Boxing has had more than its fair share of controversy and scandal, possibly more than any other sport in history.
As a vicious sport that’s known for its highway robberies, underhanded dealings and potentially fatal methods of cheating fighters, boxing is a hard business.
The business of boxing is not for the weak of heart. Boxing’s biggest scandals mostly come as a result of somebody trying to get ahead by immoral means, be it in the ring, the rankings or the cash flow.
Here are the 13 most shocking boxing scandals of all time.
13. Muhammad Ali Loses His Boxing License for Vietnam Protests
Muhammad Ali was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in 1967. He was highly acclaimed, earning money and fame in his profession of pugilism, until he was called to join the Vietnam draft.
Ali didn’t believe in the Vietnam War, and on April 28, 1967, he protested by refusing to step forward when his name was called, resulting in his arrest. The New York State Athletic Commission, the most influential boxing commission at the time, decided to revoke Ali’s boxing license before he was even convicted. The other spineless commissions followed suit.
During the three years he wasn’t allowed to box, Ali had to go on speaking engagements at various colleges to make enough money to put food on the table and pay his bills. By the time Ali was reinstated in 1970, three of his best years as a professional were gone. Ali was closer to 30 than 25, leaving the world to only wonder what those three years could have produced.
To make a comparison, Sugar Ray Leonard faced and defeated the likes of Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns between the ages of 25 and 28. Roy Jones, Jr. gave James Toney his first loss and defeated the legendary Mike McCallum during the same time period of his career.
12. Antonio Margarito Is Caught with Plaster in His Gloves
Antonio Margarito had just come off his inspiring 2008 TKO of previously undefeated Miguel Cotto, the former welterweight world champ, when he met Shane Mosley in January 2009.
Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson, noticed a powdery substance in Margarito’s gloves. When this substance was brought to the attention of officials, Margarito was made to rewrap his gloves three times. The substance turned out to be plaster of Paris, a powder that would harden when wet. When applied to hand wraps, sweat would make the powder harden into the equivalent of a cast.
Mosley would go on to knock Margarito out in brutal fashion, and Margarito would be banned from the sport for a year. In the aftermath of the discovery of Margarito’s plaster, many have questioned his 2008 clash with Cotto and some of his other victories—and the sport of boxing took another blow to its credibility.
11. IBF President Robert Lee Takes Bribes, Sells Rankings
In boxing, there are four major world championship governing bodies: the WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF. The IBF (International Boxing Federation) is one of the younger governing bodies, beginning operations in 1984. Their rankings and championship title shots were almost immediately paid for, by $338,000 in bribes.
The IBF’s rankings would depend on the merit of the boxers in their particular division, but fighters with a big-pocket promoter, like Don King, could pay to advance. Bribes from big promoters ensured their fighters stayed ranked above other fighters just getting by.
This scheme would go on for over 13 years before an investigation was made, and IBF President Robert Lee was arrested, along with three other officials who were charged with taking bribes. Over 23 boxers and 7 promoters, including Don King and Top Rank’s Bob Arum, were revealed to have been involved in fights tainted by bribes.
Arum said he paid $100,000 in 1995 to have George Foreman not have to face his mandatory. The IBF fed Foreman Alex Schulz, who was defeated by majority decision. In the end, Lee was convicted on bribery charges and served 22 months in prison and paid $25,000 in fines.
10. Shane Mosley Admits to Using EPO in Balco Scandal
Shane Mosley testified in front of a federal jury that, in 2003, he used EPO in his second fight with Oscar de la Hoya. EPO can increase an athlete’s endurance, affecting the later part of a fight, often called the “championship rounds.” Mosley would win his fight by close decision. The testimony showed that Mosley evaded the Las Vegas commission’s drug-testing program, and fooled millions of fans.
Mosley was an upstanding citizen, and a scandal of this nature forever ruined his “nice guy that hits hard” image. Boxing is a sport that’s brutal and bloody. To cheat in such a dangerous sport plays with the lives of other competitors.
9. Ali vs. Liston II: First-Round Knockout
Ali vs. Liston II was the big rematch of 1965. Liston had faced Ali once before in a six-round battle, one that ended when Liston quit with a hurt shoulder.
Many believed Liston only did that to milk the money out of a second battle against the young, undefeated Ali. When the fight went down, Ali began to dance and make a shadow-hunting Liston miss nearly every shot. In the final moments of the round, Ali struck him with a hard right to the head.
Liston went down, and the world went outrageous. Ali told Liston to “get up sucka!”, but referee Jersey Joe Walcott had waved off the fight. Ali had won. Some, including Liston’s wife, questioned the validity of the loss. Liston had underworld ties, and many immediately drew the conclusion that this match had to involve them.
Liston’s strange death five years later, of a heroin overdose, is believed in some circles to be the work of the mob ties Liston had.
8. Mike Tyson Bites Evander Holyfield
Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield in 1996 was like the heavyweight version of today’s Mayweather-Pacquiao. Both fighters were clearly not the same as they once were when the hype was at its highest five years earlier. Yet, finally, it was about to happen.
It did, and Holyfield won by TKO in Round 11, scoring an impressive upset. A rematch was held in 1997, with many fans not wanting to let go and realize Tyson was no longer the baddest man on the planet. During the second round of Tyson-Holyfield II, Tyson received a cut from a Holyfield headbutt. Tyson complained that the referee did noting about Holyfield’s headbutts during their first match.
Tyson decided to take matters into his own hands in Round 3, and decided to bite Holyfield on his right ear, ripping a bit of cartilage off and spitting it out. Referee Mills Lane deducted two points from him, and the bout continued, with Tyson biting the other ear, and then coming over to Holyfield’s corner after the round to argue and fight.
Tyson was disqualified, and the audience was pissed. A fan even threw a water bottle at Tyson’s back. Tyson would be fined $3 million and temporarily banned from the sport. The pop-culture aftermath has harmed boxing far worse, turning the increasingly less respectable sport into a circus sideshow worthy of the trash-TV era of the mid-to-late ’90s.
7. Don King’s Ring Magazine Scandal
Don King seized the opportunity to start the United States Boxing Championships in 1976, when America was celebrating its bicentennial and the U.S. Olympic boxing team had just scored five gold medals. King sold the idea of the United States Boxing Championship tournament to ABC to broadcast. The tournament would be filled with bums and journeymen that needed validation.
That’s where the Ring Magazine came in. The Ring’s rankings were bought by King, who recognized that Ring had been dropping in subscriptions every year since 1962. Ring got the publicity of a big Don King tournament, and Don King got his fighters the validation they needed in order to market and justify his events.
Deep investigative reporting from boxing journalists, who grew suspicious of the dearth of quality opposition in these bouts, exposed King. Soon, word that at least eleven fighters participating in the tournament had falsified records got out, and ABC became worried.
After a participant in the tournament came clean about many of the fights being rigged to give victories to fighters who had contracts with King, ABC finally canceled the tournament. King would let some of his associates receive the legal blowback, as he escaped unscathed.
Some say the scandal hurt Ring’s credibility so bad that the WBC and WBA sanctioning bodies were given more power and authority from the incident, thus the later creation of the IBF and WBO.
6. Edwin Valero’s Muder-Suicide
Edwin Valero was an exciting super-featherweight (130 lb.) and lightweight (135 lb.) world champion.
He was an animal in the ring, knocking out every single one of his 27 opponents, the first 18 within Round 1. He was set to take the limelight away from the likes of Manny Pacquiao with his exciting style. until he was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife in April 2010.
While in jail, Valero was found hanging from a bar in his cell with a noose made from his sweatpants. The exciting champion had committed suicide. Valero’s Venezuelan family and friends were skeptical of Valero’s death being suicide, suggesting the police had him murdered.
Even the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. suggested that Valero and his wife were killed by “enemies of the state”. None of these claims, true or not, nullify the fact that boxing lost a great champion.
5. Jake LaMotta Takes a Dive for the Mob
In 1947, Jake LaMotta was a great boxer on the rise, but he was looking for a greater rise, and favor with the mob.
The mob controlled boxing, and wanted LaMotta to take a dive against Billy Fox for an extra $20,000 and a guaranteed title shot against Frenchman Marcel Cerdan. LaMotta tried to hit him, and Fox’s knees went weak. LaMotta carried him in what increasingly became an obvious fix.
By Round 4, the fix was obvious, and LaMotta lay against the ropes to allow the light-hitting Fox to pounce on him. Fox was awarded the fourth-round TKO. LaMotta was awarded his promised 20 grand and title shot, as well as an investigation from the FBI years later.
4. Emile Griffith Pummels Benny “The Kid” Paret to Death on Live Television
Emile Griffith and Benny “The Kid” Paret were welterweight (147 lb.) rivals, trading the world championship back and forth through their first two fights, only to settle the score on March 24, 1962.
The fight was televised nationally on ABC, and was fought in the famous Madison Square Garden. The fight was a competitive one, until Round 12, when Griffith knocked Parent into the ropes. Griffith hit Paret 20 times, with Paret becoming unconscious during the end of the exchange. As a result, many networks ended their national broadcasts of boxing until the Ali-Frazier era of the 1970s.
Griffith’s and Paret’s stories are chronicled in the amazing documentary, Ring of Fire. The event represented a shift in how the sport stopped its fights, with referees becoming increasingly safety-conscious with each passing decade.
3. Luis Resto Ends Boxing Career of Undefeated Fighter by Using Illegal Pads
Undefeated Billy Collins Jr. (14-0, 11 KO) was a junior middleweight (154 lb.) prospect on his way up.
Luis Resto (20-8-2, 8 KO) was a light-punching journeyman. Resto beat Collins’ eyes shut and his skin purple and blue. Collins suffered a torn iris and his vision was forever blurred. Collins could no longer fight. Collins’ father and trainer Collins Sr. went up to shake Resto’s hand out of sportsmanship, only to be overcome with rage at how thin Resto’s glove was. He demanded the gloves be impounded.
Resto’s padding had been removed, and Resto himself admitted years later that his handwraps had been soaked in plaster of Paris, a substance that hardens into plaster casts. Collins began drinking and became violent without boxing in his life.
He would later drive his car into a cement wall in 1984, ending his life at age 22. Resto and his trainer, Panama Lewis, were banned for life from the sport. Resto served 2 1/2 years in prison for assault, while boxing suffered a tragedy that shows just how dangerous cheating can be in this sport.
2. Carlos Monzon Kills His Wife by Throwing Her off a Balcony
Carlos Monzon was arguably the greatest Argentine boxer of all time, and the greatest middleweight (160 lb.) of all time. In 1977, Monzon retired and managed to keep out of the papers. His previous violent relationships (that, at least once, resulted in his being shot in the leg by an ex-wife) became the stuff that the paparazzi ate up.
But in 1988, Monzon entered the mainstream press again. This time, he not only beat his wife, Alicia Munoz, he picked her up by the neck and threw her off the second-floor balcony of their apartment.
Monzon was convicted of homicide, and sentenced to 11 years. Monzon was allowed to visit his family in 1995 for a weekend, only to crash his car and die on the way back.
1. Ray Mancini Accidentally Kills Duk Koo Kim
In 1982, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini fought Duk Koo Kim in a defense of the WBA lightweight (135 lb.) title. Mancini was a well-experienced fighter, but Duk Koo Kim had never been in a 15-round fight before. Kim displayed world-class toughness by coming back from some major punishment.
Then in Round 14, Mancini decked Kim with a short combination that Kim almost got up from, but the referee waved off the fight. Kim would die of brain injuries related to the fight four days later.
Mancini would never be the same aggressive fighter he had become famous for. Boxing also would never be the same. Every sanctioning body lowered the championship limit from 15 rounds to 12 by the end of the 1980s, in an effort to make the sport safer.