The Top 10 Most Scandalous Decisions In Boxing History

10. Marvin Hart W20 Jack Johnson

Woodward’s Pavilion, San Francisco. California, March 28, 1905.

Johnson, with a burgeoning status as the ‘uncrowned’ champion, fighting out of the shackles of Jim Crow racism may or may not have carried Hart over the 20 round distance in an effort to seem a plausibly less threatening challenger to whomever would succeed the recently retired Jim Jeffries.

What seems more than likely from a perusal of contemporary reports is that the ‘Galveston Giant’ ought to have cruised to a reasonably comprehensive victory on account of his self contained technical mastery of the Kentucky contender who would soon become King.

To quote an envoy from the Washington Post:

“The sympathies of the large crowd were openly with Hart, who was at the short end in the betting, and every lead he made at Johnson, whether he landed or not, was greeted with cheers.”

It would not appear to take a genius to figure out the essential logic behind Marvin getting his hand raised on the night but Johnson would have his day in the sun, nonetheless.


Nuremberg Arena, Nuremberg, Germany, December 13, 2003

A truly risible affair in which Reid seemed to incur warnings and censure from third man, Rodger Tilleman, for anything from the colour of his shorts to hitting the defending champion’s head with his gloves.

The owner of one of perhaps the more misleading unbeaten records in latter day championship boxing history, the safety first Ottke’s WBA super middleweight title was duly saved by an extremely dubious unanimous decision.

The epitome of the old axiom that states a fighter must necessarily ‘knock ’em out to get a draw’ away from home.

8. Marvin Hagler D15 Vito Antuofermo,

Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, November 30, 1979

What ought to have been a coronation in his 50th professional fight ended up as a painful but perhaps necessary crucible that forged Hagler’s iconic ‘destruct and destroy’ motto when he did become champion ten months later.

The ‘uncrowned’ champion form Brockton, Massachusetts appeared to beat Antuofermo handily despite fading down the stretch.

Duane Ford agreed to the tune of 145 – 141 but Dalby Shirley and Hal Miller begged to differ resulting in a split draw.

The crushing disappointment after so many years on the sidelines, imbued in Marvin a deep suspicion of Las Vegas judges that would famously come home to roost when he was shorn of his crown by a comebacking Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.


Aladome, San Antonio, Texas, September 10, 1993.

A dream fight scenario that playedout as something of a nightmare for Whitaker, whose slick boxing and uncanny defensive radar appeared, essentially, to have mastered the all time great Mexican warrior who always struggled with an elite level ‘cutie’ despite his undeniable brilliance.

Jack Woodruff saw it for Whitaker via a close 115-113 margin but Britain’s Micky Vann and Franz Marti, appropriately from Switzerland, both had it level for a majority draw.

There was to be no rematch.


Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, September 28, 1976.

Norton always gave Ali problems and the rubber match of a historical trilogy was no exception. Despite predicting a KO within five rounds, it was immediately obvious that The Greatest was in for another long night as Norton’s relentless pressure and signature cross armed defence somewhat nullified the champion, prompting Angelo Dundee to exhort, ‘You’re better off going to him Muhammad.’

The fight had its peaks and troughs but the San Diego contender and personal nemesis of Kentucky’s finest seemed consistently in command, particularly after a storming finish.

The decision was unanimous and almost universally unpopular.

Especially with Norton, who broke down in tears when it was announced.


Madison Square Garden, New York, December 5, 1947.

Life in the fast lane, allied to the passing of time, had somewhat softened a formerly perfect fighting machine who had ruled the heavyweight division for nigh on 12 long years.

Walcott, a veteran of 57 fights and a sublime boxer with a left hook that could have stopped a bus took full advantage of the champion’s relative decline as he boxed brilliantly on the retreat, flooring the ‘Brown Bomber’ twice in the process.

The crowd vociferously booed the split nod for Louis in his 24th defence of the richest prize in sport. It was noted that legendary referee, Ruby Goldstein, a good friend of Louis, had scored for the challenger.

I know Ruby and he calls them like he sees ’em.’ said Louis immediately afterwards.


Madison Square Garden, New York, August 29, 1951.

The original blueprint for a ‘bad call, when Cuban Hall Of Famer, Kid Gavilan made the first defence of his World Welterweight Title against popular Irish American contender, Billy Graham, on August 29, 1951, a near riot ensued at Madison Square Garden.

Whole closely contested, Graham appeared to have the edge in the majority of 15stanzas and always looked in front. Nonetheless, the decision went to Gavilan, much to the displeasure and rancour of several thousand volatile spectators who believed they had witnessed a cynical robbery.

It is thought that 1950s boxing godfather, Frankie Carbo, had told Graham’s manager, Irving Cohen in no uncertain terms that his charge wouldn’t win the title unless he surrendered 20 percent of his contract.

Judge Artie Schwartz who had voted for the champion 9 rounds to 6 is said tohave made a deathbed confession to Cohen in order to clear his conscience:

“I had to do it. The boys ordered me to do it. I couldn’t help myself and it’s bothered me ever since. I’m sorry, Irving, for that I did to you and Graham.”


Stade De Levallois, Levallois- Perret, France, March 12, 1988.

Still, the worst decision I have ever witnessed on television, there is simply no logical fistic argument that the mercurial Virginian southpaw was bested by his rugged Mexican adversary in the unlikely setting of a northwest Parisian suburb.

Boxing beautifully behind a crisp southpaw jab, Whitaker nailed the oncoming Ramirez with fluid combinations all night en route to a diabolical split decision ‘loss’ that allowed Ramirez to retain his WBC lightweight crown.

As ‘Sweet Pea’ sank to his knees in despair, unmarked head cradled in his gloves, manager and trainer Lou Duva called WBC president Jose Suilaman ‘a gosh darned thief.’

2/ EVANDER HOLYFIELD D12 LENNOX LEWIS, Madison Square Garden, New York, March 13, 1999.

The New York Post headline of ‘ROBBERY’ seems to say it all after Britain’shistorically premier heavyweight appeared to win at least 8 rounds of this heavyweight unification blockbuster.

South African official, Stanley Christodoulou called it for Lewis 116-113 abut a tied card from Britain’s respected Larry O’Connell and Eugenia Williams’ outrageous vote for Holyfield left this one allegedly all ‘square.’

Lennox was reasonably sanguine about the matter in the post fight interview while his diminutive manager, the former Frank Maloney, lambasted the decision as ‘the biggest liberty in the history of boxing.. ‘

Ironically, when the two gladiators settled their differences, 8 months later in Las Vegas, numerous observers thought the ‘Real Deal’ a tad unlucky to lose a unanimous decision.

Call it karma, perhaps.


Jamsil Students Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea, October 2, 1988

While money might be the root of all evil, the most notorious miscarriage of justice in boxing history probably occurred in the realm of the unpaid code.

19 year old future superstar, Jones, put on the proverbial clinic whilst flagrantly outboxing his Korean opponent in each of 3 rounds only to get the short end of a 3-2 split decision.

Compubox numbers are not infallible but their assertion that Jones outlanded Si-Hun by 86 punches to 32 over the contest’s 9 minute duration is very hard to refute.

That the Floridian maverick went on the receive the prestigious Val Barker Trophy as the outstanding boxer of the Games tells us all we need to know about the veracity of this nakedly political verdict which remains the definitive blueprint for a ‘hometown decision.’

As Roy had it many years later:

“It’s like they gave me HALF of the truth…

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