A common reference of the ESPN coverage of Pacquiao vs. Horn was a comparison to the all-time classic “Rocky”. That identification was relatively spot on. The spectacle, the narrative, the characters, and the titular fight itself was tit-for-tat a carbon copy of the film. Rocky Balboa, meet unknown underdog Jeff Horn. Apollo Creed, say hello to 8-division champion Manny Pacquiao. Philadelphia, more like Brisbane Australia. It seemed to play out by the script. The fight was massively exciting, each fighter shining at different times throughout the bloody and exciting fight. It went the distance and seemed like the event was a success. Everything was going perfectly…
…then Jeff Horn won.
The judges unanimously awarded Horn the victory and the world was shocked. Compubox numbers show Pacquiao having a drastically higher success rate with his punches and a 9th round from hell didn’t do the Hornet any favors. The argument for Pacquiao winning that fight is a lot easier to understand and a safer choice for those not looking to get shit on by the infallible Internet.
Boxing analysts around the world saw what the judges supposedly could not.
Pacquiao is a very likable guy and a legend in our time.
Horn fouled Pacquiao with headbutts.
The judges rigged it.
The focus of this fight will be on Pacquiao’s loss or “robbery” for many reasons. He’s more marketable and thus a better talking point. It’s why the discussion for the 2016 NBA Finals was the record setting Warriors blew a 3-1 lead instead of the Cavaliers mounting a comeback, why the 2016 MLB World Series is about the Chicago Cubs overcoming a 3-1 deficit rather than the Cleveland Indians losing 3 straight. The more marketable team gets the greater share of attention. I understand all of that. Lot’s of points and discussions to be made. That’s what comes from these types of results. But it’s also the kind of thing that tarnishes the legacy of the fights. Because the fight went to a decision and
some people the whole freaking world did not agree with it, that’s what this fight will be remembered for.
Not the unlikely challenge of the unknown underdog Jeff Horn bringing it to the Pacman.
Not Pacman’s adjustment and perseverance throughout the fight.
Not for the near-death 9th round that led the referee to threaten to end the fight.
Not the hugely successful ESPN broadcast ratings.
Not the massive Australian attendance and success of the event.
Not the overall greatness of the back-and-forth battle between legend and unknown.
No, instead we’re going to remember a group of loud-mouth analysts yell and complain about their opinions being contradicted by the actual outcome. Timothy Bradley Jr. (an actual fighter) authentically confirmed that this fight was a lot closer than most thought, breathing life into the doubt of Pacquiao’s dominance. Unfortunately, world renowned boxing analyst Stephen A. Smith took over for no-name Max Kellerman and bullied Timothy Bradley Jr. (once again, an actual fighter) into agreeing with his decision rather than highlighting the fight as compelling and giving Jeff Horn his credit. Instead of legitimate discussion about the event through and through, the focus is on the decision.
There’s an interesting Instagram video I came upon that addresses why this fight was not a robbery and even delves into psychology of how our perception of the outcome of this fight is influenced.
This post was not written with the intent on proving why Jeff Horn deserved the win. It is not here to discredit those who believe Manny was robbed. It’s not written to justify other robberies in the sport (believe me, they exist). I write this analysis with the hopes that people can learn from the reaction of this fight and how things are turned in favor of talking points and egos. The fight was incredible. From the venue to the narrative to the battle these two fought, boxing continued its rise back to glory and international acclaim.
What other fights have been tarnished by controversial decisions?
Who do you believe won the fight?
Was this fight good or bad for boxing?
Sound off in the comments below!