5 of the biggest boxing robberies of all time

What are some of the most controversial decisions in boxing history? Fansided MMA examines five that have had on impact on the sport.

WBC Welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker grimace
WBC Welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker grimace / BOB DAEMMRICH/GettyImages
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Clean and effective punching. Affective aggression. Defense and ring generalship are the four tenets of how to score a boxing match. Boxing, however, is often much like beauty in the eye of the beholder. The sport is judged and not measured. And as long as the sport is based on one’s opinion and judgment, there will always be close fights and robberies.

Boxing is the only sport where you can get robbed without a gun,” said former heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz.

Many factors outside of the two combatants in the ring can go into how a fight is scored. The four most critical are the three judges outside of the ring and the referee on the inside.

For the judges, how much emphasis they put into each individual scoring category can heavily influence how they score a fight. Ring generalship is, arguably, the portion of boxing’s scoring criteria that is open to the most interpretation. If you ask 20 different people to define ring generalship, you may get 20 contrasting answers. And that’s a problem.

The referee picking and choosing which rules they want to enforce, such as excessive holding or ducking below the waist, can provide a fighter an unfair advantage over the other. The best referees are those that you hardly notice throughout the match.

Then there is, of course, the promotional and box office aspect to scoring a fight. Preventing the proverbial financial box office apple cart from being upset can be a detail that impacts which judges and referees are chosen. When the favored or A-side fighter is headed into a blockbuster event but chooses to take a fight in the interim unless a knockout is scored, seldom does the superstar fighter lose.

Robberies or bad decisions also come at all levels and stages. Fights that are at the club level that aren’t televised have a higher probability of having a poor decision. Those travesties are often forgotten, especially if they take place during the rise of a prospect that has the full support of a promoter.

There is a difference between a close fight and a robbery. However, that isn’t to say that a tight fight can’t turn into a robbery when it’s evident who won which rounds. Championship boxing matches are 12 rounds, and judges have to be able to discern swing rounds that can potentially go to either participant from rounds that have a clear winner.

There have been close fights that have had one judge score a close match wide that have confounded fans and pundits. Examples include Carlos Sucre’s 117-111 score for Juan Francisco Estrada in the rematch with Roman Gonzalez in March 2021, which led to a suspension by the World Boxing Association.

On an even bigger stage, the first bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin that resulted in a controversial draw had one of the most scrutinized scorecards in recent history. Judge Adelaide Byrd somehow saw Alvarez winning the fight with a score of 118-110.

Fansided MMA will look into five of the most infamous robberies the sport of boxing has witnessed. These will be fights that don’t have a legitimate argument for being simply a close contest.

Boxing’s century-long history has been subjected to thousands of head-scratching decisions. Thus, the five we dig into, we’ll be those that were in front of the brightest lights.