Pacquiao, the 11-time world champion from the Philippines, entered the fight at Suncorp Stadium as a hot favourite but got more than he bargained for against the 29-year-old former schoolteacher. Still, Pacquiao dominated the later rounds and had Horn wobbling at the end of the ninth.
“I felt buzzed for sure, but I’m the Hornet – I’ve got to come back,” Horn said of that round. “I’m not a quitter. Australians aren’t quitters to start with. We’ve showed we’re winners.
“It was the battle of Brisbane, that’s for sure. Absolutely unbelievable. So pumped.”
A spokesman for Pacquiao said he was dealing with head cuts and wouldn’t be able to attend a post-fight news conference.
Top Rank promotor Bob Arum said the result was a close call after some close rounds late in the bout as both fighters looked for a decisive blow.
“It was a close fight, it could have gone either way,” said Arum. “A couple of close rounds, but you can’t argue with the result.”
“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.”
Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach predicted the fight would be short and sweet but Horn – unbeaten in his 17 previous professional fights – applied pressure by winning some of the early rounds and Pacquiao needed treatment during the sixth and seventh rounds for a cut on the top of his head that resulted from a clash of heads.
The judges scored the fight 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113.
Roach had said earlier in the week that he’d think about advising Pacquiao to retire if he lost the fight, but that would depend on how he fought. Horn, though, can’t see Pacquiao retiring any time soon.
“I’m sure he’ll want to come back. It was a close decision and I’m sure he’ll want to come back and prove himself,” Horn said.
Arum said there was a clause for a rematch, but he’d give it time before talking to Pacquiao about it.
“I know Jeff would welcome the rematch, but I don’t know Manny’s future position,” Arum said. “Is he going to stay in politics and not continue in boxing? I don’t know, and he doesn’t know now – it’s unfair to ask him now.”
Pacquiao’s camp had talked about a rematch with Mayweather if he got past Horn, hoping to avenge his loss on points in the 2015 mega fight. That seems to be a distant chance now.
Pacquiao, who entered the fight with a record of 59-6-2, 38 knockouts, was defending the WBO title he won against Jessie Vargas last November.
In Marawi city in the southern Philippines, more than 500 displaced villagers at a government hall, along with troops and police, yelled Pacquiao’s name as they watched the bout live on a wide screen.
Local officials organised the free public viewing to give the displaced residents a respite from the disastrous siege by Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group who took over several villages in the city last month.