Boxing in an opponent’s home country is always tough. But one of Manny Pacquiao’s former opponents found out this week just how difficult a referee made things for him when he travelled to Manila to take on the Filipino star in 2000.

The referee on that occasion was Carlos Padilla Jr. He celebrated his 88th birthday earlier this year and decided to come clean about his role in helping Pacquiao become a boxing world champion in an interview with the WBC’s official YouTube channel.

Padilla Jr outlined how he was handpicked to referee the fight and detailed the ways in which he was able to help Pacquiao to beat Nedal Hussein,

“That fight, I’m about to go and leave the following day, and they told me, ‘Carlos, please this is an important fight for Manny Pacquiao because the winner will have the chance to fight for the world championship’, he recalled.

Way to win

Padilla Jr felt his job was not just to officiate the fight fairly but to ensure that Pacquiao won,

“So, you know the opponent, Hussein, or whatever his name was. He is taller, younger, stronger, and (a) dirty fighter managed by Jeff Fenech. So in the seventh round, I think, Manny got knocked down, I thought he was going to get up, but his eyes were cross-eyed.”

It would have been the third defeat of Pacquiao’s career. But Padilla Jr decided he was going to ensure that the Filipino found a way to win,

“I am Filipino and everybody watching the fight is Filipino so I prolonged the count. I know how to do it.”

Given that Pacquiao had lost fights before it is debatable whether a loss would have completely derailed his career. But it would certainly have been damaging and might well have cost him the opportunity to ever train with Freddie Roach in Los Angeles or compete in the US.

Sliding doors

The following year Pacquiao was given a last minute opportunity to challenge Lehlohonolo Ledwaba for the IBF super bantamweight title. He went on to win by stoppage and it was arguably the first step on his journey from becoming a successful regional level boxer to establishing himself as a global star.

A year later Hussein would go on to become the WBU super bantamweight champion for whatever that is worth. The Australian did eventually get a shot at a major title in 2004 but dropped a decision to Oscar Larios in Las Vegas with the WBC super bantamweight belt on the line.

That event was headlined by a WBC super featherweight title fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, two men who are both famous for their fights with Pacquiao. It is impossible to know just how much of a ‘sliding doors’ moment that 2000 fight was for either men but it is possible the Filipino would never have made the breakthrough without a little refereeing help along the way.