On the 1st of March in 1940, Henry Armstrong, who had simultaneously held the Featherweight, Lightweight and Welterweight titles, set his sights on the Middleweight title and challenged a man whom he had already defeated in the past at Welterweight, Ceferina Garcia. Garcia was a Filipino, the first and last Filipino to hold the World Middleweight Championship.
The fight would end in a draw, which meant that Armstrong, widely regarded as one of the greatest Boxers the sport has ever seen, was denied a fourth World title – this at a time only eight divisions existed.
The decision was not a popular one, everyone believed Armstrong had won and deserved the title. Armstrong himself, sensed foul play and was none too pleased with the referee George Blake, who had let Garcia retain the title with a draw ‘He said his score sheet got taken away from him and was torn up by some kids,’ said Armstrong. ‘Boxing was pretty rugged then.’
77 years later, on the 2nd July 2017, noted trainer and TV analyst Teddy Atlas would echo those thoughts except in much harsher terms, and just like the fight between Henry Armstrong and Ceferina Garcia, a Filipino fighter would be involved, only this time, the Filipino World Champion was on the receiving end of a dubious decision.
Atlas would comment ‘It’s only one of two things, it’s either incompetence or corruption. When you see 117-111, I don’t think anyone could be that incompetent. I’m sorry. If you know the sport, you watch the sport, you can’t be that incompetent. You see who’s landing clean, who’s just throwing, who’s not landing clean, who almost got knocked out, you can’t be that incompetent. So what else could it be? Corruption. Nothing else. I’m sorry. I love this sport, it’s the greatest sport in the world. It was a great day, a great night back where you guys are. It was great for the fans out there to get it on free TV, brought back to free TV where boxing belongs. It was great! It was great theater. There’s no theater like boxing. Nothing. But the decision stunk.’
Jeff Horn pulled off the unthinkable and defeated a living legend of the sport when he won on points against Manny Pacquio down under in Brisbane over the weekend. There’s been a lot of commotion over the decision, very few have Horn winning the fight but was it really a ‘robbery’ as many are calling it?
Here’s my opinion of the fight, whilst I do not believe Horn won the fight, I can see why he got away with the decision.
Firstly, when the fight starts it immediately hits you that Horn is the aggressor. He was continuously walking forward and nothing Manny did threw him off his plan. Manny was constantly backtracking and being stalked by Horn, often ending up on the ropes. Judges will often score points for the aggressor and with Horn constantly coming forward, it may have influenced the judges scoring.
Horn started fast, Pacquio on the other hand, either he started slow or Horn prevented Pacquio from settling early by applying constant pressure. Either way, Horn gets the nod here for upsetting Pacquios rhythm.
I think people are underestimating how effective Horns tactics against Pacquio were. Horn knew he wouldn’t be able to outbox Pacquio, instead he used his bigger size to crowd Pacquio. Horn also fought dirty, there’s no denying that, Horn was punching and leading with the head, he was using his elbows, holding the pac-mans head and pulling him down any chance he got and also slipping in the odd cheeky shot to the back of the head. I’m not going to blame Horn for this, it was a smart move on his part – if he could get away with it, and he did. That’s the fault of the referee, it was a poor showing on the referee’s part, anyone who was watching that fight could see Horn was using these tactics and its a wonder the referee didn’t deduct points from Horn. If the referee is letting you get away with it then fair play to Horn for continuing to use those tactics. It’s nothing new really, Boxers can often slip in an elbow with the left hook or use one arm to push trying to make it look like a punch when it reality they are pushing you into another shot they are setting you up for. The use of the head was especially troublesome for Pacquio as it led to some nasty cuts on his head. Perhaps Pacquio should have responded in the same manner and fouled Horn, but it is not the way the Pac-Man fights and how effective it would have been coming from the smaller man is another matter, it’s possible had Pacquio used the same tactics as Horn, he would have worn himself down much quicker wrestling with his larger opponent.
Horns roughhousing put Manny off his game, he was clearly not anticipating Horn to present such a stiff challenge, but with Horn bundling forward and using ‘Dirty Boxing’ it made things very awkward for Pacquio. Fighting someone who is always coming forward and throwing punches is a very difficult job, it makes timing your shots that much more difficult and makes it harder to get your shots off, for someone like the Pac-Man who is more speed than power, when you have someone all over you, punching, pulling, holding, headbutting, its very difficult to settle into the fight as you are almost always fighting on the back foot. Speed guys like Pacquio need that room to free their arms and move their feet, it was not conducive to Manny’s style of fighting. Pacquio would have to have been well versed in the Filipino art of Dirty Boxing(Panantukan) to handled those sort of tactics.
The lead up to the fight had really been dominated by not if Pacquio would win, but when? With the majority expecting Pacquio to finish the fight within the first 6 rounds. Most gave Horn no chance, it was a mismatch, Horn has barely any experience, against predominantly low level competition whilst Pacquio is a current great of the sport who has battled the best his division has to offer and more often than not, come out on top. So when you look like you are struggling with someone you are expected to blast out within a few rounds, then you’re opponent is almost getting brownie points just for sticking around and outperforming expectations. And when the fight is taking place in your opponents backyard with over 50,000 of his fans, well again, its possible, rightly or wrongly, the judges have seen that and thought hang on a second, this guy is putting up a fight and making it difficult! The vision is narrowed and instead the Champion is almost penalised for not fighting as he was expected to – everyone loves a underdog especially when it involves a home town fighter and if it looks like it is a close fight, which it was, then beware the home town scorecards.
Add to this Pacquio was at times very reckless, many of his punches were wide and off the mark, missing by a fair distance. Was his timing off because he had split time as a Senator and training? Most probably, Boxing is a not a sport you can take shortcuts with, especially when you’re approaching the end of your career. But with this recklessness, it gives the judges the impression you’re finding the going tough and you’re resorting to throwing haymakers hoping a few will land, you’re out of ideas.
Round nine looked like the Pacquio of old, no pun intended because Pacquio showed he was old. Having battered Horn around the ring, so much so that the referee had warned Horn and his corner he was going to call the fight off if Horn didn’t show something in the following round, Manny Pacquio let Horn off the hook. Why? Was it because he wanted to finish Horn but just couldn’t summon up the energy to complete the job in Round 10? Pacquio allowed Horn to get back into the fight, and it was Horn who actually ended the fight the stronger of the two, as the bell signalled the end of the fight and Round 12 was over, it was again Horn who was the aggressor and Manny again on the ropes. Finishing the fight the stronger of the two again would have influenced the judges scoring and Horn would have got the nod. The Pacquio of old would have finished Horn off, mind you the Pacquio of old would never have let the fight get to Round nine, neither would he have allowed the fight to go to the scorecards against a fighter with Horns resume.
Horn was the ‘busier’ fighter for the majority of the bout, he was also the aggressor so whilst I do not agree with the decision, I can almost understand how he got the decision. Let’s face it too, there are judges who score fights rather strangely, each judge has their opinion, we all remember Pacquio being a victim previously too when he lost his first fight to Timothy Bradley and then there was CJ Ross who somehow awarded a draw when Floyd Mayweather Jnr schooled Canelo Alvarez.
I do agree however, with Teddy Atlas when he said Jeff Horn was given the decision for trying hard, not for actually winning the fight. Thats what it looked like to me. At the end of the day Boxing is hitting without getting hit, and its safe to say Pacquio won that on both counts, and by some distance too. Unless you’re including headbutts, elbows and rabbit punches, then Jeff Horn quite easily won the fight…..
For Pacquio though, he is still a good fighter but if he wants to continue in his role as a Senator, he has to call time on his Hall of Fame career, he cannot do both. Personally I hope he takes the rematch and then retires but only he knows the answer to that question. He has now lost 4 of his last 9 fights, whereas the previous losses prior to Horn were all to great opposition, the loss to Bradley was a bad decision and he has avenged the loss since, Marquez whom he has previously defeated is a future Hall of Famer and then to the best of our era, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, this loss to the unknown Jeff Horn is bound to hurt the most.
For Horn though, he has defeated a living legend, he has made $500k and has earned the right to fight for another big pay day or two, so good luck to him and his career. You can’t fault the man for believing in himself and pulling off the unthinkable, he deserves a lot of credit for what he did on 2nd July, whether or not he will ever again reach the same heights he displayed on the night, remains to be seen.