Following Jeff Horn's controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao to win a welterweight world title in front of 60,000 fans in Australia on July 1, ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas thought Pacquiao was robbed. Atlas even told Horn during a post-fight interview that he though he lost the fight and that Pacquiao threw the cleaner punches.
Judge Waleska Roldan's scorecard was a controversial 117-111 in favor of Horn. Judges Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan scored the fight closer, 115-113, also for Horn. After a review and re-score of the fight ordered by the WBO, the organization that sanctioned the fight, the result was the same: Five independent judges gave Horn seven of the 12 rounds.
That didn't satisfy many who thought Pacquiao had won the fight, including Atlas.
"I get the idea and the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion," Atlas told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "What I have a problem with is when that opinion is supposed to be controlled and bordered by hard criteria. In other words, when you have a job, that job usually dictates adherence to rules. And it especially concerns me when that job influences people's lives, such as judging a professional boxing match."
Atlas' explanation for the way he saw the fight is simple: Just look at the numbers.
"There are many examples of different opinions in this sport/profession with the latest being the Pacquiao-Horn fight," Atlas said. "For the sake of time and space, let's just say in simple terms I thought one guy was throwing a lot and another was landing a lot more cleanly. And if sticking to the criteria of scoring a boxing match, that would mandate that you score in favor of the person landing more cleanly."
Still, Atlas understands than in boxing sometimes being the busier fighter is good enough to score points in the eye of the fans. But judges, he said, should do better.
"Judges who have the responsibility of a fighter's career in their charge are supposed to be better than that," Atlas said. "We should be better than that. And I would hope against hope that when it came to an explanation or settlement of how we saw that fight or any other one -- that as people with some capacity if not responsibility to think for ourselves, would not be satisfied by representatives of the WBO, the very organization that scored this controversial bout -- when they tell us, 'Don't worry. We've re-scored it and once again we have come up with the same conclusion.' "
While Horn feels that the WBO re-scoring of the fight confirms what he already knew -- that he won the fight fair and square -- Atlas still thinks Horn got the benefit of the doubt.
Atlas says he could understand why some people think that Horn was "roughing up" Pacquiao. Atlas even understands the natural human instinct or reaction to give 'extra' credit whether consciously or subconsciously to the guy who, before the fight, was not expected to have a chance.
"As understandable as all of these things are, none, and I mean none of them belong anywhere near the mind of a professional arbiter of a prize fight," Atlas said. "And as far as the argument of some who says 'Well, Horn may have lost but it was close,' does that in some way lessen the correct outcome? Does it make it less of a Super Bowl win for the New England Patriots if they triumph by one point rather then 10? Would it therefore be OK if somehow the referee scored one of the touchdowns for the Patriots as five points instead of six causing the other team to win? I understand the subjective nature of looking at a sporting event. What bothers and scares me is when people start to say, 'Well it was close and after all, I've seen worse decisions in boxing.'
"Perhaps that old-time character I knew through my life who once told a kid I knew that no matter what you get caught doing, never ever admit to it, was right. Sooner or later, at least some of the people who saw you do whatever you did will start to doubt what they saw. I never agreed with what he told that kid, but I do wonder at times like this about just how many other people he may have given that same advice to."