Debatable draws are nothing new. IBHOF inductee Graham Houston reflects on stalemates from the 15-round era with ringside memories from Maurice Hope-Eckhard Dagge, Michael Dokes-Mike Weaver II and more.

Boxing history has its share of myths and misconceptions. One of them is that there are far more draws now, with 12-round bouts, than in the old days when championship bouts were 15 rounds.

Now, on the face of it, this makes sense. In a 12-round bout, you could have each fighter getting the nod from one judge, with the third judge making it six rounds each.

In a 15-rounder, with an odd number of rounds, you would think that there would be far less chance of draw. Not so.

These days, judges, certainly in North America, are discouraged from scoring even rounds. That wasn’t always the case. At one time, it wasn’t unusual for a judge to score one or more rounds even. So, to keep it simple, you could have a judge scoring for each boxer and the third judge (or scoring referee) having a bout 7-7-1 in rounds. Thus, a 15-round draw.

There really have been a lot of 15-round draws. More than you might think. Rough, tough middleweight champ Gene Fullmer fought three 15-round draws. The hard-hitting southpaw Ben Villaflor, born in the Philippines but a resident of Hawaii, boxed three 15-round draws in junior lightweight title bouts. Japan’s Eijiro Murata twice fought 15-round draws in bantamweight title challenges.

I was ringside, in three countries, for fights that resulted in a 15-round draw. Here they are.

Paddy Maguire vs Daniel Trioulaire, European bantamweight title fight; Cluses, France, January 16, 1976.

I reached this location close to the Swiss border by boat and train — with a car breakdown thrown in. Belfast’s Paddy Maguire, based in south London, was the relentless aggressor while Trioulaire, the defending champion, countered and had success with sneaky right hands.

It was a gruelling battle, waged in front of a small crowd of less than 2,000 in the local gymnasium. Maguire used some rough tactics, such as pushing his glove under Trioulaire’s chin in the clinches to prevent the French boxer from slowing the pace by clinching. Maguire had a point deducted, but the Italian referee docked Trioulaire a point for holding.

Britain’s world welter champion John H. Stracey was there to support Maguire. “Don’t let him breathe, Paddy,” Stracey shouted from his ringside seat.

Trioulaire seemed to hurt Maguire with right hands in the fourth round but Maguire’s pressure and body punching told in the later rounds. A left hook to the body had Trioulaire down in the 12th round. In the 13th, Trioulaire was given a standing count. But there were a number of close rounds. I thought Maguire’s pressure and body punching gave him the edge but the referee and one judge had the bout a draw while the third judge had Trioulaire ahead by one point.

British promoter and manager Mickey Duff had no doubt that Maguire won. “It was a moral victory,” Duff told me afterwards. “The decision was a joke. Paddy was murdering him downstairs.” 

Maguire’s trainer Frank Duffett referenced an old-time wrestling great in his condemnation of Trioulaire’s clinching. “Trioulaire kept grabbing all the time to stop Paddy working — he had more holds than Hackenschmidt,” Duffett said.

Trioulaire had boxed a 15-round draw in a European title bout with Britain’s Dave Needham in France the previous April. Ray Clarke, the British Board’s general secretary, told me thought Trioulaire had been a bit unlucky not to have got the decision against Needham. But Clarke had Maguire a clear winner over Trioulaire. 

Maurice Hope vs Eckhard Dagge, WBC 154-pound title; Berlin, March 15, 1977.

Hope, the east London southpaw (by way of Antigua) boxed superbly but the tall, rangy Dagge brought pressure and landed the heavier blows. Hope was busier, Dagge stronger. I had Hope a clear winner. Britain’s Harry Gibbs, who refereed and also scored the bout, saw Hope ahead, 145-142. The German judge had Dagge winning by a point, while the Italian judge had the bout a draw.

“I thought I won more or less from start to finish,” Hope told me afterwards. “He was strong but I’ve been hit harder.”

Dagge was gentlemanly in his comments after the fight: “It’s up to the referee and judges to score the fight, not me,” Dagge told me in his perfect English. “Hope was a very difficult opponent but I thought I landed the harder punches, especially to the body.”

The British reporters considered Hope very hard done by indeed. “I am afraid that Hope was another victim of the countless travesties of justice one sees on the Continent,” Colin Hart reported in The Sun

John Rodda wrote in The Guardian that Hope had given Dagge a boxing lesson for most of the 15 rounds. 

A ringside Graham Houston felt Hope (right) was unlucky not to receive the nod against champion Dagge (left). Photo:  Chris Hoffmann/DPA/PA Images.

Michael Dokes vs Mike Weaver, WBA heavyweight title; Las Vegas, May 20, 1983.

Dokes had won the title with a highly controversial 63-second stoppage win over Weaver five months earlier. The rematch, held outdoors at the Dunes casino hotel as a heavyweight championship co-feature with Larry Holmes vs Tim Witherspoon, was a bitterly contested affair.

Dokes produced some crisp scoring but Weaver was the aggressor and landed thudding blows. Weaver looked the worse for wear, with cuts and swellings around the eyes, but Dokes suffered, too, with damage under the left eye and a bloody nose, while one suspected his body would be aching long into the next day and beyond.

“This was the toughest fight I ever had in my life,” Dokes told the post-fight press conference. Yes, he said, he thought he won and told a reporter who disagreed to inspect Weaver’s battered countenance. 

Most of the crowd and reporters had Weaver winning. “I put on all the pressure,” Weaver said. “I thought I won maybe 10 rounds. He held a lot.”

There were visions of another first-round win for Dokes when big left hooks sent Weaver into the ropes but by the end of the opening round the muscled ex-champ was coming back into it. But Weaver sometimes moved in without punching. Dokes picked up points with the jab.

Dokes and Weaver duke it out for the WBA heavyweight title at the Dunes, Las Vegas.

All three judges gave the 14th round to Weaver. The decision was up for grabs on the scorecards coming out for the last round. Las Vegas judge Jerry Roth gave the 15th to Weaver but had Dokes winning, 145-141 (9-5-1 in rounds), a score that was roundly booed. Judges Harold Lederman of New York and Larry Hazzard of New Jersey each had the last round even. Lederman’s score of 143-143 worked out at 7-7-1 in rounds. Larry Hazzard’s score of 144-144 had each boxer winning six rounds, with three rounds scored 10-10.

And that’s how you could get a draw in a 15-round bout.

Some other 15-round draws in world title fights:

Robert Cohen vs Willie Toweel, bantamweight title; Johannesburg, September  3, 1955.

Gene Fullmer vs Joey Giardello, middleweight title; Bozeman, Montana, April 20, 1960.

Gene Fullmer vs Sugar Ray Robinson III, middleweight title; Los Angeles, December 3, 1960.

Duilio Loi vs Eddie Perkins I, 140-pound title; Milan, October 21, 1961.

Gene Fullmer vs Dick Tiger II, middleweight title; Las Vegas, February 23, 1963.

Jose Hernandez vs Carmelo Bossi, 154-pound title; Madrid, April 29, 1971.

Kuniaki Shibata vs Ernesto Marcel, featherweight title; Matsuyama, Japan, November 11, 1971.

Erbito Salavarria vs Betulio Gonzalez, flyweight title; Maracaibo, Venezuela, November 20, 1971.

Ben Villaflor vs Victor Echegaray, 130-pound title; Honolulu, September 5, 1972.

Koichi Wajima vs Miguel de Oliveira, 154-pound title; Tokyo, January 9, 1973.

Ben Villaflor vs Apollo Yoshio, 130-pound title; Toyama, Japan, March 14, 1974.

Bob Foster vs Jorge Ahumada, light-heavyweight title; Albuquerque, June 17, 1974.

Ishimatsu Suzuki (Guts Ishimatsu) vs Arturo Pineda, lightweight title; Nagoya, September 12, 1974.

Alfredo Escalera vs Leonel Hernandez, 130-pound title; Caracas, September 20, 1975.

Ben Villaflor vs Sammy Serrano, 130-pound title; Honolulu, April 13, 1976.

Sung-Jung Kim vs Ray Melendez, 108-pound title; Seoul, March 31, 1979.

Marvin Hagler vs Vito Antuofermo, middleweight title; Las Vegas, November 30, 1979.

Lupe Pintor vs Eijiro Murata, bantamweight title; Tokyo, June 11, 1980.

Rafael Orono vs Willie Jensen, 115-pound title; Caracas, July 28, 1980.

Jeff Chandler vs Eijiro Murata, bantamweight title; Tokyo, April 5, 1981.

Chul-Ho Kim vs Raul Valdez, 115-pound title; Taejon, South Korea, July 4, 1982.

Eusebio Pedroza vs Bernard Taylor, featherweight title; Charlotte, North Carolina, October 16, 1982.

Main image: Maurice Hope (left) with Eckhard Dagge before their draw in 1977 (Chris Hoffmann/DPA/Press Association).