JEFF Horn has entered Australian sporting folklore after scoring a famous upset win over Manny Pacquiao.
We will be hard-pressed to find a more thrilling and seesawing twelve rounds than those that were witnessed by a record 51,052 spectators at Suncorp Stadium on a picturesque Brisbane afternoon.
Even the best-laid plans are made to be spoilt and that was the case this time around as future Hall of Famer and eight division titleholder Manny Pacquiao was dethroned by undefeated underdog Jeff Horn in a fiercely contested battle that was won by the Australian via unanimous decision.
Horn (now 17-0-1, 11 KOs) was taking a huge step-up in class and was widely tipped to become the first knockout victim of Pacquiao (now 59-7-2, 38 KOs) since Miguel Cotto fell to the ferocious Filipino in 2009. Although he looked every bit of the threat that he had promised to be in the build-up, it was against modest opposition in comparison to Pacquiao.
There was an air of self-assurance filtering through Team Pacquiao this week and it was apparent early that the defending champion had underestimated the task at hand, with the 38-year-old looking a shadow of his former self in the opening rounds.
The humble challenger stormed out of the blocks and raced to an early lead, sweeping a bulk of the fights first half on a majority of pundits unofficial scorecards. Pacquiao smiled and urged Horn to attack his body as the crowd favourite took an early lead that he never truly surrendered.
In trademark fashion, Pacquiao stormed his way back into contention with a flurry of left-hands in the ninth round that had most considering Horn’s place in the fight, including referee Mark Nelson, who warned Horn’s trainer Glen Rushton in-between rounds that he would withdraw his charge from the contest if he didn’t offer some form of resistance.
While there was no clear indication of how the fight was being scored, there was a general consensus that Horn’s performance had exceeded expectations, with Pacquiao’s falling far short. The Australian public will always support an underdog, but there was a eery sense of familiarity surrounding the heart and unbreakable nature of Horn’s title challenge.
At the conclusion of twelve round tussle, iconic emcee Michael Buffer crowned Horn the winner by unanimous decision with judges Waleska Roldan, Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan all favouring the local with tallies of 117-111 and 115-113 twice, to the delight of the record-breaking crowd.
A bruised but clearly jovial Horn gave an articulate post-fight interview that reminded the viewing audience of just how far he has come in a short amount of time, and that he was far removed from a stoppage defeat in that famous ninth round.
“It’s heart, it’s heart getting through that round and being able to get hit,” said an elated Horn post-fight. “Being caught with a shot and continuing on.”
“I was more worried about the look on his face, I thought I’m actually not too bad, settle down everyone, I’m fine,” explained Horn. “I was able to recover pretty quickly by that stage. A bit of exhaustion and we did clash heads a few times throughout that fight that were really hard, I’m sure they hurt him just as much as me. I can feel them on my eyes.”
“It’s massive for the sport in our country, I cant wait to see some massive fights. We’ve had some big wins on the undercard.”
“I can remember wanting to be world champion in something, I remember swinging on the swings when I was a little kid,” he added. “Think I just wanted to do sport for a living. I said it was soccer then I left school, took up boxing and that’s when I decided it’s gonna be.”
“Look, I thought from the opening bell I thought straight away in those first couple of rounds I felt as though I was out boxing him.” he concluded. “Even in the first half of the fight. He did catch me a couple of times throughout it, but I felt that I bounced back straight away.”
Horn becomes the first ever Australian to win a world title under the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) banner, with Michael Katsidis previously holding the interim version of their lightweight championship twice.
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images