When Jeff Horn was announced as the upset winner in a decision of his fight against Manny Pacquiao, the only people who were happier than those who bet on the long shot, were ESPN executives. The contest was the highest rated for the cable television network since Danell Nicholson vs. Darren Hayden on Dec. 21, 1995.

Jeff Horn
Jeff Horn is jubilant after upsetting Manny Pacquiao, Saturday in a WBO Welterweight Title Fight that brought ESPN record television ratings. (Image: Dan Peled / European Pressphoto Agency)

It garnered a 1.6 metered market rating, according to Nielsen, and a 2.4 overnight mark. The highest US city watching was Las Vegas, which had a 4.0 metered market rating, including a 5.1 during the main event.

It averaged a total live audience (television and streaming) of 3.1 million viewers across the ESPN and ESPN Deportes networks, according to Nielsen. The main event came on at midnight on the East Coast and didn’t end until an hour later.

The competition also fared well against a series of previous HBO telecasts. It topped Vitali Klitschko vs. Chris Arreola in 2009, Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe in 2008, and Oscar De La Hoya vs. Steve Forbes in 2008. Viewers welcomed being able to see the event for free, instead of shelling out anywhere from $75 to $100 for a pay per view competition, such as the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor contest.

Long Shot Wagers Pay Off

The challenger, who only had 17 professional matches coming into the WBO welterweight title fight, was given little chance of upsetting the champion. The sportsbooks didn’t believe a former schoolteacher could defeat an 11-time world title holder.

He entered the fight at plus-475, while Pacquiao was a minus-650 favorite. Many thought he was outmatched against the 38-year-old Filipino. The judges didn’t think so, with one scoring it 117-111 and the other two at 115-113.

Those who picked the Aussie weren’t complaining. Not only did many reap the rewards of the outcome, they benefitted from a lucrative prop bet. Those taking him winning by a decision got plus-850 odds.

The fight nearly ended for Horn in the ninth round, when Pac Man had “The Hornet” on the ropes and in trouble. He couldn’t finish off the challenger, though, and many said it cost him his title.

“A couple of close rounds, but you can’t argue with the result,” boxing promoter, Bob Arum said after the fight. “I scored a lot of the early rounds for Jeff. Then I had Manny coming back in the middle. The 12th round, Jeff really won. If you give Manny the 11th, you have it a draw. You give Jeff the 11th, it’s 7-5.”

Controversial Conclusion

Many pundits and observers believed the decision was a farce. The comments on social media regarding the outcome were brutal.

The new champion, however, believes the criticism isn’t justified. In a post-fight press conference, he feels like he earned the victory.

“There will always be a backlash where people say I got lucky, or whatever,” he said. “There will always be the naysayers saying I didn’t win the fight, but I felt like I won the fight.”

Despite losing, Pacquiao received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his homeland on Monday. A military guard of honor welcomed him and fans cheered his arrival to Manila. He also didn’t rule out a rematch.