Ranking the 15 Worst Judging Decisions in Boxing History
Is there anything worse than paying for a pay-per-view fight and watching a fighter get robbed of a clear decision?
Bad judging is one of the banes of boxing. It reduces public confidence in the sport's legitimacy and turns people off. It leads to charges—from incompetence to corruption—and makes people wonder why they sacrificed their time and hard-earned money.
Not all close fights are bad decisions. Sometimes, a fight can legitimately go either way, and different people favor different styles. A fight being close and not going to the guy you preferred doesn't turn a decision into a robbery. It was just a close fight.
But that's not the case with these bouts. All of these fights ended with boxing's equivalent of a holdup without a weapon. Here are the 15 worst judging decisions in boxing history.
15. Nikolai Valuev MD 12 Evander Holyfield
This one flew under the radar, given Nikolai Valuev's freak-show qualities and limited recognition. Then consider his opponent: the ancient former champion Evander Holyfield, who was still soldiering on despite being years from his prime.
Nobody seemed to care.
But just a few days before Christmas in 2008, Valuev received a gift from the judges in Switzerland, who gave him a majority decision over the shell of a once great champion.
Holyfield did enough to win, but the crime is that Valuev did virtually nothing but still managed to win rounds on the scorecards. The Russian giant seemingly threw nothing at all and allowed Holyfield to dance and land in spurts in some rounds.
Major media outlets scored the bout for Holyfield, including Sports Illustrated who favored Evander 118-110 and gave him 10 of the 12 rounds. Regardless of your feelings for the man and the path his career has taken, he won the fight.
14. Sven Ottke UD 12 Robin Reid
It's dangerous to travel to Germany for a fight against a hometown fighter, and Britain's Robin Reid learned that the hard way in 2003.
Sven Ottke, who retired undefeated because of several (or more) gift decisions, was taken to school by Reid, who was jobbed by both the referee and judges. It's hard enough to beat the guy in the ring, much less two in the ring and three around it.
Reid dropped Ottke to the canvas in the sixth round, which was somehow ruled a slip by the referee, and then he had a point deducted for a headbutt that nobody in the arena or on TV saw.
Despite these shenanigans, Reid should have emerged as the clear victor, but hometown judges once again gave Ottke a decision that insulted people who understood the sport.
13, James Toney SD 12 Dave Tiberi
James "Lights Out" Toney's fifth defense of the IBF middleweight title was supposed to be a routine affair against the unheralded Dave Tiberi. It turned out to be anything but.
Toney, as was a frequent problem in his career, struggled to make weight and looked slow and lethargic in the ring. On the other hand, Tiberi, with the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him, did not waste it. According to CompuBox stats, he outlanded the champ significantly.
He dominated Toney and should have been awarded with the IBF title for his efforts. Judge Frank Brunette correctly scored the fight 117-111 for Tiberi, but he was overruled by judges Frank Garza and Bill Lerch, who has identical 115-112 scores for Toney.
A later investigation revealed that the two judges who scored the fight for Toney weren't licensed to judge fights in New Jersey, but that didn't help Tiberi who retired in disgust after the fight.
12. Shannon Briggs MD 12 George Foreman
Sometimes, when a fighter lives by the sword, he dies by it as well.
George Foreman found that out the hard way when he faced Shannon Briggs for the lineal heavyweight championship in his last career fight in 1997.
Foreman would drop a highly disputed majority decision, despite outlanding Briggs by a significant margin and rocking him many times with hard shots. Virtually nobody, except for the judges, felt Briggs did anything close to deserve a victory.
The judges were an inexperienced crew and found themselves the subject of harsh criticism after the cards were read. But for some viewers, this was nothing more than karma from another bad decision, when Foreman got the nod over the unknown Axel Schulz in a bout he clearly lost in 1995.
11. Oscar De La Hoya UD 12 Felix Sturm
In boxing, money talks, and when a big fight looms, nothing can stand in its way.
Unfortunately for former middleweight champion Felix Sturm of Germany, his first appearance in America was memorable for all the wrong reasons. In 2004, he defended his WBO middleweight title against boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya, who was already lined up for a unification bout with Bernard Hopkins in the fall.
Sturm dominated the fight behind a jab and counterpunching. De La Hoya, who had never fought above 154 pounds before, looked slow and out of shape. He did not carry the extra weight well at all but was awarded with a gift-wrapped unanimous decision by identical scores of 115-113.
The scores didn't reflect the action in the ring, but Sturm was not going to be allowed to ruin a superfight.
10. Paul Williams MD 12 Erislandy Lara
There was a time when Paul "The Punisher" Williams was one of the most feared fighters in boxing. With physical advantages, a tall frame and good power, he wasn't someone that a lot of guys were willing to face. Williams was the definition of a high-risk, low-reward opponent.
His opponent on July 9, 2011 was slick Cuban boxer Erislandy Lara, who was relatively unknown at the time. Lara has since become something of a cult boxing icon, and this fight helped propel him to that status.
Lara dominated the fight, winning no less than nine rounds convincingly, only to see the win snatched from his hands by three inept judges. They awarded Williams a majority decision, by scores of 116-114, 115-114 and 114-114, even though the fight was never that close.
The three judges were subsequently suspended by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, and while the commission didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing, it ordered the suspended officials to undergo further training.
9. Lupe Pintor SD 15 Carlos Zarate
During the 10th defense of his WBC bantamweight crown in 1979 and having scored a knockdown while dominating the entire fight against Lupe Pintor, Carlos Zarate must have felt while awaiting the judges' verdict.
But when the scores were read, a stunned Pintor had his hand dubiously raised in victory. You could argue that Pintor was rewarded for his aggression, but aggression is meaningless if it isn't effective. And Pintor's wasn't that effective.
Zarate countered him all night and was a runaway winner on most unofficial scorecards. But only one official judge got it right, Bob Martin, who had it 145-133 for Zarate. The others flubbed it, awarding Pintor the decision by identical 143-142 scores.
8. Courtney Burton SD 10 Emanuel Augustus
This one might not rate highly on many lists, mainly because neither fighter reached the upper echelons of the sport. But that doesn't make the decision any less ridiculous.
Emanuel Augustus spent much of his career as a gatekeeper, but he was never an easy out. He lost by ninth-round TKO to Floyd Mayweather in 2000 in a fight that was later described by the pound-for-pound king as the toughest fight of his career.
On this night in 2004, he did more than enough to defeat fellow journeyman Courtney Burton in a fight televised by ESPN, but instead he was a split-decision loser. The scores against him were ridiculous, with one judge giving Burton a crazy nine rounds, which prompted an outraged Teddy Atlas to deliver one of his famous on-air rants.
The decision was so bad that it prompted an investigation by the Michigan State Athletic Commission.
7. Joel Casamayor SD 12 Jose Armando Santa Cruz
The Miguel Cotto vs. Shane Mosley fight in 2007 was one of those bouts that was close, competitive and could have gone either way. But on its undercard, a bout was featured that can only be classified as one of the biggest heists in boxing history.
Recognized lightweight champion Joel Casamayor, who entered the fight off a long layoff, was awarded a ludicrous split-decision win over hard-charging challenger Jose Armando Santa Cruz.
Even the judge who scored the bout for the challenger did so by a close 114-113 score. Let's not even talk about the other two, who somehow favored Casamayor, despite Santa Cruz outlanding him 246-129 and knocking him down.
ESPN.com's Dan Rafael had the bout a whitewash (119-108), as did Harold Lederman of HBO (118-109). No rational person could have felt that this bout was even close, much less that Casamayor won it.
6. Joe Louis SD 15 Jersey Joe Walcott
A fighter rarely apologizes to his opponent after a controversial decision, but that's what happened on Dec. 5, 1947, when Joe Louis defeated Jersey Joe Walcott by split decision.
"After the decision he said to me, 'I'm sorry Joe," Walcott told the newspapers from his dressing room after the disputed verdict.
Most felt that Walcott, who dropped Louis in the first and fourth rounds and closed his left eye, had done enough to win the fight, but the official judges disagreed. Two scored the bout for the defending champion, while a third narrowly favored Walcott.
A ringside poll of media members showed that the vast majority of them also favored Walcott, who felt mugged. It just goes to show you, bad judging transcends generations.
5. Jose Luis Ramirez SD 12 Pernell Whitaker
The Jose Luis Ramirez vs. Pernell Whitaker clash for the WBC lightweight title in 1988 was rife with controversy even before the fighters stepped through the ropes.
After allegations of impropriety, with the WBC seeming to favor a bout between Ramirez and WBA champion Julio Cesar Chavez, many in the Whitaker camp felt they were entering the fight at a disadvantage.
The fight was a one-sided affair, with Whitaker winning no less than nine rounds on most cards. He deserved an easy unanimous decision and the title. But that's when the shenanigans started.
Only one judge favored Whitaker (117-113), while the other two found a way to give Ramirez a split decision by scores of 118-113 and 116-115. How anyone could score at least eight rounds for Ramirez is beyond sanity.
The decision was ugly but so was the aftermath, with members of the Whitaker camp throwing around accusations of corruption and score fixing. You can't blame them. This was one of the worst of all time, and Whitaker got beat out of victory he had earned.
4. Timothy Bradley SD 12 Manny Pacquiao
On June 9, 2012, Manny Pacquiao stepped into the ring with a lesser known fighter, who had a chance at an upset, according to some boxing analysts. And he did came away with the victory, despite losing the fight in the ring.
Pacquiao outlanded Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds, according to CompuBox statistics, and by the end of the bout, he had landed nearly 100 more punches. He was able to beat "Desert Storm" to the punch whenever he opened up, and when the decision was announced, Bradley was reduced to the "I have to watch the tape" defense to quiet questions about an undeserved win.
In the immediate aftermath of judges CJ Ross and Duane Ford scoring the bout 115-113 for Bradley, the Twitterverse exploded, with everyone from former fighters to other sports personalities decrying the verdict.
A ringside poll of media members scoring the fight found 50 of 53 people favoring Pacquiao as the clear winner, and an unofficial WBO review with five veteran judges concluded with all of them picking Pacquiao by wide margins.
Watch it on TV, watch it with the sound off, watch it standing on your head, watch it underwater. No matter how you watch it, Pacquiao got robbed.
3. Lennox Lewis D12 Evander Holyfield
When Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield met for the undisputed heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden in 1999, the world was watching. Lewis, the WBC champion, had held his title for two years, and Holyfield had recently unified the division by shocking Mike Tyson and stopping Michael Moorer.
The fight failed to live up to the hype, as Lewis dominated behind a long jab that Holyfield could never neutralize. By the end of the fight, the Brit had outlanded Holyfield by more than 200 punches (an absurd 348 to 130) and nearly landed as many as the "Real Deal" threw.
As the final bell sounded, everyone could see that Lewis would retain his championship. Then the scorecards were read, and the air came out of the room.
Eugenia Williams, who should never have scored another fight after this one, favored Holyfield by a 115-113 score. She even scored the fifth round, when Lewis outlanded Holyfield 43-11, for Evander.
But her error wasn't the only one, as judge Larry O'Connell invented a 115-115 draw to overrule Stanley Christodoulou, the only judge who watched the fight with his eyes open and scored it 116-113 for Lewis.
Eight months later, Lewis avenged the draw by beating Holyfield in Las Vegas.
2. Pernell Whitaker D12 Julio Cesar Chavez
All you need to know about this one, is that in the immediate aftermath of the fight, Sports Illustrated ran an issue with the headline "Robbed" blazoned across Pernell Whitaker's shocked face.
Whitaker has the distinction of appearing on this list more than once, but none was worse than the night in 1993 when he got jobbed in the granddaddy of all shoddy judging locations—Texas.
Chavez entered the fight with a perfect record of 87-0. He was considered by many to be the undisputed pound-for-pound king, and many observers felt his inside game would be too much for his slick boxing opponent.
The first few rounds were relatively close, but by around the fourth, Whitaker began to seize control. Chavez struggled to get close enough to land punches, and when he did, Whitaker dominated the inside exchanges.
As the fight wore on, the once feverishly pro-Chavez crowd became silent. The Showtime commentators reflected the action in the ring, placing Whitaker way ahead as the final bell rang, but then the scorecards were announced.
Whitaker 115-113 appeared too close when it was read, but then two inexplicable 115-115 cards allowed Chavez to escape with a draw in the worst decision in boxing history.
1. Park Si-Hun Defeats Roy Jones Jr.
This is far and away the single greatest robbery in the history of Olympic boxing—and for that matter in boxing as a whole.
Many fans know Roy Jones Jr. for his phenomenal professional career, where he captured world titles in four weight divisions and spent years as the undisputed pound-for-pound king. But they don't know where he got his start, as a 1988 U.S. Olympian who was ripped off out of a gold medal at the Seoul games.
En route to the gold medal match, Jones did not lose a single round in the competition. In the final, he outlanded his opponent Park Si-Hun by an absurd 86-32 count, only to lose the bout on a 3-2 judges' decision.
The fight caused an uproar, and the International Olympic Committee spent years investigating. It was later revealed that the judges who voted in favor of the Korean fighter had been wined and dined by Korean Olympic organizers, but Jones never received the medal that belonged around his neck.