Skinny Hussein, now more than ever, wants those eight seconds back.
Wants his soul returned, too.
“Because that’s what was taken,” says the man who for 22 years has lived with one of the greatest rorts in Australian boxing history.
A Sydney gym owner who way back in 2000 – back when he was 22, undefeated and our undeniable Next Big Thing — went and kayoed no less than Manny Pacquiao.
Not that his record says as much.
No, a quick look through the history books will suggest Nedal ‘Skinny’ Hussein never even beat the Filipino phenom who has since amassed 12 world titles, $220 million and acclaim globally as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
Yet make no mistake, Skinny kayoed the king.
With grainy replays confirming that, over 20 years ago, during a WBC International super bantamweight title headliner in the Philippines, Pacquiao was not simply dropped in the fourth round – and by a beautiful Hussein jab, no less – but then stayed down, stunned, as referee Carlos Padilla slowly began the standard count to 10.
Only this one, it reached around 18 seconds before a young Pac Man found his feet.
But prove the long count deliberate?
Or even criminal?
Yeah, good luck.
Which is why for more than two decades this is where one of our country’s greatest sporting robberies has stayed.
Trapped inside grainy footage.
A national travesty long gone, and largely forgotten, for all but that man for whom said count changed everything.
Yet sometime last Saturday, the story changed again.
And unthinkably, so.
With Padilla, in a new interview that almost defies belief, confirming how, yes, he did deliberately cheat Hussein, change history, all of it, by not only gifting the longest of counts to Pacquaio, but making other moves to hinder his underdog, Australian rival.
Worse, the referee even laughs about looking down at his countryman so badly rocked, he was “cross-eyed”.
“(But) I am Filipino, and everybody watching the fight is Filipino,” Padilla said down the camera lens. “So I prolonged the count. I know how to do it.”
Grinned when saying that, too.
Same as the renowned fight official – and a man who oversaw no less than the Thrilla in Manilla – would go on to reveal how he also should’ve deducted a point from Pacquiao for a headbutt.
“But I declared it a punch,” he shrugged.
Which again, matters more than a little considering it was that same headbutt which cut Hussein badly enough to see the fight eventually waved off after 10, with the Australian trailing on all three scorecards after also being deducted a point himself.
So as for how Hussein felt this week when his brother stumbled across the offending video online and, within seconds, sent it to him?
Initially, the old fighter pauses for almost as long as that Padilla count — struggling to find the words.
“You know what,” he starts, “I, umm … aaah … mate, I’m just shocked he said it.
“And said it with such arrogance.
“Because the truth about that night?
“I’ve never been the same since.
“That guy, he took everything from me.
“He took my soul.”
Which is why Hussein’s lawyer Adam Houda is now considering legal action against the WBC.
What can be achieved?
Nobody is sure.
However, Houda has already fired off correspondence to organisation president Mauricio Sulaimán, demanding a response to Padilla’s staggering claims.
Comments made not only on the official WBC channel either, but during an interview to welcome Padilla into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
Asked his recollections of the fight, the referee not only admitted to a long count, but suggested he had been urged to do so by those desperate to see the young Pacquiao triumph on home soil.
“I’m about to go and leave the following day (for the fight), 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,’” Padilla recounted.
“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 (when) Manny got knocked down, I thought he was going to get up, but his eyes were cross-eyed. I am Filipino, and everybody watching the fight is Filipino, so I prolonged the count. I know how to do it.”
But still, there was more.
“When (Pacquiao) got up, I told him, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ Still prolonging the fight. ‘Are you okay? Okay, fight!’,” Padilla continued.
“And then Hussein … because Manny was not like Manny is now, he wasn’t trained by Freddie Roach yet, he holds on for dear life.
“And the guy throws him, and he went down again. I said to the opponent, ‘Hey, you don’t do this.’ You know, I was prolonging the fight. ‘You don’t do that. Okay, judges, [point] deduction.’”
Padilla also spoke about the Pacquiao headbutt on Hussein.
“Because he (Pacquiao) is shorter, he headbutted the other guy, and there is a cut, but I declared it a punch,” Padilla said.
“If there is a headbutt, you have to stop the fight and declare to the judges a point deduction. But I didn’t do that, meaning the fight could continue.”
In 22 years since, Hussein has never watched the fight back in full.
“But I don’t need to,” he shrugs.
“I remember everything.
“After that fight, I was never the same.
“Yes, I fought on.
“It was my job.
“But the passion was gone.
“I didn’t want to travel for fights anymore.
“I fought in England, Scotland, America … but I was also saying to Jeff Fenech ‘mate, I’d rather fight in Bankstown’.
“I didn’t want to go.
“Every fighter lives for that moment they get to fight in Las Vegas. But I never wanted to go there, either.
“That fight against Pacquiao, it gutted me.
“That’s why these days at my boxing gym, I don’t want to train professionals. I have four amateur guys but that’s it.”
Hussein added that even though he and his team were “treated like s…” in the build up to the Philippines showdown, he still believed inside the ring he would be given “a fair shake”.
“On fight day, it took two hours to drive to the venue,” the Aussie recalls. “That’s how far away they made us stay.
“And this was after having a marching band play right outside our hotel at 2am.
“Then on fight night, they threw bottles at me.
“But I never complained.
“All I ever wanted was a fair go inside that ring.”
Which, we now know, criminally, never happened.
“And I want the WBC to acknowledge that,” Hussein says.
“I want them to acknowledge they’re at fault.
“Because this has nothing to do with Manny Pacquiao.
“We’ve met up a couple of times since and I’ve never once mentioned it to him.
“It’s not his fault.
“He was in that ring fighting for his life.”
So as for what happens to Hussein had Padilla done his job?
Undoubtedly, there were huge fights coming.
That, and massive cash.
But given the build-up of marching bands, hurled bottles and threats, what happens immediately after kayoing the king?
“Ah, who knows?” Hussein shrugs. “But honestly?
“Maybe I win and never walk out of there.”
Originally published as ‘He took my soul’: Ref admits to robbing Aussie Skinny Hussein of title against Manny Pacquiao
Story Credit: news.com.au