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Vegas ref for Manny rematch?

MANILA, Philippines -  Veteran WBA-licensed boxing referee/judge Silvestre Abainza said yesterday Manny Pacquiao will beat Jeff Horn decisively in their planned rematch if it’s officiated according to the rules without tolerating the Australian’s illegal roughhousing tactics. The rematch is under negotiation at the moment.

Abainza, 64, has worked nearly 100 world title fights as referee or judge and is highly respected in boxing circles. He said American referee Mark Nelson coddled Horn in the Pacquiao fight in Brisbane last July and did the sport a disservice by allowing the hometown fighter to get away with breaking the rules. 

The speculation is Nelson’s shoddy performance has tainted his reputation. According to Abainza, Nelson was supposed to work the WBA superbantamweight title fight between defending champion Shun Kubo and Los Angeles challenger Danny Roman in Kyoto this Sunday but his appointment was recently withdrawn. Nelson was replaced by Pinit Prayadsab of Thailand. Abainza will be a judge in the fight with Jean Toupin of France and Hernando Steidel of Puerto Rico.

   “Manny was butted twice in the head by Horn and Nelson didn’t do anything about it,” said Abainza. “He could’ve let the first butt go with a warning. But the second butt opened a deep wound on Manny’s scalp just like the first. I think that was intentional. Horn should’ve been given a two-point deduction for the second butt. Horn should’ve also been given a strong warning for holding and elbowing and a deduction if he persisted.”

Despite Horn’s tactics, Pacquiao would’ve retained the WBO welterweight crown on a majority draw if he had won the 12th and last round. If there were point deductions, the outcome would’ve have been different. As it turned out, Horn dethroned Pacquiao via a unanimous decision.

“I don’t blame the judges,” said Abainza. “They scored it as they saw it. Manny couldn’t fight his fight. I was surprised that (WBO president) Paco Valcarcel, who was the ringside supervisor, didn’t call out Nelson during the fight to tell him to do his job properly. The WBO should’ve protected Manny as a long-time champion and one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters. Instead, they protected the challenger.”

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