4. Courtney Burton SD10 Emanuel Augustus - July 06, 2004
This entry was not on one of boxing's big stages, headlining a PPV or a Showtime or HBO broadcast. The 10-round lightweight bout between Courtney Burton and Emanuel Augustus was on ESPN's former flagship boxing program, Friday Night Fights.
Augustus was known as boxing's 'drunken master.' He had a unique free-flowing style that allowed him to throw punches in combination with a defense that relied on head and upper body movement. His record featured almost as many losses as wins. However, it wasn't a reflection of his skill level, as many close decisions didn't go his way.
Hall-of-Famer Floyd Mayweather has often cited Augustus as one of his most challenging battles. And in 2001, he was in the Ring Magazine fight of the year with New England boxing legend Micky Ward.
Before taking on Augustus, Burton was a rising prospect in the sport and previously lost a lightweight title eliminator to Julio Diaz. The bout with the veteran Augustus was meant to give him a showcase and bounce-back match in his home state of Michigan.
Augustus didn't follow the script and largely dominated Burton by outworking and out-landing him almost every round. The longtime veteran had an exuberant style, and he did his share of showboating throughout the fight.
The referee, Dan Kelley, made it abundantly clear that he wasn't a fan of Augustus and wouldn't call the fight fairly.
In the fourth round, Augustus landed a perfect legal body shot that sent Burton to the canvas. Instead of delivering a 10-count, Kelley deemed the punch a low blow, providing Burton with a 5-minute rest to recover. Burton himself committed fouls without any warning from the referee, including hits to the back of Augustus' head.
As a premonition of what was to come, Kelley deducted a point from Augustus in the ninth round for spinning out of a clinch. Then came the judge's scorecards.
Two judges found a way to give Burton the win. Including an erroneous score of 99-90, awarding the hometown fighter all but one round, and the split decision.
The crowd in attendance and the announcement team at ESPN were flabbergasted by the scorecards. An investigation was prompted after the disputed decision, but the decision was never overturned.
"It's the most egregious example of biased officiating I've seen," said ESPN commentator Joe Tessitore to Ring Magazine. "The judging was atrocious that night. But referee Dan Kelley was so bad that you had to wonder, 'Is this guy on the take?' 'Is he creating his own rules just to penalize Augustus?'"
Two years later, Augustus would gain some measure of revenge with an eighth-round knockout over Burton.