Nedal “Skinny” Hussein, the man robbed of victory by a corrupt referee in his fight with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, has spoken of the toll the loss took on him.
Filipino referee Carlos Padilla, now 88, has revealed just how he helped Pacquiao defeat Hussein in an extraordinary interview.
Padilla, famously the third man in the ring for the “Thrilla in Manila” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, admitted to giving Pacquiao longer than the permitted time to recover from a knockdown, ruling a headbutt from his countryman as a punch and encouraging the doctor to stop the fight early due to a cut on Hussein from the headbutt.
In 2000, a 21-year-old Pacquiao, who had won his first world title at flyweight two years prior, took on Hussein, 22, for the WBC international bantamweight title just outside Manila.
Speaking in an interview released by the World Boxing Council upon Padilla’s induction into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, the former official said he’d been warned of the significance of the bout for the rising Pacquiao.
“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,’” Padilla said.
“So, you know the opponent, Hussein, or whatever, he is a taller, younger, stronger and dirty fighter, managed by Jeff Fenech.
“So in the seventh round I think (it was the fourth round), Manny got knocked down.
“I thought he was going to get up, but his eyes were cross-eyed (laughs). I am Filipino, and everybody watching the fight is Filipino, so I prolonged the count. I know how to do it.
“When he got up, I told him, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ still prolonging the fight. ‘Are you okay? Okay, fight!’ and then Hussein- because Manny was not like Manny is now, he wasn’t trained by Freddie Roach yet, he holds on for his dear life, and the guy push him, and he went down again.
“I said to the opponent, ‘Hey, you don’t do this.’ You know, prolonging the fight. ‘You don’t do that. Okay, judges, [point] deduction.’”
Padilla said he then gave Pacquiao another leg up by ruling a headbutt, which ultimately caused the fight-ending cut, as a punch.
“[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 tell the judges, ‘Headbutt, headbutt, that’s a point deduction,’ but if you don’t do that, the fight continues, meaning it’s a good, clean punch.”
In the tenth round, Padilla called a stop to the action to allow the ringside physician to assess the cut on Hussein.
The referee said he had hinted to the doctor to the stop the bout: “The doctor, he already sensed what I meant, he climbed up [and I waved off the bout].”
It was the first loss in Hussein’s 20-fight professional career and something from which he says he never fully recovered.
“I know for a fact that it took the soul out of me,” Hussein told Sporting News.
“I hated the sport after. I’ve done it since I was nine years old, I didn’t know anything else, I loved the sport.
“After that I didn’t even tune in as much. I was gutted, I was gutted for a long time.
“I would never claim to have got to where Manny got to, I would never claim that I could beat the guys that Manny beat but I know my next fight would have been a title shot and it was a very winnable title shot.
“I was young, I was fresh, I was hungry and I was undefeated. At the time I didn’t think anyone could beat me at that weight division.”
Hussein would go on to unsuccessfully fight for two major world titles – the WBC super-bantamweight and WBO featherweight belts – before retiring with 43-5 record.
The Sydneysider said he and his team suspected something was fishy from early on in proceedings.
“When we got into the ring, before we touched gloves, Jeff realised that Manny had different gloves on than what we had,” Hussein recalled.
“Padilla just brushed it off, he said you’re both gloved up, you’re both laced up, it’s not going to happen. It was obvious from the get-go that we were behind the eight-ball.”
The Australian knocked Pacquiao down with a stiff jab in the fourth round.
Hussein said he wasn’t given the chance to end the bout there and then.
“When [Pacquiao] held me and tied me up and I palmed him off me and [Padilla] pulled me away and took a point off me, then I knew he was trying to buy time,” Hussein said.
“I knew that he was trying to give Manny some recovery time.
“I pleaded with him from the get-go that the cut wasn’t caused from a punch, I told him he wasn’t giving me a fair shake.”
Despite Hussein’s protests, Pacquiao was awarded a tenth-round TKO victory.
It’s a night that has burned Hussein for many years and says he was shocked to see Padilla talking about it so flippantly.
“I was ropeable. Just the nerve and the way he carried on, there was no shame, no guilt, no remorse for what he’s done,” he said.
“People do the wrong thing but they have an element of guilt in their heart and they usually don’t talk about it.
“This bloke was running his mouth blatantly like it’s a proud moment in his career.”
Hussein said, in light of Padilla’s admission, a friend and criminal lawyer was going to make contact with WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman on his behalf.
Sulaiman and the WBC recently retroactively awarded Fenech a fourth world title for his infamous first bout with Azumah Nelson in 1991.