By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Jeff Horn and his handlers definitely wanted a rematch with Manny Pacquiao.
They felt they could defeat Pacquiao more convincingly in a second fight, even by knockout. They also sought to disprove detractors that consider the Filipino southpaw the real winner of their 12-round welterweight title fight 11 months ago.
Horn and Glenn Rushton, his trainer/manager, also weren’t surprised Pacquiao didn’t want to redeem himself in an immediate rematch.
After Horn battered and bloodied the older, smaller Pacquiao, they figured the 39-year-old former champion would head in a different direction.
“Personally, I looked at it like this – we wanted the rematch, desperately wanted the rematch,” Rushton said during a conference call this week. “The reason being is I wanted Jeff to be the only person to beat Manny Pacquiao twice. And I knew he would beat him. He has grown immeasurably since that first fight, both in belief and physical condition. And I knew that Jeff would win that fight, and most likely stop Pacquiao, and certainly stop all the people complaining about a bad decision. So, you know, on the other hand, I felt for Manny Pacquiao. He is a legend.
“If I was advising Manny Pacquiao, I’d have said, ‘Do not fight Jeff Horn again. You cannot beat him the second time. He’ll be bigger, stronger, better, he’s younger. You can’t beat him.’ So yes, we wanted the fight desperately for Jeff’s career. But for the love of the sport, the love of a legend, I thought that Manny Pacquiao would be foolish to take the fight. Obviously, at the end of the day, his advisers felt the same way and said, ‘No, don’t fight Jeff Horn.’ ”
Australia’s Horn (18-0-1, 12 KOs) will make the second defense of the WBO welterweight title he won from Pacquiao on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena (ESPN+). He’ll meet mandatory challenger Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) in what should be a more difficult fight for Horn than his upset of Pacquiao on July 2.
Pacquiao nearly knocked out Horn in the ninth round of their bout at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, Horn’s hometown. Horn recovered, finished their fight strong and won what was generally regarded as a controversial unanimous decision by beating Pacquiao on all three scorecards (117-111, 115-113, 115-113).
The physical nature of their brutal battle left Pacquiao with two nasty cuts, each opened by what were ruled accidental clashes of heads.
The first accidental clash of heads sliced open Pacquiao’s skin near his hair line in the sixth round. In the following round, another accidental head-butt cut Pacquiao over his left eye.
“I felt like it was a tough first fight and I did feel like I grew a lot from that,” Horn said. “And I think Pacquiao and his people around him probably thought the same way – even though they don’t think that they lost the decision, that they thought about the fight. We’ve had plenty of people watch it back again and take out the commentary and they can see that I’ve won the fight, won a majority of the rounds.
“So there’s no complaints there, and I think I’d do even better the second time against him. And I think he knows that as well, because I am the bigger, stronger guy, and I’ve got the skills as well, which I showed in there against him, to upset his style. And I don’t think he wants to fight that type of fight again.”
Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter and Horn’s co-promoter, isn’t certain of the real reason Pacquiao wouldn’t fight Horn again. Pacquiao’s limited availability due to the demanding schedule of his full-time job as a senator in the Philippines appeared to be at least part of why a rematch against Horn didn’t happen late last year.
Thereafter, all Arum knows is that he couldn’t convince the future Hall-of-Fame fighter to face Horn a second time.
“Well, for whatever reason, he didn’t want the fight again,” Arum said. “I can’t speculate at the reason. Glenn has said what he believes the reason is. Jeff’s said the same thing. Maybe it was the reason. Maybe it was something else. But I couldn’t get him to commit to a rematch [with] Jeff Horn. Simple as that.”
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) will fight for the first time since losing to Horn on July 14. That’s when he’ll challenge Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs, 1 NC) for the WBA world welterweight title in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.