MANILA: Former boxing referee Carlos Padilla has admitted cheating to help fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao defeat Australian Nedal "Skinny" Hussein in a fight more than two decades ago.
Pacquiao was 21 and a rising star when he went 10 rounds against Hussein for the WBC International super-bantamweight title near the Philippine capital Manila in 2000.
But in a stunning confession, Padilla -- known for refereeing the "Thrilla in Manila" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 -- said he helped Pacquiao secure victory by "prolonging" the standard 10-count when the Filipino was knocked down and left dazed in the fourth round.
"I am a Filipino and everybody is Filipino watching the fight, so I prolong the count. I know how to do it," Padilla, who was recently inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, said in an interview posted on the World Boxing Council's YouTube page.
"When he get up I said to him 'hey are you okay?' -- and that's prolonging the fight," a smiling Padilla said.
Pacquiao later headbutted Hussein, leaving the Australian with a cut above his left eye.
But Padilla classified the head clash as a "punch". Pacquiao won by a technical knockout after the doctor stopped the fight due to Hussein's bleeding.
"I declare it a punch but it's (a headbutt)," Padilla said, which allowed the fight to continue.
"As a referee, that's the best way to do -- let the doctor stop the fight but they know that it's my fault."
Hussein, who was coached by Australian former world champion Jeff Fenech, said on Instagram that Padilla's admission was a "travesty and a true injustice".
"They should be held accountable for the sport we love," Hussein said in a post addressed to World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman.
Pacquiao did not immediately respond to AFP's requests for comment.
The 43-year-old multiple world champion retired last year from the sport to make a failed crack at the presidency of his country.
He has an exhibition fight against a South Korean YouTuber in December, which he has described as "my comeback to the ring". -- AFP