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Manny Pacquiao appears to have reached the end of the line.
Oh, Jeff Horn fought gamely and bravely and made their WBO welterweight title fight before a massive crowd in Brisbane, Australia, more competitive and more entertaining than anyone believed going in.
Horn won a slightly controversial decision – not the all-time robbery that ESPN broadcasters tried to frame it as – to lift the title from the Filipino superstar.
Judges Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan scored it 115-113 each, while Waleska Roland had it 117-111 for Horn. Yahoo Sports scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao.
While Horn vastly exceeded expectations, Pacquiao’s performance was decidedly underwhelming, particularly when considering he fought an opponent who had never met an elite world-class fighter anywhere near his prime.
The speed and the power that made the 38-year-old Pacquiao a global superstar beginning late in the previous decade are long gone. On Saturday (Sunday afternoon in Australia), Pacquiao largely threw one-punch combinations.
Horn swarmed him and was awkward, but left plenty of openings that Pacquiao couldn’t take advantage of. That’s the sign of an older fighter who can see the openings but isn’t able to pull the trigger like he once could.
Though the statistics overwhelming favored Pacquiao – he landed 182 of 573 punches, compared to just 92 of 625 for Horn – he was forced to resort to excuses at the end. He said he was bothered by the blood that poured from a cut on top of his head that was the result of an accidental head butt, and he also said he was ill.
Asked if age had caught up to him, Pacquiao made an excuse.
“I’m OK. I’m OK,” he said. “I don’t want to complain, but when I arrived here, I caught a cold.”
He also said the cut was a factor on his head.
“It affected me a lot,” Pacquiao said. “There was a lot of blood coming out of my head.”
He blamed a cut for his loss to Erik Morales in the first fight of their trilogy, back in 2005. All the experience he gained fighting the greatest fighters in the world in the next dozen years apparently didn’t prepare him to deal with that.
Getting cut is something fighters know they may have to deal with, and they do it night after night. Horn himself was cut, and referee Mark Nelson actually went to his corner after a strong Pacquiao ninth and said to him, “I’m here to protect you. If you don’t show me something in this next round, I’m going to stop it.”
Horn did what a professional does, and he dealt with the cuts and dealt with the punches that landed and came out strong in the 10th.
Horn had gotten little respect going into the fight, particularly outside of his native Australia, and was better than a 6-1 underdog. He exuded confidence from the moment the bout was signed, and while he didn’t look like he’d be a threat to any of the truly elite welterweights, he fought hard and never gave in.
“I felt fine in the corner [after the ninth] and I wanted to keep going,” Horn said. “I wasn’t really hurt. I was a little buzzed when he caught me with that one shot, but I wasn’t hurt too badly.”
There is a rematch clause and Pacquiao, who fought on ESPN and off of pay-per-view for the first time in 12 years, said he would exercise it.
But in the coming days, he might want to reconsider that decision. He hasn’t had a knockout since 2009, and he’s increasingly relied on one shot to win his fights. He doesn’t punch in the kind of volume he did when he was rolling through guys like Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.
He’s had a wonderful career, is on the fast track to the International Boxing Hall of Fame and can’t do anything more to add to his legacy in the ring. All he can do by continuing to box is get hurt.
Sure, he may beat Horn in a rematch, but at the end of the day, that won’t mean much.
He’s a prideful man who undoubtedly doesn’t want to go out on a defeat, but boxing is a harsh mistress and it’s the wise man who knows when to say when.