BRISBANE, Australia: Manny Pacquiao’s camp Sunday slammed the officials after the Filipino great lost his World Boxing Organization welterweight title in a controversial unanimous decision to Australia’s Jeff Horn on Sunday.
“The referee was sketchy, the judges were crazy,” fumed Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who is a former Australian heavyweight champion.
“Manny lost the fight, but Jeff Horn looks like a pumpkin,” Fortune added, referring to Horn who finished the fight with a badly swollen face and needing stitches over his right eye.
The three judges scored the fight 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113 to Horn.
“Those scores, that card? It should be the other way around,” said Fortune.
The result caused dismay on social media among boxing and sporting greats.
“This is what’s wrong with boxing,” tweeted former undisputed world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
“Horn was very game but I’m hard pressed to see how he could have won that fight by any stretch!”
American football quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers was equally forthright.
“Boxing is a joke, and it proves it again tonight. Are you kidding me with those scorecards? #joke #rigged,” Rodgers said on Twitter.
Baseball and NFL legend Deion Sanders said: “@mannypacquiao was robbed! I’m really upset right now. Really. This is ignorant. God bless u Manny and all u do for your country. #Truth.”
The fight statistics seemed to back the belief that Pacquiao had done more than enough to win.
Broadcaster ESPN said that Pacquiao had landed 182 punches to 82 from the challenger over the 12 rounds in front of more than 51,000 fans in Horn’s home town of Brisbane.
Fortune, who once fought against Lewis and has been with Pacquiao since 2002, said Horn had been allowed to get away with a host of illegal tactics as he brawled his way to victory.
“That’s what you get down here,” he said of the tactics. “You’d never get away with that anywhere else in the world. You’d be penalized points.
“I don’t have a problem with dirty fighting and that’s what it was, a fight. You do what you have to win.”
Two of the judges, Waleska Roldan and Chris Flores, were from the United States while the third, Ramon Cerdan, was from Argentina. The referee, Mark Nelson, was also from the US.
Pacquiao did not speak to media at the Suncorp Stadium after the fight but said on Philippines television: “We thought that we won this fight.”
“I don’t think he lost. He was cheated! He still came out a strong fighter,” construction worker Rudy Merano, 30, said in a public square of Manila’s Marikina suburb.
The 38-year-old said he would welcome a rematch against the Australian former schoolteacher.
“Well, it depends, there is no problem with me if there’s a rematch,” Pacquiao said. “It would be better if the rematch would be held in the Philippines.
“To the Filipino nation, thank you for the love and support that you showed me.”
Millions of boxing fans in the Philippines, including those displaced by fighting with Islamist militants, walked away in stunned disbelief as Pacquiao lost his world title.
Residents of a war-torn southern city had hoped for a respite by watching the 12-round fight in displacement camps but their idol’s defeat silenced cheers and prompted many to stand up even before the announcement was over.
“It pains our hearts so much. Pacquiao lost and we are thinking about our burned houses. We hoped we could somehow get joy and help,” displaced resident Moktar Sunggod, 42, said AFP after watching the fight in an evacuation center near war-ravaged Marawi city.
Islamist militants who went on a rampage in Marawi on May 23 have triggered weeks of intense fighting with the country’s military that has killed more than 400 people and forced nearly 400,000 people to flee their homes.
The outcome of the fight added to the misery of Marawi residents but authorities drew parallels between Pacquiao’s loss and people’s struggle to recover from the conflict.
“Our morale is at its lowest but Pacquiao remains a symbol of resilience. In the same way that he is already a boxing icon, this crisis does not define who we are,” provincial government spokesman Zia Alonto Adiong said.
In Manila, soldiers wounded from the clashes in Marawi watched a bloodied Pacquiao from screens set up in a military hospital.
“Pacquiao lost, but a battle is really like that. He is a true soldier because even if he is wounded he keeps attacking the opponent,” armed forces chief General Eduardo Ano told reporters.
Pacquiao, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, received praise from the presidential palace.
“Nothing will change: Senator Manny Pacquiao will remain our people’s champ, national fist, and treasure,” said Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella.