ON June 17, 1978, Zambia’s boxing legend Lottie Mwale fought American Marvin Johnson at the Red Star Stadium, Belgrade, Serbia over eight rounds. Johnson went down in both the first and second rounds.
Initially, the referee, Jozef Vikopv, did not count them as knockdowns. However, while considering a protest from Mwale’s handlers, the boxing commission overruled the referee and officially deducted points from Johnson for the knockdowns. The initial draw verdict was thus changed to a unanimous points decision win for Lottie, 76-74, 76-75and 77-75.
This is by no means the only controversial fight in boxing history and I thought it fitting and proper to highlight some of the more controversial decisions made by poor refereeing and judging which have sometimes given the sport a black eye.
Sometimes a fighter gives his all, lands the most punches and has the crowd singing his name at the top of their voices, but after the final bell has sounded, he leaves the arena with a loss on his record and a feeling of bitterness and dejection in his heart.
Roy Jones Jr appeared to soundly defeat hometown favorite Park Si-Hun of South Korea in the light middleweight final at the 1988 Olympics, but the world was stunned when Park romped home with the Gold Medal by a score of 3-2.
The Moroccan judge immediately admitted his error following the fight. He told the media that Jones clearly won, but he voted for Park because he was sure that his fellow judges would vote for Jones, and he didn’t want the host country’s boxer to be embarrassed by losing a 5-0 decision. After the match, Park Si-Hun came up to Jones and apologized to him for the decision. Judges who scored in favor of Park Si-Hun: Hiduad Larbi, Bob Kasule, Alberto Duran.
Pernell Whitaker versus Julio Cesar Chavez: Though the early rounds seemed quite even, Showtime television commentators were in unanimous agreement that Whitaker had won the bout and didn’t even consider it to be a close contest. When a draw was announced, it prompted widespread boos in the arena.
Later on, several journalists complained that the World Boxing Council appointed its own judges to the fight rather than the independent Texas Boxing and Wrestling Programme. This promoted widespread calls of corruption in boxing, but nothing was done about it. And to this day, that practice is still in effect. The judges’ score card: Jack Woodruff: 115-113, Mickey Vann, 115-115 and Franz Marti 115-115. The fight ended in a draw
Oscar De La Hoya versus Felix Sturm: From the onset of the fight, De La Hoya looked slow, while a dynamic Sturm continually outworked him. Even the few good moments De La Hoya had in the second half of the fight were more flashy than effective.
According to CompuBox numbers, Sturm out -landed De La Hoya 234 to 188, with a significantly better connect percentage. It was the greatest gift decision in the Golden Boy’s career. The judges all seemed intent on making sure that De La Hoya won this match. They scored it as follows: Mike Glienna: 115-113, Paul Smith: 115-113 and Dave Moretti: 115-113. De La Hoya won by unanimous decision.
Jose Luis Castillo versus Floyd Mayweather Jr (first meeting) Mayweather won what one writer has described a “a ridiculously lopsided” unanimous decision. According to CompuBox numbers, Castillo landed 46 more total punches (203 to 147). On power punches, Castillo had a huge advantage (173 to 66) and seemed to dictate the bout with his strategy of going inside the body on Mayweather.
The audience booed the decision while HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley wondered which fight they (the judges) were watching. Judges’ score card: Anek Hongtongkam: 116-111, John Keane: 115-111 and Jerry Roth: 115-111. Mayweather won by unanimous decision. As long as judges and referees get careless or deliberately throw objectivity out of the window in judging fights, they will continue establishing themselves as public enemy number one in the boxing world, while losing respect.