Expectations were not high heading into Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn, but the fight delivered in a huge way. Over 12 rounds, Horn gave a great performance, fighting the fight of his life, constantly putting pressure on Manny. He was hurt very badly in round 9 and seemed mere inches from being stopped, but he came back, refusing to quit and winning the 10th round. He showed pure heart in round 12, fighting to the final bell and looking for the KO.
But he shouldn’t have won this fight.
Yes, Horn performed very well. But Pacquiao remains a high level fighter. He used his movement and his counter-punching to avoid Horn’s punches, circle around him, and land nice stiff shots as Horn came in. Horn was the aggressor, but Pacquiao was the one landing the better punches. It was a close fight, but it’s tough to find 7 rounds to give to Horn, and certainly the 117-111 Horn card is really tough to justify. For what it’s worth, I had it 116-112 Pacquiao.
That said, I’m not as angry about this as I was about the Bradley victory over Pacquiao. Horn was pushing forward, and Manny was bloodied up - from headbutts yes, but unlike the Bradley fight, this time I can see why judges scored it the way they did, even if I don’t agree with it.
So, as seems to almost always be the case with boxing, we end up with a mixed bag and a roller-coaster of emotions. Pacquiao vs. Horn is announced and met with groans. Then they fight and it’s a really great fight that gets everyone excited and feeling good. Then the decision makes everyone throw up their hands in frustration. Boxing ladies and gentlemen. It’s a cruel, cruel sport to be a fan of.
On to Pacquiao vs. Horn 2.
Thoughts on the rest of the night:
- This was the launch of the big Top Rank/ESPN partnership and from a production standpoint, this left a bit to be desired. There were some good promo packages and production values and the arena looked great. But the commentary team was pretty rough, the pacing was slow (the gap before the main event was BRUTAL), and Stephen A. Smith was really, really terrible as an analyst. I get that he’s a personality, and a personality that ESPN fans like - but is it too much to ask that he gain some more familiarity with the fighters and try to give the appearance that he actually knows something about the fight? The next two Top Rank on ESPN shows are major, as they feature Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford - big names that are getting a great push with these shows. I hope the network can iron out some of the rough edges here, as I would love to see this endeavor be successful, and not be PBC v.2.
- That said, when all was said and done, the main event felt like an EVENT. Loud crowd, big arena, lots of pomp and circumstance - this felt like a big deal, and that was great to see on ESPN.
- That Ancajas/Kinoshita ending? That was something. Halfway through round 7, Jerwin Ancajas landed a gorgeous hook to the body, just perfectly placed that dropped Kinoshita like a gunshot. I was sure he was down and out, but at the count of 9, he dragged himself to his feet, blood pouring off his face from a cut suffered in round 2. Still, his eye was a complete mess, he was hurt, and the ref had seen enough and waved it off. That punch and the resilience to come back - that is boxing at its finest. Good fight overall that Ancajas controlled throughout in a solid performance, but it’s the finish alone that will stick with me.
- Next to Pacquiao, Ireland’s Michael Conlan was the biggest promoted fighter on this card, and he delivered. It took Conlan just a bit to trap Jarrett Owen, but he had little issues here. In round 3, he turned up the heat on his body attack, and as a visibly hurt Owen turned away, his corner wisely threw in the towel. Conlan is in a tricky position - he’s a super hyped prospect who Top Rank is clearly going to be pushing hard. But he’s also just 3 fights in to his pro career, so expecting him to be fighting guys much above Owen’s level is a bit unfair. There’s no question we’re going to be seeing more featured Conlan fights - the question is how long will Top Rank be able to hold back before they find a title shot or bigger opponent for him. And when they do, will he be ready? Tonight’s performance says he just might be.
- Shane Mosley, Jr. vs. David Toussaint kicked off the card. It was pretty clear that the narrative the commentary team had decided on before the fight is that Mosley is the superior fighter, but he just clearly wasn’t. A lazy jab, some poor footwork, and a general lack of quality output led to Mosley looking pretty unimpressive, dropping what I saw as a clear decision win, though one judge did give it to Mosley. Hats off to Toussaint, who took advantage of a good opportunity here, though this is probably not a fight you’re going to remember.
- This was Mosley’s first fight without his Dad cornering him. You could spin that as part of the reason he lost if you want, but I think the truth is much simpler - he’s just not at this level.