Ranking the 10 Worst Judging Decisions in Boxing in the Past Decade
Terrible judging decisions are an unfortunate part of boxing. Timothy Bradley by split decision over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012 caused tremendous outrage, and justifiably so. But it wasn't as terrible as Courtney Burton over Emanuel Augustus or Joel Casamayor over Jose Armando Santa Cruz.
In my opinion, Bradley over Pacquiao, bad as it was, wasn't even the worst decision of 2012.
The sad fact is, lousy decisions are so commonplace, there are at least 10 more that didn't make this list that could easily be substituted.
Judging boxing matches is very difficult. The officials at ringside are making their assessments in live time, without the benefit of punch stats or instant replay.
Still, sometimes they get things so wrong it's impossible not to suspect either incompetence or outright corruption.
10. Carl Froch SD Andre Dirrell
The Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight tournament helped make Carl Froch a bigger star, as he ultimately reached the finals, where he lost to Andre Ward in December 2011. But in the first round of the tournament, in October 2009, Froch benefited from one of the worst hometown decisions of the past decade, getting a split-decision victory in a fight where Andre Dirrell thoroughly outclassed him.
In the ring, Froch had no answer for Dirrell's speed and skill, aside from trying to turn things into an ugly wrestling match. During the fight Froch tossed Dirrell to the canvas and repeatedly held and hit, including to the back of the head.
Yet referee Hector Afu took a point from Dirrell in Round 10.
To be fair to the judges, this could not have been an easy fight to score. Froch was fighting in his native Nottingham and the boisterous crowd went crazy with every flurry he threw, regardless of how smoothly Dirrell evaded the punches and how sharply he countered.
Still, there's no doubt in my mind that "The Robbery in Nottingham" deserves a spot on this list.
9. Jermane Taylor SD Bernard Hopkins I
Bernard Hopkins is 49 and still the reigning IBF light heavyweight champion. His career has been among the longest in the history of the sport.
But despite that historic tenure, Hopkins has more often than not seemed to be something of an outsider in the sport. He certainly hasn't gotten the benefit of the doubt in a single close decision.
I thought he deserved to win against Joe Calzaghe in 2008 and that the draw that allowed Jean Pascal to escape with his title against Hopkins in 2010 was absurd.
I think Hopkins deserved to win his rematch with Jermane Taylor in December 2005, as well. But in that fight you can make a legitimate case for him giving away too many early rounds.
But his loss to Taylor in July 2005, by split decision, was bad enough to call a robbery. This is especially the case when you consider that Duane Ford (a name we will be seeing again) gave Taylor Round 12, a clear Hopkins' round during which Taylor was desperately trying to hang on.
A properly scored round there by Ford would have at least made the fight a draw, allowing Hopkins to keep his middleweight title, even though it still would have been outrageously wrong.
8. Nikolay Valuev MD Evander Holyfield
This December 2008 bout is possibly the worst fight I've ever seen at the world-class level. At 46, Evander Holyfield was attempting to become the oldest heavyweight champion in history and the only man to ever win a share of the world heavyweight title five times.
His opponent was the seven-foot tall Russian Giant Nikolay Valuev, the tallest heavyweight champion of all time.
A seven-foot oaf and a middle-aged man doesn't exactly look like a compelling matchup on paper and this one sadly met reasonable expectations. Still, the faded legend pushed the action and clearly outworked the immobile Russian in virtually every round.
Maybe you could make an argument that nobody deserved to win this fight. But since it was a sporting event and somebody had to win, there is no question that the somebody should have been Holyfield.
7. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. D Carlos Molina
In December 2005 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was 23-0 and being pushed as a future superstar by boxing promoters anxious to cash in on his legendary father's reputation. He had already fought nine times during the year when he faced obscure, 8-1 Carlos Molina in a six-round bout.
The much smaller and less powerful Molina gave Chavez Jr. a boxing lesson. Without question, it should have been the first loss of Jr.'s career.
For Chavez Jr. to drop to 23-1 at that point would have meant a lot of future money going down the drain. Somehow he escaped with a draw. He won the rematch by majority decision two months later. That fight was certainly much closer, but I think Molina deserved to win again.
Chavez Jr. had almost no amateur career and was learning on the fly in the professional ranks. He is definitely a better fighter today that he was then, even if his work habits appear to have leveled off and headed down hill.
Molina, meanwhile, has become a world champion in his own right, and among the top fighters in the junior middleweight division.
6. Oscar De La Hoya UD Felix Sturm
Serious boxing fans know that decisions in Germany tend to be generous in favor of the hometown fighter. Long-time middleweight champion Felix Sturm has gotten his share of friendly scorecards there in close fights.
But when Sturm sustained the professional loss of his career in June 2004, it was Oscar De La Hoya who benefited from some Vegas-style home cooking.
"The Golden Boy" was thoroughly outboxed by the German star, yet escaped with a narrow unanimous decision. Sturm peppered De La Hoya with his jab all fight long and landed over 50 percent of his power shots.
Even for home cooking, this one smelled particularly terrible. A win by Sturm would have derailed a super fight between De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins. Somehow, that derailment was avoided.
5. Timothy Bradley SD Manny Pacquiao
I suspect some readers will be expecting to see this one higher on the list. Manny Pacquiao's superstar status heading into this fight made Timothy Bradley's unexpected split-decision victory a bombshell that transcended the sport.
But it has also caused a general overstatement in regards to how putrid the judges' cards actually were.
Still, don't get me wrong. This decision was horrible. I wanted Bradley to win and still ended up scoring it eight rounds to four for Pacquiao.
Duane Ford, who outrageously handed Jermane Taylor Roud 12 in his first victory over Bernard Hopkins, scored the fight 115-113 for Bradley. C.J. Ross, who would later turn in an even more baffling 114-114 card for Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez, agreed with Ford.
Pretty much nobody else in the world agreed with them, though. The WBO later had the fight re-scored by five officials and none of them thought Bradley deserved to win.
4. Brandon Rios SD Richar Abril
When a wildy entertaining and popular international superstar like Manny Pacquiao gets hosed by the judges, it's a scandal that lingers in the public consciousness for years. When an obscure, defensive-minded technician like Richar Abril get robbed against a popular gunslinger like Brandon Rios, folks don't notice so much.
Still, this fight, that came two months before the Bradley-Pacquiao fiasco, certainly caused a stir among the boxing media at the time. As this Boxrec page on the fight shows, there was overwhelming outrage among the boxing press.
At the time I scored this fight 117-111 for Abril. When I watched it again the next morning I revised to 118-110.
3. Paul Williams MD Erislandy Lara
In July 2011 Paul Williams returned to action following his stunning Round 2 knockout loss to Sergio Martinez in 2010. His opponent was the relatively unknown former Cuban amateur star Erislandy Lara.
Despite the shocking KO against Martinez, Williams had been one of the decade's biggest pound-for-pound stars. As a result, I think the judges scored the fight based on what they expected to see.
Because they sure didn't judge it based on what happened in the ring. Lara absolutely schooled Williams. He out-landed Williams and battered him with flush left hands all fight long.
The outrage over this decision was so extreme that the New Jersey Athletic Commission suspended the entire judging crew after the fight.
2. Joel Casamayor SD Jose Armado Santa Cruz
In the Boxrec entry for this fight, ESPN's Dan Rafael is quoted as calling it "the single worst decision" he had ever seen. The fight took place on the undercard of Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley's November 2007 pay-per-view clash.
Joel Casamayor was returning from 13-month layoff to defend his WBC lightweight belt. Jose Armanado Santa Cruz knocked him down in the first round and proceeded to dominate the rest of the fight.
When the cards were read awarding a close victory for Casamayor, the crowd in Madison Square Garden showered the ring with boos. HBO's Harold Lederman scored the fight 119-108 for Santa Cruz.
Unfortunately, this robbery cost Santa Cruz his best shot for a world title, an accomplishment he ultimately never achieved.
1. Courtney Burton SD Emanuel Augustus I
Emanuel Augustus is a pretty good example of how things can go wrong for a talented fighter whose career is not properly handled. The popular journeyman put together a record of 38-34-6 with 20 knockouts, but at times he looked to have the tools necessary to become a champion.
He lost more than his share of unfair decisions, but none could have been worse than this July 2004 robbery against light welterweight contender Courtney Burton, in front of Burton's hometown Michigan crowd.
I am calling this the worst judging decision of the past decade, but it might have been the worst referee's performance, as well. Dan Kelley's work in this fight was a disgrace. In Round 4 he incorrectly ruled a body-shot knockdown by Augustus a low blow and gave Burton five minutes to recover, when he should have been fighting desperately just to stay in the fight.
In Round 8 Kelley watched Burton throw three straight rabbit punches, then deducted a point from Augustus, for reasons that were never made clear.
Augustus did not just beat Burton, he clowned him and toyed with him. Even with the bogus deduction and missed knockdown, the fight could never honestly be judged any closer than 97-92.
Instead, one of the incompetent Michigan judges actually scored the fight 99-90 for Burton! To top off the outrageous evening, a Michigan state official had to have the difference between a majority and split decision explained to him on air by Teddy Atlas.
Augustus did win a rematch two years later by an eighth-round knockout.