The 10 Worst Title-Fight Scorecards of the 2000s
It’s that time of year again.
We’re just days past a horrific display of judging in a significant boxing match—which brings out the “boxing is dead” crowd, who ride sidesaddle to those who would proffer up the tired “another black eye for boxing” line to describe any of the sport’s seemingly perpetual missteps.
It’s a big moment for the doomsayers, so we’ll let them speak their piece.
But meanwhile, while basking in the glow of CJ Ross’ resignation letter to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, we found ourselves getting sentimental for some of the other singularly bad cards that have made their way from judge to ring announcer over the last several years.
This slideshow could easily number in the hundreds, so we’ve decided to impose some limits on both the timing (from the year 2000) and the significance of the match involved (fights for widely recognized world title belts). And keep in mind, these are the recollections and opinions of one man, so your results may vary.
With those ground rules in place, click through to take a look at the list…and feel free to offer some suggestions of your own in the process.
10. Beibut Shumenov vs. Gabriel Campillo
When it comes to Kazakhstan-born light heavyweight title claimants, apparently one good turn deserves another.
Just five months after he had come out on the short end of a debated majority decision against Gabriel Campillo in an initial try for the WBA’s 175-pound strap on home turf in August 2009, Beibut Shumenov traveled to Las Vegas for another shot and emerged with the championship via split 12-round verdict.
The only problem was that he deserved to win the second fight less than the first.
The 7-5 scorecard offered by veteran judge Jerry Roth was bad enough in a fight many gave Campillo by at least that margin. But the real stinker was the 117-111 verdict from Patricia Morse Jarman, which gave Shumenov nine rounds when he would have been fortunate to earn four.
9. Sven Ottke vs. Robin Reid
By definition, a guy who wins just six times in 34 fights by knockout is going to go to the scorecards a lot, which presents the perpetual possibility of faulty judgment.
Even with an allowance made for such extremes, the unanimous verdict provided to German-based IBF/WBA super middleweight champion Sven Ottke against visiting Brit Robin Reid in December 2003 bordered on preposterous.
Reid controlled the initial phase of the bout with technique before turning aggressive in the back half, and even with a dubious point deduction, he still appeared to be well on the winning side after 12 rounds.
Not so, said all three judges. Two of them saw it close at seven rounds to five, while the third—Switzerland’s Franz Marti—was all in for Ottke to the tune of 117-112, giving the local fighter eight rounds while scoring one even.
8. Paulie Ayala vs. Hugo Dianzo
If people have labeled the result of your fight “The Great Texas Robbery,” at least someone thinks the judges got it wrong.
Such was the case for WBA bantamweight titleholder Paulie Ayala in his March 2001 defense against visiting Mexican Hugo Dianzo in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
A fourth-round knockdown of Ayala turned the tide in the challenger’s favor, and Dianzo seemed in control the rest of the way. The three scorecards told a different story, including a 115-112 viewpoint from Gale Van Hoy that indicated Ayala, not Dianzo, had won eight rounds.
ESPN’s Teddy Atlas labeled it a “hometown decision,” and most chalked it up to the reality that Ayala had already arranged for a more significant showdown with Clarence “Bones” Adams later in the year.
7. Ali Funeka vs. Joan Guzman
Ali Funeka is a tall, rangy South African who has a hard time getting a break in North America.
He emerged onto the lightweight scene with a four-round punchout of Zahir Raheem. He then gave a good accounting of himself in a tough, competitive majority-decision loss to Nate Campbell while vying for the “Galaxxy Warrior’s” IBF, WBA and WBO title belts in February 2009.
A second straight crack at the IBF belt seemed to have put him over the top nine months later in Quebec City, when judge Joseph Pasquale rightly saw him winning eight of 12 rounds against Joan Guzman in a match for the vacant title.
Unfortunately, Pasquale was overruled by both Alan Davis and Benoit Roussel, who deemed it six rounds apiece and provided the majority in a dubious draw ruling. To add insult to insult, Guzman won a split decision when the men met again in March 2010, and Funeka hasn’t gotten a significant title shot since.
6. Timothy Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao
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To some, this one is among the worst decisions of all time.
To others, it was bad but not even the worst of the calendar year.
Either way, it’s nearly beyond argument that Manny Pacquiao, impressively or not, did enough to outwork his June 2012 challenger for the WBO welterweight title, ex-140-pound champ Timothy Bradley, to retain the strap and move onto other things.
Instead, the suddenly memorable CJ Ross and her veteran colleague, Duane Ford, overruled Jerry Roth with a pair of 115-113 verdicts for Bradley, who had earned a handful of rounds at most from ringside media members.
5. Nikolai Valuev vs. Evander Holyfield
Going into Evander Holyfield's fight with 7’ behemoth Nikolai Valuev for the WBA heavyweight title in December 2008, more than one person feared for the 46-year-old's well being.
Coming out of the fight, even the WBA had reason to believe the former Olympian was an uncrowned champion.
Using superior speed, footwork and technique to baffle the giant novelty act, Holyfield seemed well in control of a fight that was ruled 116-112 in Valuev’s favor by Italian judge Pierluigi Poppi, which was a step or two worse than the 115-114 card turned in by Mikael Hook.
The only thing approaching sanity was Guillermo Perez Pineda’s 114-114 tally, which was still a point or two shy of rewarding “The Real Deal” for what he’d accomplished.
4. Shane Mosley vs. Oscar De La Hoya II
Don’t be fooled—the punch-count statistics that are disseminated and dissected at the end of a fight are not always indicative of what went on in the ring.
That said, they seemed pertinent when it came to Oscar De La Hoya’s September 2003 defense against Shane Mosley for the WBA/WBC super welterweight titles in a rematch of their thrilling 147-pound duel from three years earlier.
In the second go-round, De La Hoya threw 120 more punches, landed 94 more punches, connected at a 10 percent higher rate and outpunched Mosley in 11 of 12 rounds. Still, all three judges—Anek Hongtongkam, Duane Ford and Stanley Christodoulou—saw it a ridiculous seven rounds to five in the other direction.
The verdict set Bob Arum, De La Hoya’s promoter at the time, to call for Congressional investigations, though it’s not clear when the gridlocked parties in Washington will have time to get to it.
3. Brandon Rios vs. Richard Abril
First, Brandon Rios lost his WBA lightweight title when he failed to make weight.
Then, he lost the fight in the ring when he was outboxed for the majority of 12 rounds by unheralded Cuban Richard Abril in April 2012.
Right up until he wasn’t, that is.
Instead of giving Abril the jewelry he deserved after handing Rios what should have been his first loss, Jerry Roth had Rios as a 116-112 winner. The judge warranted every bit of the criticism he got en route to the fight being labeled by some as 2012’s robbery of the year.
Judge Adalaide Byrd did provide some hope for humanity with her card, which had Abril ahead 9-3.
2. Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III
Those who had a hard time feeling sorry for Manny Pacquiao following his 2012 loss to Timothy Bradley might have been still jolted by the memory of the Filipino’s previous fight: a WBO welterweight title clash with familiar foe Juan Manuel Marquez in 2011.
Because they had fought twice at much lighter weights and Pacquiao had spent the interim years dominating bigger men, few expected the third match between them to be as competitive as the first two.
It turns out they were right but in the wrong direction.
Rather than being bullied and brutalized by a stronger foe, Marquez again stymied and baffled his multiyear nemesis and seemed a decisive winner when it came time for the scorecards to be read.
Instead, it was another robbery-of-the-year-quality result, most egregiously suggested by judge Glenn Trowbridge’s 116-112 read in favor of Pacquiao. In a press-row poll on fight night, only one of 20 participants suggested Pacquiao had won.
1. Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez
It’s freshest in the memory, so it gets top billing.
But regardless of its date of origin, chances seem good that the 114-114 card added up by disgraced judge CJ Ross will be talked about long after Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul Alvarez have taken their places in the old fighters’ home.
A poll of 80-plus media members yielded exactly zero who called the fight a draw or in Alvarez’s favor. In fact, a three-point edge for Mayweather was the narrowest margin. The average score was 119-109—or 11 rounds to one. Fortunately, though, clearer-eyed heads prevailed, and Mayweather still walked away with a majority decision.
Somehow, though, Ross not only called the fight a draw but later had the nerve to defend the scoring in an interview with a Las Vegas paper. That resolve quickly evaporated under scrutiny, however, and the veteran judge announced she’d be taking a leave of absence just four days after the fight.
Nevada commission brass have scheduled seminars for judges in the fall, so it’s a safe bet that this one—even if it’s not the worst call ever in everyone’s eyes—will still be the most impactful.