Prime 12 All-Time Most Controversial Fights


No sport has courted as a lot scandal and public outrage as boxing. From dives and glued fights, to outrageous selections, to not point out the shady stuff behind closed doorways with crooked promoters and our so-called sanctioning organizations, the combat recreation has all the time been fertile floor for double-dealing and corruption. Controversial outcomes are simply an intrinsic a part of an enterprise sportswriter Jimmy Cannon famously known as “the red-light district of sports activities.”

Gangster Frankie Carbo: a part of boxing’s controversial previous.

For the needs of this listing we’re placing apart outside-the-ring scandals, failed drug exams, ring deaths, or dangerous selections (the latter being a large listing all by itself), and as an alternative specializing in the questionable outcomes which impressed shock, outrage and vociferous arguments. These are the contests which had been something however satisfying or conclusive, with the ensuing scandal and hypothesis profoundly affecting each the careers of their contributors in addition to pugilism itself, and drawing the improper type of consideration from the general public at massive. Test ’em out:

12. Lulu Perez TKO2 Willie Pep, Feb. 26 1954: Former champ and acknowledged all-time nice Pep confronted Perez in Madison Sq. Backyard and anybody paying shut consideration knew one thing was deeply awry. On the day of the match the wagering odds modified dramatically, with some bookies abruptly refusing to take bets. Clearly the phrase was out that one thing was rotten on the Backyard.

Stinking out the Backyard: Pep on the canvas in spherical two.

Acknowledged defensive genius Pep was then decked thrice in spherical two, forcing an computerized stoppage, and the sector was full of boos and catcalls. The previous champion was instantly suspended by the state athletic fee and all however essentially the most naive realized the repair needed to be in. Whereas Pep endlessly insisted he by no means threw the combat, his 1980 libel go well with in opposition to a journalist who strongly implied in any other case was rejected by the jury after simply fifteen minutes of deliberation.

11. Advert Wolgast KO13 Joe Rivers, July 4 1912: Wolgast, aka “The Michigan Wildcat,” was defending his world light-weight title in Vernon, California in opposition to the tenacious Rivers and it was a crowd-pleasing, action-packed battle till spherical 13 when the 2 combatants landed heavy, hurtful pictures at exactly the identical time. The fighters collapsed in a heap and referee Jack Welsh commenced counting.

controversial fights

Injustice in Vernon: Wolgast (left) and Rivers do battle as referee Welsh seems on.

Then, in an motion thought to be inexplicable by all in attendance, Welsh truly helped a dazed Wolgast to his ft as he completed the depend earlier than elevating the champion’s hand, fully ignoring the truth that Rivers was the one who had been felled by a vicious blow to the crown jewels. Welsh briefly argued his case earlier than properly making a hasty exit because the dismayed crowd threatened a full-scale riot. In his dressing room, a distraught Rivers confirmed reporters a large dent in his aluminum protector cup, however to no avail as Wolgast, who was famend for aiming blows at his opponents’ nether areas, remained the light-weight champion of the world.

10. Billy Fox TKO4 Jake LaMotta, Nov. 14 1947: The controversy for this match truly started effectively earlier than both Fox or LaMotta had set foot in Madison Sq. Backyard. The phrase was out prematurely that one thing lower than kosher was within the works, the erratic betting odds reflecting this notion. The chatter grew to become so loud that previous to fight-time the present chair of the New York State Athletic Fee twice visited each boxer’s dressing rooms in an try to dissuade them from continuing with any chicanery.

This repair was no secret: Fox and LaMotta.

Fox then grew to become the primary boxer to ever cease LaMotta when a helpless wanting “Bronx Bull” was rescued by the referee in spherical 4, the gang loudly booing the apparent set-up. The consequence led to the quick suspension of LaMotta’s boxing license and widespread hypothesis about corruption in boxing. Years later LaMotta publicly admitted that he threw the combat in an effort to acquire an overdue shot on the world middleweight title.

9. Luis Resto W10 Billy Collins Jr., June 16 1983: In one of the vital disturbing and tragic episodes in ring historical past, Luis Resto battered prospect Billy Collins Jr. in Madison Sq. Backyard for ten rounds with the equal of brass knuckles on each fists. Resto had solely eight knockouts in nineteen wins and was not thought to be any type of harmful puncher, however as early as spherical two his blows had been leaving marks and welts on Collins’ visage. Throughout the bout Collins instructed his father and coach, Billy Collins Sr., that one thing simply wasn’t proper with Resto’s gloves. After the ultimate bell, the elder Collins shook arms with Resto, instantly knew his son’s deduction was appropriate, and summoned the eye of ringside officers.

A felonious assault: Resto (proper) batters Collins.

The gloves had been inspected and it was decided that a lot of their horsehair padding had been eliminated. A long time later a remorseful Resto claimed that along with the tampering of the gloves, his handwraps had been soaked in plaster. Collins suffered a battering so vicious he was barely recognizable after the combat and the harm to his eyes meant a right away finish to his boxing profession. Each Resto and his coach, Panama Lewis, had been criminally charged for the incident and finally banned from boxing. Lower than a yr later, a despondent Collins Jr. died in a automotive accident.

8. Primo Carnera vs Jack Sharkey II, June 29 1933: Two components made the rematch between Sharkey and Carnera a extremely controversial affair. First, by this level the actual fact the hulking Primo was managed by the mob and that lots of his wins had been, to say the least, suspect, was broadly accepted. Second, Sharkey, a extremely expert boxer with wins over Johnny Risko, Tommy Loughran and Harry Wills to his credit score, had defeated Carnera by a large margin after they battled in 1931, fully dominating the Italian over fifteen rounds and coming shut at a couple of level to forcing a stoppage.

controversy boxing

Carnera stands over Sharkey.

And but the betting odds for the rematch had been unusually shut, with experiences from some quarters that Carnera was seen as the favourite. Regardless of the numerous disadvantages in peak, attain and weight, Sharkey once more had the sting till spherical six when Carnera landed an uppercut that put “The Boston Gob” on the canvas in a heap. He barely moved as he was counted out. The end result was seen as suspicious from the beginning and hypothesis solely intensified as time handed and extra grew to become recognized in regards to the extent of the corruption behind Carnera’s profession. Sharkey insisted till his dying day the combat was on the extent, however that is one heavyweight title bout that may all the time be controversial.

7. Joe Gans vs Terry McGovern, Dec. 13 1900: Chicago was the location of this assembly of all-time greats with each fighters of their respective primes. If ever a match-up ought to have resulted in an thrilling and extremely aggressive tilt this was it, regardless of the actual fact light-weight Gans loved a pure measurement and weight benefit over featherweight McGovern. However such was not the case. As a substitute Gans was decked seven occasions earlier than being counted out within the second spherical, with followers booing the apparent repair even earlier than it ended.

controversy boxing

Gans on the canvas: Chicago says goodbye to boxing.

The widespread phrase on the road was that the match was not on the extent and just about nobody regarded the consequence as legit. And Gans vs McGovern proved to be not only a controversial boxing match, however a most consequential one, because it led to the state of Illinois banning skilled prizefighting for nearly thirty years.

6. Tom Sharkey vs Bob Fitzsimmons, Dec. 2, 1896: This extremely anticipated heavyweight showdown drew nationwide curiosity and brisk ticket gross sales in San Francisco, however it ended with cries of disgust at its ultimate consequence. The phrase on the road was that Wyatt Earp can be the referee, however rumors swirled that the legendary lawman was purchased and paid for by Sharkey and his crew. Earlier than the match received underway Fitz’s supervisor demanded Earp get replaced, however he was rebuffed, solely to see his suspicions confirmed and his fighter robbed of virtually sure victory.

The press was not pleasant to Earp’s resolution.

In accordance with eyewitness accounts, “The Preventing Blacksmith” was a lot the simpler combatant all through and in spherical eight a sequence of blows despatched “Sailor Tom” to the ground. However Earp dominated that an unlawful punch to the groin had put Sharkey down and he instantly disqualified “Ruby” and declared the prostate Sharkey the victor. The gang erupted in outrage and Earp beat a hasty exit. Such was the ensuing controversy, it hounded the previous lawman to his grave and overshadowed his gun-fighting exploits for many years.

5. Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield II, June 28 1997: On the time, this was one of the vital eagerly anticipated occasions in all of boxing historical past, an enormous “superfight” rematch. Tens of millions of sports activities followers had been curious to see if Tyson may reverse his surprising defeat by the hands of Holyfield six months earlier than, one of many all-time nice upsets. Thus, the controversy of what transpired on that surreal evening can’t be overstated.

controversial fights

Tyson gnaws on Holyfield.

As of their first assembly, Holyfield refused to be intimidated and repeatedly compelled Tyson right into a defensive posture. However the combat took a surprising flip in spherical three when Tyson resorted to viciously biting Holyfield, not as soon as however twice, his chomping violent sufficient to take away a portion of Evander’s proper ear. “Iron Mike” was disqualified and afterwards various pundits puzzled aloud if boxing may ever get better. Ticket-buyers threw up their arms in disgust as a public apology from Mike did nothing to compensate them, the occasion having generated some 2 hundred million in gross income. Tyson was fined three million and his boxing license was suspended for one yr.

4. Julio Cesar Chavez vs Meldrick Taylor I, March 17 1990: In one of the vital thrilling battles of the last decade, Meldrick Taylor clearly held a factors lead on Julio Cesar Chavez because the bell rang for the ultimate spherical of their conflict for the unified 140 pound championship. Then, with seconds left within the match, Chavez landed an enormous proper hand and scored the bout’s solely knockdown. Taylor was on his ft on the depend of six as his coach, Lou Duva, climbed onto the ring apron and the clock wound right down to the ultimate bell.

controversial boxing Chavez Taylor

Two seconds left: Referee Steele makes his controversial name.

However, distracted by Duva, Taylor did not reply referee Richard Steele’s “Are you okay?” query and Steele instantly halted the match with exactly two seconds left on the clock. Shock and pandemonium ensued and has by no means fully subsided since. Within the historical past of hasty stoppages in boxing, this holds a particular place as it can little question be feverishly questioned and debated till the tip of time between those that imagine Steele was merely doing his job, and those that insist Taylor deserved an opportunity to proceed.

3. Sugar Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran II, Nov. 25 1980: The earlier June, in one of the vital eagerly anticipated bouts in boxing historical past, former light-weight champion Duran, aka “Manos de Piedra,” received his second world title after an exhilarating fifteen spherical struggle, the well-known “Brawl In Montreal,” in opposition to welterweight champ Leonard. The victory gave Duran common standing as the very best boxer on the planet. Sugar Ray then pushed for a right away rematch and 5 months later, on the Superdome in New Orleans, it was Leonard who took command, having issues his option to such an extent that he taunted Duran, mocking his lack of ability to grab management. Then, in spherical eight, the Panamanian legend abruptly turned his again, walked away, and refused to proceed.

Shock in New Orleans: Leonard exults as a humbled Duran retreats to his nook.

The truth that Roberto Duran, essentially the most “macho” and fierce of Latin American boxers, had stop may scarcely be comprehended on the time. So surprising was the consequence that many refused to imagine the match was on the extent. Duran himself blamed debilitating abdomen cramps, an excuse which solely fueled additional suspicion, to not point out the anger of Roberto’s former followers in his native Panama. With a single rash resolution Duran remodeled his picture and standing, gave boxing’s detractors a brand new means by which to assault the game, and suffused the easy phrase of “No mas” with implications which, a long time later, nonetheless resonate.

2. Jack Dempsey vs Gene Tunney II, Sept. 22 1927: Within the unlikely circumstance that anybody studying this doesn’t fairly perceive the problem with the well-known “Lengthy Rely” combat, simply take a fast take a look at Dempsey’s wonderful 4 minute brawl with Luis Firpo in 1923. The Argentinian challenger hits the canvas seven occasions within the first three minutes of that wild donnybrook, and every time Dempsey hovers like The Grim Reaper over his stricken foe, ready for the immediate Firpo’s gloves depart the canvas to renew beating the daylights out of him.

controversy long count

Tunney is down however Dempsey hesitates to go to a impartial nook.

However by 1927 the foundations had modified. Now when a boxer scored a knockdown, he was required to right away go to the furthest impartial nook and the referee was at liberty to attend till that occurred earlier than beginning his depend. In spherical seven of a match which had attracted over 100 thousand paying followers, and which Tunney was clearly profitable, Dempsey broke by way of and landed a left hook that turned the legs of “The Preventing Marine” to jelly. The challenger’s follow-up mixture put Tunney on his bottom, and when ten seconds had elapsed Tunney was nonetheless on the canvas.

controversy boxing long count

A transparent-eyed Tunney prepares to rise.

However that was as a result of Dempsey had failed to right away obey referee Dave Barry’s command to retreat to a impartial nook, which ate up treasured time, after which Barry solely started counting as soon as Dempsey had adopted his order. Tunney then beat the official depend and went on to win, however the arguments, speculations and conspiracy theories in regards to the knockout Dempsey nearly scored, have since by no means ceased. Certainly, for many years many followers clung to the conviction that “The Manassa Mauler” was the sufferer of a fantastic injustice, however it needs to be famous that Jack himself by no means publicly complained in regards to the consequence.

1. Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston II, Could 25 1965: Simply how controversial was this specific conflict for the heavyweight championship of the world? Allow us to depend the methods. First, there was the truth that its prelude, Clay vs Liston I, had impressed greater than its share of controversy all by itself because the defending champ, an awesome betting favourite, stop on his stool on the finish of spherical six, this after his nook possible tried to sabotage the bout by placing liniment on Sonny’s gloves which received into Clay’s eyes and rendered the challenger blind for a lot of spherical 5.

Then there was the truth that the boxer who defeated the seemingly unbeatable Liston in February of ’64 had since change into one of the vital maligned, divisive and, sure, controversial figures in all of America. After profitable the heavyweight title, Cassius Clay introduced his allegiance to the Black Muslim cult and its chief, Elijah Muhammad, earlier than altering his identify to Muhammad Ali.

Controversy the primary time round: Sonny quits.

After a lot contractual wrangling stemming from the truth that a right away rematch solely added to the suspicions swirling across the first bout, a return was finally set for November in Boston. However simply days earlier than the match, Ali suffered a hernia which necessitated surgical procedure. Within the meantime, a bitter and public quarrel was unfolding between the chief of the Black Muslims and outstanding former follower Malcolm X, one which compelled the brand new champion to decide on sides. Ali remained loyal to chief Elijah and on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. Hypothesis ensued that Ali can be the goal of retaliation, a menace taken severely sufficient that the FBI elected to protect Ali across the clock with a squad of armed officers.

Controversy in Maine

Liston topples after taking Ali’s “Phantom Punch.”

Organizers of the rematch settled on the unlikely locale of Lewiston, Maine, however the combat itself solely led to extra controversy. The environment of stress and violence surrounding the occasion was blamed for a paltry crowd of some 2500 followers at Maine’s first (and final) heavyweight championship match, and when Liston collapsed halfway by way of spherical one, nearly nobody noticed the blow that put him there; the clout that determined the competition would quickly come to be generally known as “The Phantom Punch.”

With Liston on the canvas, Ali shouted at him to rise earlier than circling the ring in a manic victory dance. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott, preoccupied with attempting to corral Ali, failed to speak with the timekeeper and thus by no means administered a depend. A seemingly disoriented Liston climbed to his knees however then collapsed once more, earlier than finally attending to his ft and trying to renew the combat. Walcott was then knowledgeable that Liston had certainly been on the canvas for greater than ten seconds and he lastly halted the match and declared Ali the winner.

controversy in boxing

Referee Walcott fails to manage Ali.

Ever since theories have abounded as to what precisely transpired. Movies present that Ali did join with a chopping counter proper hand to the facet of Liston’s head — he later dubbed it his “Anchor Punch” — and the challenger then toppled ahead earlier than rolling onto his again. However whereas a punch did land and appeared to precipitate a flash knockdown, the blow hardly appeared highly effective sufficient to incapacitate the sturdy Liston. Certainly, Sonny later acknowledged to a couple of author that the explanation he didn’t get to his ft was as a result of 1. Ali was hovering over him, and a pair of. he didn’t hear a depend. However his swooning after attending to his knees means that both he was legitimately dazed and confused, or he determined “To hell with it” and stop.

Some speculated Liston wished an early exit for concern of being killed by an errant bullet if a follower of Malcolm X tried to assassinate Ali. Others concluded the combat needed to be fastened, although it’s troublesome to think about a extra clumsy option to execute a dive. (And if that was Liston’s intention, why would he stand up after which attempt to resume combating?) To this present day some imagine Liston, an ex-con and former mob enforcer, threw each fights with Ali, although onerous proof to bolster that idea has by no means surfaced. The underside line is the mysterious and weird Ali vs Liston rematch has by no means not been controversial in all of the years since, and it’ll endlessly stand as a surreal episode of infinite weirdness, certainly, essentially the most controversial match within the lengthy historical past of the prize ring.     

— Robert Portis 

The submit Prime 12 All-Time Most Controversial Fights appeared first on The Combat Metropolis.

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