Just When You Think You’ve Seen Everything
The Brown Bomber was embarrassed and totally confused by 33-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott’s unorthodox tactics…
“It (Lara vs. Williams) wasn’t as bad as James Toney over Dave Tiberi…but it had shades of it.”—Ken Hissner (doghouseboxing.com)
“Rios got beat up all around. Abril beat him all around, and the only round I think I gave him was the last round. From round one through eleven, I was giving them to Abril.”—Boxer and contender Sharif Bogere.
“…this legislation would establish a Federal regulatory entity to oversee professional boxing and set basic uniform standards for certain aspects of the sport.” —Sen. John McCain
Louis vs. Walcott (1947)
“Joe Louis [was] stalking Walcott like he has so many other heavyweights but not knowing quite what to do with him, then getting dropped by a huge right hand seemingly out of nowhere.”—The Historian
The Brown Bomber was embarrassed and totally confused by Jersey Joe’s unorthodox tactics. Walcott, a 33-year-old veteran with a 44-11-2 record was a 10-to-1 underdog. However, the Jersey cutie decked Louis twice in the first four rounds with lightning fast punches that seemed to come out of nowhere. Most observers at the Garden felt Walcott easily dominated the 15-round fight, but when Louis was declared the winner in a split-decision, the crowd booed loudly. Walcott had been mugged in plain sight.
Giardello vs. Graham (1952)
Joey Giardello won this 10-round bout on a split-decision but New York commissioners Robert Christenberry and C.B. Powell changed the scorecard of judge Joe Agnello, making Billy Graham the winner. “Giardello sued, and the New York State Supreme Court reversed the reversal the following February.” The A-Z of World Boxing by Bert Blewett (1996) on page 130. The original official scorecards were: Judge Agnello, 6-4 for Giardello; Referee Miller, 5-4-1 for Giardello; Judge Shortell 7-3 for Graham. This fight is known in boxing lore as “The reversed reversal.” Enough said.
Ledoux vs. Boudreaux (1977)
The 1977 decision in the Scott Ledoux vs. Johnny “Black Night” Boudreaux fight was definitely a black night for boxing. This horrendous decision was so bad it prompted a grand jury investigation, though some might say that the real highlight was when Howard Cosell had his toupee kicked off his head on national TV by an enraged Ledoux. This smarmy event was part of the failed and tainted United States Boxing Championships, which was the brainchild of Don King. It was also part of the infamous and ugly Ring magazine rating scandal when The RING fabricated records of selected boxers to elevate them, thereby securing them lucrative fights on the ABC television network as part of the tournament. That scandal reinforced boxing as the sewer of professional sports, and to this day, the Roto-Rooter man has not showed up.
Curiously, Johnny Boudreaux went on to lose four of his next and final bouts while Scott Ledoux moved in a far more positive direction.
Ramirez vs. Whitaker (1988)
Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker fought Jose Louis Ramirez for the WBC Lightweight title in France and while he appeared to have won the fight going away, he received his first professional loss. In his 1999 edition of the World Encyclopedia of Boxing, Harry Mullan stated that the decision in this bout was “generally considered to be a disgrace.” Mullan was understating.
Paez vs. Dorsey (1990)
Crossover champion Troy Dorsey was the recipient of highway robbery when Jorge Paez was declared a split-decision winner despite being outpunched 4-1. Troy kept Paez pinned against the ropes for long periods, much like Tiberi would do with James Toney, and never stopped punching, especially to the midsection. In the end, however, two judges perpetrated a dry gulch on the tough Texan.
Toney vs. Tiberi (1992)
On the evening of February 8, 1992, utter disbelief swept the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City when the decision was announced that James Toney had “beaten” Dave Tiberi. This terrible decision reverberated throughout the boxing world. Donald Trump, who owned the casino where the fight took place, called it the worst result he had ever seen. More to the point, Sen. William Roth of Delaware was so incensed that he spearheaded a U.S. Senate investigation of the sport of boxing. This investigation, aided by Tiberi, led to the Boxing Safety Act in 1997. Tiberi, a devout man of God, retired after that fight in total disgust.
Whitaker vs. Chavez (1993)
While Pernell had won at least three hotly disputed decisions over Jorge Paez, James “Buddy” McGirt, and Wilfredo Rivera, none was as bad as the robbery he suffered when he lost to Jose Louis Ramirez in 1988. However, his draw against Julio Caesar Chavez was almost as disgraceful since most observers believed Whitaker had won 9 of the 12 rounds. Whitaker had a penchant for controversial decisions.
Briggs vs. Foreman (1997)
In this one (also at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City), Big George Foreman hit Shannon Briggs with everything but the kitchen sink and to all the fans at ringside was a clear winner. But two judges saw it otherwise and Foreman lost by majority decision. The only surprise here was that there was no investigation. Like Tiberi, Big George simply walked away and retired. Many fans who witnessed this sewer-churning travesty also walked away—from boxing.
Lewis vs. Holyfield (1999)
“It’s an absolute con, a tragedy and an injustice for boxing. This result has set boxing back into the dark ages.”—Frank Maloney
Eugenia Williams’ publicly debated performance as a boxing judge came as a result of her bizarre scoring in the Evander Holyfield heavyweight championship bout with Lennox Lewis at Madison Square Garden which ended in a shocking draw. Williams scored the fight for Holyfield and that drew cries of outrage and the ‘‘fix is in’’ from fans. It also prompted a criminal investigation by New York State prosecutors in Manhattan and a pledge of reform by officials in Albany. Writer Timothy W. Smith covered this in an extremely revealing online article in the New York Times dated April 23, 1999, titled “BOXING; How a City Clerk Got on the Main Card.”
After this fight, promoter Don King, grinning cunningly, said they would do it all over again and, when the two fighters did it a second time in Las Vegas, Lewis got his revenge and everyone got another payday.
De La Hoya vs. Trinidad (1999)
The decision in this one left most fans stunned. While Oscar didn’t do much in the last few rounds, his early “lead’ should have given him a comfortable win. It was almost as if Oscar was up against more than three blind mice. There was a strange feeling of “it’s time to slow this guy down.” There almost seemed to be bad juju at work here.
Joel Casamayor vs. Jose Armando Santa Cruz (2007)
“Just when you think you’ve seen everything, just when you think you’ve seen decisions so bizarre that you think you’ll never see anything worse than that, along comes something like this.”—Jim Lampley
The fight was dreadfully dull and a disinterested Casamayor was just plain dreadful, but at least Santa Cruz forced the action and appeared to win going away. Then a long wait came for the decision which was a sure sign that something was amiss. Jim Lampley earlier had cautioned about the notably inexperienced judging crew and the judges did not disappoint. Frank Lombardi and Ron McNair each scored it 114-113 in Casamayor’s favor, while Tony Paolillo had Santa Cruz winning by 114-113. It was another disgrace.
Williams vs. Lara (2011)
The shocking decision in the Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara bout in New Jersey on July 9, 2011 in Atlantic City again triggered outrage. Lara had rendered a stylish and bloody beatdown on the game Williams and everyone in the arena knew it except the three officials. After conducting a full review of the controversial scoring, the NJSACB concluded that there was “no evidence of bias, fraud, corruption or incapacity on the part of any of the judges.” Therefore, the government agency could not invalidate the decision or mandate a rematch. Nevertheless, the NJSACB was dissatisfied with the scoring of the contest, even after hearing the explanations from the judges. Each was then placed on indefinite suspension and required to undergo “additional training prior to his return to professional boxing.”
Said Tim Elfrink in an article dated, October 27, 2011, “Yet Erislandy Lara remained the loser. He had risked everything—his life, freedom, and any chance of seeing his two young sons again to escape the injustice of communist Cuba. Now, in the Land of the Free, Lara was socked with the worst injustice yet, a decision so awful it might change boxing forever.”
Rios over Abril (2012)
There have been other terrible decisions of late like Lopez over Tolmajyan, Cloud over Campillo, Judah over Matthysse, Alexander over Matthysse, and several in non-U.S. bouts. But then on April 14, 2012, in Las Vegas (where else), Brandon Rios got a disgraceful split-decision victory against slick Richard Abril. It was a stunning result that gave boxing yet another black eye.
The “Last” Straw (2012)
“I’ll make a lot of money off the rematch, but this was outrageous.”—Bob Arum
“… it was a case of either incompetence or corruption.”—Teddy Atlas
“He hurt Bradley, but the Manny Pacquiao that I judged in the past would have finished him. He let him off the hook.”—Judge Duane Ford
“Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson.”—Ford
“I was comfortable with my score when I left the arena. Was I comfortable with the criticism? No. Let me tell you what, if this was American Idol, Pacquiao would have won because the public wanted him to win. On American Idol the three judges are unpopular sometimes, but we gave it an honest opinion.”—Ford
On June 9, 2012, something really bad happened, something that smelled really bad. Manny Pacquiao suffered his first “defeat” in seven years, a split-decision loss to unbeaten Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas despite the fact that ringside punch stats showed Pacquiao landing far more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds. Pacquiao also had the heavier hands. This atrocious result further enraged fans throughout the boxing world and was so awful, it triggered politicians Harry Reid and John McCain to introduce something called the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2012.
On June 11, sanctimonious and disingenuous promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank submitted a complaint about the decision to the Nevada Athletic Commission which is akin to flushing it down a toilet. Two days later, the World Boxing Organization announced it would review the verdict with a panel of five international judges and to no one’s surprise, the panel members scored the fight in Pacquiao’s favor 117-111, 117-111, 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113. Earlier, the Associated Press had scored it 117-111 for Pacquiao. ESPN and Harold Lederman of HBO both scored the fight 119–109, also in Pacquiao’s favor. Lederman had Pacquiao winning 11 of 12 rounds. Comcast’s Ryan Maquinana compiled a list of 51 journalists and broadcasters, 48 of whom scored the fight for Pacquiao, almost all by wide margins
The final straw was hearing Judge Duane Ford’s explanation of his scoring during his interview with HBO’s Jim Lampley on “The Fight Game.” Not only did the 74-year-old Ford self-destruct without Lampley’s prompting, but his senile-like comments provide ample justification for forcing him into permanent retirement as a boxing judge.
In the end, the disbelief and cynicism arising from what happened on June 9 lingers heavily over the boxing world like the sulfuric rotten egg smell from a paper plant lingers over a small mill town. Hopefully, there will be no rematch, for such an occurrence would simply validate the first fight.
To repeat the words of Jim Lampley, “Just when you think you’ve seen everything, just when you think you’ve seen decisions so bizarre that you think you’ll never see anything worse than that, along comes something like this.”