Jeff Horn shocks Manny Pacquiao to capture welterweight title

6:15 AM ET

Manny Pacquiao was the heavy favorite to retain his welterweight world title against unknown Jeff Horn in what most viewed as an easy fight, and Pacquiao sure looked like he had done just that when the final bell rang to end the action-packed brawl.

Pacquiao had rocked Horn, bloodied him and nearly stopped him in a violently one-sided ninth round. But then the judges’ scorecards were read, and Pacquiao was the victim of a hugely controversial decision, as Horn was awarded a stunning unanimous decision — a hometown decision, many will call it — before 51,052 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday night (Sunday morning in Australia).

Judge Waleska Roldan had it 117-111, and judges Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan both had it 115-113 for Horn. scored the fight 117-111 for Pacquiao, and ESPN ringside analyst Teddy Atlas had it 116-111 for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, the Filipino legend and boxing’s only eight-division world champion, has been here before, losing a split decision and a welterweight world title to Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2012 in one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history. Like he was after that loss — which he avenged twice — Pacquiao was gracious after his bout with Horn.

“That’s the decision of the judges. I respect that,” Pacquiao said.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer, also took the high road.

“I have to go along with Manny and say I respect the decision of the judges,” Roach said. “Well, two of the judges [who had it 115-113]. I did think Manny won, but Jeff Horn showed a lot of heart. He is a big, strong fighter, and I congratulate him.”

Pacquiao holds the contractual right to a rematch, and he said he would exercise it.

“Absolutely, yes,” Pacquiao said of fighting Horn again in Australia. “We have a rematch clause, so no problem.”

The fight, which aired live on ESPN, was Pacquiao’s first non-pay-per-view fight since 2005 and supposed to be a showcase. That Horn was still standing at the end of the rough, tough fight was a surprise, but Pacquiao looked to be the clear winner — until his belt was handed to Horn, a 29-year-old former Olympian and former school teacher with a very thin ring résumé.