for one, would love to see Horn vs. Thurman. From a neutral standpoint, it would be a hell of an entertaining fight, as their styles do perfectly complement each other. The aggressive and assertive style of Horn perfectly complements the more tactically astute and all-round ring wizardry from Thurman. From a boxing standpoint, however, I imagine it going very similarly to Thurman vs. Porter, whereby Thurman would continually pick apart the aggressive Horn. As aforementioned, Horn vs. Spence Jr., Horn vs. Khan, hell, even Horn vs. Garcia or Horn vs. Marquez, if he can eventually work his way back to world championship level, would be incredibly intriguing fights. Horn’s style of fighting will mean that he will either dominate or be dominated, but you can guarantee his fights will be very entertaining.
In conclusion and away from fantasy fight land, I do think Pacquiao should still be the WBO welterweight champion, and that the wrong decision was made. However, we cannot change what has happened, and we should praise Horn for his entertaining style, his aggressive tactics, sticking in there (especially after that brutal 9th round), and not giving up when the going got tough. Of course, just because I saw the fight in one way, and someone may disagree with me and see the fight in the opposite way, it does not mean that either one of us is right. My scorecard for the fight is exactly that, just a scorecard. Not the right answer, not the answer that actually matters, but just my opinion on how the fight went.
What do you think? Was the right decision made? Who should Horn go after next? Should Manny get a rematch? Thanks for reading, and I welcome debate and discussion, so please let me know what you thought at @FahimAhmed93.