Top 10 Worst Boxing Moments In History


Professional Boxing is known as the “Sweet Science” but corruption, a lack of a central governing body, and the rise of MMA have threatened to end this glorious sport. Mega fights still bring in huge revenues but they are few and far between. Here is a list of 10 incidents that have contributed to the downfall:

10. The Sad Saga of James Butler

Butler was a very promising young fighter from New York City known by the nickname “Harlem Hammer”.  In November 2001, James Butler fought Richard “The Alien” Grant.  The bout was a charity event to benefit survivors of the September 11 attacks.  After losing by unanimous decision Butler made his way to the middle of the ring to purportedly congratulate Grant.  Grant reacted by stretching his hand out in a motion to embrace.  Instead, Butler (who had already removed his gloves) threw a vicious haymaker to Grant’s face.  Richard Grant suffered numerous facial injuries including a broken jaw, lacerated tongue, and several stitches.  Butler, in turn, was arrested and convicted of assault and served prison time for the attack.

Unfortunately the tale does not end there.  James Butler continued his career after this incident but could never duplicate his earlier success.  In October of 2004, Butler was arrested and charged with murdering Sam Kellerman, brother of HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellermanwith. He (ironically) used a hammer and set his body on fire after a dispute.  Butler pled guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

9. The Riot at Madison Square Garden

Polish born Andrew Golota entered the ring on July 11, 1996 on the cusp of superstardom with an exceptional 27-0 record. All he had to do was get past the 38-1 former Undisputed Heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe. Golota responded with a brilliant performance. The Polish sensation clobbered the ex-champ round after round, almost into submission. He was well ahead on points and seemingly close to a scoring a knockout.

In the 7th round the fight began to take a very strange turn. Golota (for reasons known only to himself) commenced to blatantly and repeatedly punch Bowe below the belt line.  Golota was warned several times and even received point deductions but his behavior continued.  After several more flagrant low blows the referee was forced to disqualify him.  Riddick Bowe’s corner responded by rushing the ring and viciously attacking Golota and his team.  This triggered a full scale, racially charged riot, which spilled into the stands. MSG security was not equipped to handle a massive brawl and had to wait for New York riot police to arrive. Reinforcements finally arrived but not before dozens of fans, boxing personnel and police were injured in this disgraceful and bizarre incident. (Check the video at 2:54 to see the riot start.)

8. Only in America

Don King's mugshot former felon becomes popular boxing promoter

Not anyone can own a professional football franchise. Not anyone can own a baseball franchise. However, anyone can promote a fight- even a convicted killer and numbers operator from Cleveland. In 1974 Don King very shrewdly promoted his first professional fight.  It turned out to be the famed Ali vs. Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire.  This mega-event instantly transformed King into the major player in boxing for the next 30 years.

Unfortunately, the major player likes to play dirty; King’s many exploits are infamous.  He has perpetrated fraud after fraud on any and all promising young fighters to join his stable. King has been implicated in: murder, bribery, theft, bookmaking, breaches of contract, and mafia-assisted racketeering. Larry Holmes once said, “Don King wears his hair like that so he can hide his horns.”

7. Sonny Liston and the Mob

By all accounts Liston had a woeful childhood full of extreme poverty and physical abuse. Liston left home at an early age and participated in numerous violent crimes.  While incarcerated, his boxing skills were discovered and soon after his release he began destroying a string of opponents on his way to the Heavyweight title.  Liston’s incredible prowess caught the attention of several mafia associates including Frankie Carbo and “Blinky” Palermo.

By the time Sonny Liston fought a young Cassius Clay on May 25, 1965 many in the press already suspected that Liston was controlled by the mob.  He nevertheless participated in one of the most obvious fixes in sports history.  In the very first round Liston took a dive and allowed himself to be counted out after Clay threw his famous “Phantom Punch”.  Slow motion review shows a quick combination that seemingly misses or at best only grazes Liston. Coincidently their first fight also ended controversially when Liston refused to come out of his corner for the 7th round, claiming a shoulder injury.  Sonny Liston would die 5 years later under very suspicious circumstances.

6. The Corrupt Richard Steele

A very rare event occurred on March 17, 1990.  On this night two undefeated champions, who were both in the same weight class and who were both in their prime, fought each other.  Julio Cesar Chavez who was 68-0 (and promoted by Don King) met undefeated Olympic gold medalist and welterweight champ Meldrick Taylor.  Chavez was the favorite but it was Taylor who dominated the fight from the opening bell.

Taylor’s trademark speed was beginning to wane but he still held a commanding lead on all scorecards going into the final round.  Moments before the end of the match Chavez scored a knockdown but Taylor rose to his feet quickly. Had the fight continued Taylor would have still won by unanimous decision, but it was not meant to be.  The bout referee Richard Steele stopped the fight with a mere 2 seconds left and awarded the victory to Chavez.  There were immediate protests from Taylor’s camp but the Nevada State Athletic Commission (whose integrity has been routinely called into question) upheld the decision.  Taylor’s career and health were subsequently ruined and Steele, who notoriously favored Don King fighters, forever tarnished the sport.

5. International Boxing Federation Ranking Scandal

International Boxing Federation (IBF) Heavyweight Belt

The IBF, among other entities, is a major sanctioning body based in New Jersey.  The way boxing works: each sanctioning body has a champion and champions are only allowed to fight boxers ranked in the top 15. Ranking committees determine who gets ranked. Ranking committee chairmen have the final say and are notoriously corruptible.

In November 1999 IBF president Bob Lee Sr. was indicted and convicted on numerous racketeering charges.  Lee was conspiring with his rankings chairman C. Douglass Beavers to rig the rankings system to favor boxers whose promoters and handlers paid them cash bribes.  The duo routinely took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the likes of Don King and Cedric Kushner in return for artificial inflation of the rankings of their fighters.  Promoters who didn’t pay didn’t see title fights.  The result, a completely corrupt system that was not in any way based on merit.  Another black eye for boxing.

4. Jim Norris: Boxing’s Not So Golden Age

Hockey Hall of Famer and President of the International Boxing Club

James D. Norris was a very wealthy and an extremely powerful man in the mid 20th century.  He owned many companies and was heavily involved in the sports world: he owned a National Hockey League franchise, a major stake in Madison Square Garden, and champion racehorses.  Jim Norris was also a very unsavory individual and was widely known to associate with criminals. As president of the International Boxing Club, Norris had a virtual monopoly on championship fights due to a lucrative contract the IBC had to broadcast fights on national television.

Jim Norris was personally responsible for fixing numerous bouts, including: Harry Thomas vs. Max Schmeling in 1937 and Jake Lamotta vs. Billy Fox in 1946.  His corruption knew no limits. Besides match fixing he was also unofficially managing many boxers (usually against their will) and persuading them to hire his associates as advisors.  Norris’ actions perpetuated a chain of farces, which were passed off as competitive bouts to an unsuspecting public- helping to erode boxing’s intregrity. (Image: Legends of Hockey. James Norris is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.)

3. 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea

Byun Jong II 1988 Olympics Hanging Head in Shame

Many people remember a young Roy Jones Jr. being robbed of a gold medal by corrupt Olympic judges, but few remember the even uglier incident that preceded it.  New Zealander Keith Walker was officiating a bantamweight bout between Byun Jong Il of South Korea and Alexander Hristov of Bulgaria.  The fight was an ugly foul-filled affair and Walker had to repeatedly penalize Jong for head butting.

At the conclusion of the fight Hristov was announced the winner but this only incensed Jong’s countrymen.  Numerous South Korean boxing officials and coaches stormed the ring and viciously attacked referee Keith Walker with punches, kicks, bottles, and even chairs.  The terrified Walker barely escaped serious injury and directly headed to the airport and took the first plane back to New Zealand. Shamed and embarrassed, the Korean Boxing Federation president and the president of the Korean Olympic Committee both resigned after this deplorable incident. (Photo: Byun Jong II sits in the ring and refuses to get up.)

2. The Actions of Panama Lewis

At one time Carlos “Panama” Lewis was a world-class trainer. His character, on the other hand was anything but world class.  Despite already being under a cloud of suspicion for allegedly giving his boxers water spiked with illegal stimulants and for gambling on fights that he was involved in; Panama Lewis concocted a wicked plan for his figher Luis Resto.  Resto was nothing more than a journeyman fighter or simply a professional opponent when he took on undefeated rising star Billy Collins Jr, on June 16, 1983.

Knowing Resto was overmatched, Panama and another trainer removed padding from Resto’s gloves and poured an illegal hardening agent on his hand wraps.  Luis Resto proceeded to brutalize his unsuspecting opponent for 10 rounds.  After being declared the winner Resto approached Collins’ corner.  Collins’ father, who at that point was suspicious of Resto’s new found power, touched Resto’s hand and immediately notified ringside officials (see video). The gloves and hand wraps in question were confiscated by the state Athletic Commission and both were brought up on charges.  Panama Lewis and Luis Resto both had their licenses permanently revoked and were given prison sentences.  Sadly, Billy Collins Jr. would never fight again, his once promising career shattered by the injuries he received.  Collins Jr. was dead less than one year later, suicide was suspected.

1. The Death of Duk Koo Kim

A superstar in South Korea, Kim had risen all the way to number one lightweight contender and earned a world title shot against the famed Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini on November 13, 1982.  The bout was extremely brutal, especially for Kim, who had begun to wear down in the latter rounds after absorbing tremendous punishment from the champion.  In the early part of the 14th round Mancini hit Kim with a crushing right hand that caused him to fly toward the ropes and hit his head on the canvas.

Kim managed to rise but the referee stopped the fight.  Minutes later Duk Koo Kim collapsed into a coma and was carried out of the ring and taken directly to the hospital.  Tragically the Korean star died 4 days later from severe brain trauma.  Out of the hundreds of recorded ring fatalities Kim’s death was one of the saddest.  Kim’s opponent Ray Mancini would never again be the same caliber fighter and it was widely reported that he blamed himself for Kim’s death. Kim’s mother committed suicide three months after her son’s death by drinking a bottle of pesticide.  The bout’s referee Richard Green, consumed by guilt, also committed suicide shortly after the fight.

by Rolando Cabrera

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  1. Liston took a dive vs Ali that’s a fact, Liston would have cut him down very sad moments for boxing,

  2. Comments about the Liston-Ali II fight as well as Chavez-Taylor fights have been made by people writing in who are more astute than writer Cabrera. But where does he get the idea that the Schmeling-Thomas scrap in 1937 was “fixed”? It isn’t mentioned in the 20 biographies published on Joe Louis, so where?

  3. AYFKM?? The simple fact that Liston’s head “rumbles” after Ali’s punch, as shown IN YOUR OWN VIDEO is proof Ali hammered him. I don’t care what you write or how you make a living, just don’t be so blatantly stupid…makes you look bad….:)

  4. Chavez-Taylor was a GREAT event for Boxing. You don’t have your facts straight. Taylor was a Jr.Welter, not a welter. Had Taylor been able to continue he would’ve won a split decision,not a unanimous decision. HBO claimed that Taylor was “dominating” the fight,but with a trained eye one can see a completely different,much closer,fight transpiring. Also, it isn’t Steele’s job to know how much time is remaining in the round. His #1 priority is the safety of the fighters. Even if Steele had known there were only 2 seconds left, he couldn’t let it continue for that reason only because then it’d be unfair to Chavez, and show favoritism. Steele had already allowed Taylor to hit Chavez with an ungodly amount of low blows without penalty. The perception is that Steele did something shady. The reality is that Steele did his job and acted reasonably and unbiasedly.

    • You are right, Steele should not have made his decision on the hope that Taylor might last 2 more seconds. If a fighter cannot continue, the fight should be stopped. I always thought the Tyson/Ruddock stoppage by Steele was more controversial.

  5. Some of these belong in the list, some do not.

    First – Sonny Liston and the Mob? An obvious fix? While you and some others may believe this, watch the video in slow motion. Was it a fix – who can be sure. But one thing is certain – the video doesn’t lie and it sure looks like he got clipped. Liston was in poor shape for that bout and him getting KO’d by one shot doesn’t surprise me. It was a poor moment for the sport simply because it didn’t live up to expectations but calling it an obvious fix is over the top.

    Second – Calling Richard Steele corrupt is also far too strong and you might want to watch what you write. Some may deem what you wrote as libelous. Steele may not have been focusing on the red light in the corner as Chavez was dishing out a beating prior to the knockdown. Also, I saw Taylor in Palm Springs before his rematch with Chavez and spoke to him about the fight. He admitted he didn’t know how he managed to last as long as he did and he was in serious trouble. He didn’t do well in the rematch and for what it’s worth, he looked worn out and slow when I saw him. He was already slurring his words by this point and it was difficult for me to understand him. He took a beating in that fight – few people focus on this. So…corrupt, no. Unfortunate the fight didn’t last another two seconds? Perhaps.

    Third – there are so many bad moments in the sport that a top ten list is always going to be lacking. For instance, you put the Doo Koo Kim fight in the list. What about Benny Paret or any of the other high-profile deaths in the ring?

    The actions of Panama Lewis were deplorable for sure and belong in the list. They were a stain on boxing and affected the lives of many people.

    • Finally someone gets it. Good post Scott. The writer knows nothing if he think Liston didn’t get hit. Did he get a KO punch? Not sure but to say it didn’t land makes pretty much all this crap…which it was.

      He speaks on the death of boxing yet he mentions things in the golden years of the sport that did not hurt it one bit. James Butler is not even known except to hardcore fans.

      To mention Don King and leave out Arum is comical too. Both are corrupt but honestly, if this writer has ever been to a fight (me, about 150 live events) he’d know a King card kills any Arum, in fight fix fest. Arum recently allowed his fighter Chavez Jr. not get tested TWICE IN A ROW in the most corrupt boxing state, Texas. The same Chavez who was suspended for a masking agent on PED’s using diuretics.

      The sport is a mess but always has. It still outdraws MMA (which I love too) and the highest paid athlete in the world is Floyd Mayweather.

      Nice try but if you are going to make a list do this…

      Tyson bites an ear
      Ali gets stripped of his title without due process
      Gatti nearly kills Gamache while the weigh in was rigged
      Joe Louis gets ripped off by his manager and stuck with taxes while the government takes advantage of him
      Arum and Oscar polarize boxing by keeping their fighters away from the others.
      The lack of a WORLD commission. A national would be useless in Europe and fighters would not fight here meaning a monopoly of belts via countries/continents.
      Mismatches with guys way beyond done. A guy coming off three KO losses should not be fighting a prospect 13-0 with 9 ko’s.

      I can go on but unlike the writer, I know the sport.

    • I agree about Liston. It was not “obvious” to me either.

      I think calling Steele corrupt is a bit of sensationalism. Over 150 title bouts referred and I can only think of two “controversial” stoppage, with the Taylor/Chavez one being a good call in my book.

      Your statement comparing boxing to mma is spot on. I was a huge fan of mma in it’s early days before Zuffa/Dana White gobbled up Pride. I think the fenced in octagon that is often used as a weapon against some opponents is far too gimmicky to be taken seriously as a sport. Those fighters are talented and great to watch, and while the support has enjoyed more and more success as time goes by, it will always be gimmicky.

      Your list is also better than this articles.

  6. It’s funny that you have Chavez’s miracle comeback as one of the worst moments – I have it as one of the best. Steele made the right call. It sucks for Taylor – he turned in a masterful performance, but you have to look at it like a referee. He doesn’t know how much time is left. He sees Taylor in bad, bad shape and taking a vicious pounding for three rounds. Chavez was being outlanded, but he did a LOT of damage during that fight. Taylor’s ribs were broken, his orbital was fractured, he had swallowed a PINT of his own blood and that’s all that was coming out the other end: Flip Pomanski (the Nevada State Doctor who examined him) said that he was urinating pure blood. Does that sound like someone who deserves to take more punishment? If the fight had been ten years earlier and it had been a 15 rounder, nobody would have questioned the stoppage.

    • If there were 2 seconds left in the round, there’s a bell that sounds 10 seconds BEFORE the round ends, the referee must have known the round was about to end, just saying. Great list, great site.

      • Josean, very true. plus the red light goes off above the corner turnbuckle, but regardless. two seconds means a punch can be thrown and Tayler was in no condition to receive another one. Google him and see what i mean. he can barely talk. The real crazy part of that fight is that his corner was telling him he was behind, so that’s why he went toe to toe. he should have fought like he was winning and force Chavez to work hard for the KO. But it was an amazing fight and this is a good list.

        McCall vs Lewis should be on there, you are right ESP83

        • If you are receiving an email notification for this reply 4 years after, I apologize. I agree. Meldrick Taylor is in very bad condition. As much as I dislike Richard Steele, he made the right call of ignoring the time and stopping the fight. It should not matter what time is on the clock, if the fighter cannot continue, it should be stopped. To me it was clear Taylor did not respond when Steele asked if he was “okay.” I think people who think Taylor got robbed should actually argue that he was in condition to fight, not that he could hold on for two more seconds. If Chavez had been able to land a punch in those crucial two seconds, it might have ended Taylor’s life. As you noted yourself, his neurological condition is very bad, but I think that’s still a better life than no life at all. I agree with you. I wish Taylor could have finished the fight, especially seeing what the cost was to his health. He could not do so safely, therefore the stoppage should have happened.

  7. Quit whining about the US getting screwed in Korea. The US screwed over Korean boxers in the 1984 olympics, part of the US’s concerted and corrupt efforts to break the USSR’s record of 80 gold medals in the 1980 games.

    The US “won” 83 in 1984, but would not have broken the Soviet record if there weren’t rigged judging in several events, including boxing, gymnastics and synchronized swimming, among others.

    And let’s not forget the fact that Carl Lewis was always dirty. His records should have been stricken and gold medals returned, just like Marion Jones.

    “Carl Lewis’s positive test covered up”

    The US wouldn’t have had anywhere near 80 medals without all the cheating.


  8. I like the list, but you do need the Tyson ear bite for sure, that was just a disgrace… #6 though, it wasn't that bad. I remember seeing that one live and Taylor was out on his feet, the guy was holding onto the ropes until steele removed it, and he wouldn't answer until Steele was removing the mouth piece… was it a bad call, yeah, but not one of the worse moments. If Steele would have jumped in between them and called off the fight that would be bad, but Taylor got hit pretty hard…. regardless of the time left, the guy was in no condition to stand let alone continue to fight… And he did give him a chance, he could have called it when he was stumbling to get back up….

  9. What about the hideously jaded decision against lennox lewis when he was handed a draw to holyfield because the judges operated on nationalistic bias?

      • No. No remotely unless you are a Holy hugger. I’m a huge fan of Holy and he won maybe two rounds at best. If you are going to be clueless, why not speak on the second fight. Holy arguably won that. He was not even in the “came in third” in a two man fight on that but tell yourself anything…H

  10. I am surprised i didnt see the Oliver Mcall Lenix Lewisheavy weight championship match where mid fight mcall started bawling like a baby because he was fiending so hard for a hit of crack… it was pretty bad.

  11. Gene Fullmer and Benny Paret was one of the worst, the referee let a guy who couldn't defend himself basically get beaten to death

    • Gene Fullmer did not kill Paret. Emile Griffith killed Paret in a fight the referee should have stopped. Paret was unconscious hung up on the ropes as Griffith pummeled him. Griffith should have been suspended for beating a man who was defenseless and unconscious.

      • griffith had planned to kill paret in the ring because paret called him a “emericon”. and griffith was a in the closet homosexual at the time and a gay fighters career could be over if word ever gets out

  12. this is a very good list

    there's a LOT that should be on the list, but this is exactly perfect

    good job!