The three things you can count on in life: death, taxes and … controversial decisions in boxing.
On ESPN2 Wednesday (7 p.m. ET), fans will get the chance to rewatch some memorable fights that were not only notable for their action inside the ring, but for the controversies after the scorecards were read.
“These are five fights that many people, myself included, felt could’ve gone either way,” says Bob Arum, who’s company, Top Rank, promoted all the matches that will be aired.
In his own words, edited for clarity, here’s what Arum had to say about those memorable — and contentious — bouts.
Felix Trinidad MD12 Oscar De La Hoya (Sept. 18, 1999)
Coming into this matchup, both De La Hoya and Trinidad were clearly the two best welterweights on the planet, undefeated in a combined 66 fights. “The Golden Boy” was the game’s brightest star, while “Tito” was living up to his acclaim as the next great fighter from Puerto Rico, having made 15 successful title defenses after winning the IBF title in 1993.
Trinidad unified the welterweight titles by the scores of 115-113 (Jerry Roth), 115-114 (Bob Logist) and 114-114 (Glen Hamada).
Arum on how the fight came to be: “De La Hoya was the big box-office star, and Don King had Trinidad, who obviously was the top opponent. People were talking about that fight, even more than say, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. So King came to me and he used a guy in Las Vegas, who had been with the commission, Sig Rogich, to make that fight. We negotiated that fight in Sig’s office on a Saturday afternoon, and we came up with a deal. But of course with King, once you negotiate something — that’s just the start of the negotiation.
“That’s what happened, and then Oscar had this guy, Leonard Armato, as his adviser, who was this great genius. My idea was that Oscar would take not a great guarantee purse but reasonable guarantee, and an upside of the pay-per-view at a percentage. But Armato was pushing for the biggest guarantee possible. He was willing to give up all the percentage and so forth, in which case Oscar made, I think, 20, 21 million [dollars] on the fight, which was a huge amount.
“But if he had gone with the percentage, he would’ve made about 5 or 6 million more.”
Arum on the controversial ending: “I mean, anybody objectively watching that fight, on the first 10 rounds can barely give Trinidad two of those rounds. Oscar beat the s— out of him and outboxed him the entire way. Now, the 11th round, you could go for Trinidad, and Trinidad clearly won the 12th. The best Trinidad did in that fight was win four rounds, it was clearly eight-to-four. It wasn’t even a close fight and they gave it to Trinidad.”
Arum’s reaction on who won: “Oscar. I was stunned. … I was stunned with those cards. He clearly won that fight.”
Shane Mosley UD12 Oscar De La Hoya (Sept. 13, 2003)
In June 2000, De La Hoya and Mosley christened Staples Center in Los Angeles as a boxing venue by putting forth a memorable welterweight battle that was won by Mosley. A few years later they would meet again, this time as junior middleweights, where De La Hoya held the WBC and WBA titles after defeating Javier Castillejo and archrival Fernando Vargas. As for Mosley, after suffering back-to-back losses to Vernon Forrest at 147, he made a rather uninspiring debut at junior middleweight against Raul Marquez in a third-round no-contest after a clash of heads cut Marquez. This would be his chance to regain his career momentum.
After 12 rounds, many observers believed De La Hoya had done enough to even the score, but all three judges, Stanley Christodoulou, Duane Ford and Anek Hongtongkam, had Mosley up 115-113.
Arum on how the fight came to be: “Oscar wanted revenge and Oscar always felt he was better than Mosley, although he conceded that he lost the first fight. He felt he had the strategy to beat Mosley, and also, he had firepower in his corner with Floyd Mayweather Sr. as his trainer. It was the biggest fight we could make for Oscar at that time.”
Arum on the controversial ending: “Oscar said at the postfight news conference that he would call for an investigation of the judging, but there was no case for an investigation because there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Just wrong, bad judging. I didn’t realize at the time, nobody knew at the time, that Mosley was juiced for the fight.”
Arum’s reaction on who won: “Oscar won eight or nine rounds and I was stunned when [the decision] went for Mosley.”
Manny Pacquiao SD12 Juan Manuel Marquez (Nov. 12, 2011)
This was the third chapter of what’s considered a historic rivalry. The first encounter between Pacquiao and Marquez in 2004 began with “Pac Man” flooring the skilled Mexican counterpuncher three times in the opening stanza. But Marquez eventually steadied himself and salvaged a hard-earned draw. Their rematch in 2008 was a tightly contested affair that saw Marquez control the bout for long stretches, but Pacquiao having the edge in power. It was clear that Marquez and his style would always trouble Pacquiao.
Marquez provided more evidence of that but came up short on the scorecards: 114-114 (Robert Hoyle) 115-113 (Dave Moretti) and 116-112 (Glenn Trowbridge).
Arum on how the fight came to be: “Marquez was a very, very good fighter, he was a very underestimated fighter, really a terrific student of the game and he had a good corner in Nacho Beristain. He just knew how to neutralize Manny.
“Fernando Beltran, who was the Mexican promoter of Marquez, was very close to us, and he pushed that fight because the Mexicans felt that Marquez had won the second fight and it was a logical fight. There was so much talk of the controversy. Fernando was handling Marquez’s business — although Marquez is very, very intelligent, knows numbers, so he participated in the negotiations. Even though there were disagreements in the negotiations, it was very amicable.”
Arum on the controversial ending: “The thing about the Marquez people is they knew boxing, and they knew that even though the decision went against them, we had nothing to do with it. And they preapproved the officials before the fight. So I never get any of that kind of negative input from Marquez on any of these fights.”
Arum’s reaction on who won: “I thought Manny won, but again, that’s not reliable because I knew it was very close and I tended to give Manny the close rounds.”
Sugar Ray Leonard SD12 Marvelous Marvin Hagler (April 6, 1987)
In a showdown that was years in the making, Hagler, a longtime and dominant middleweight champion, finally met Leonard at the Caesars Palace outdoor arena in Las Vegas, as Leonard came out of one of his many retirements to face Hagler. The last time Leonard had been in the ring was in May 1984, when he suffered a flash knockdown at the hands of Kevin Howard, before stopping him in the ninth round. After the fight, he abruptly retired, and many believed the megafight against Hagler would never come to fruition. And when this fight was consummated, many believed Leonard was simply out of his depth.
In a masterful display of boxing and guile, Leonard was able to come away with a split decision by the scores of 115-113 (Dave Moretti), 118-110 (Juan Jose Guerra) and 113-115 (Lou Filippo).
Arum on how the fight came to be: “Hagler wanted to retire after the Tommy Hearns fight in 1985, somehow we convinced him to do another fight, which was the John Mugabi fight. That then was going to be the last fight. The Mugabi fight was one of Hagler’s greatest fights. He struggled but finally knocked Mugabi out in the late rounds. It was a great fight. Ray was at that fight, he’s an astute boxing guy, other people may have been caught up in the excitement, may not have seen that Marvin was not the same guy he had been previously. That Marvin had lost his edge.
“Leonard went to his adviser Mike Trainer and said to him he was coming out of retirement and that he should make the fight with Hagler. Then the s— started because one of Trainer’s conditions was — because I had fallen out with Trainer — that Top Rank couldn’t be involved. All right, so the Petronelli’s — Goody and Pat, who comanaged and trained Hagler — fired back that unless Top Rank was the promoter, there was no fight. Even then, nobody had convinced Marvin to do the fight. He wanted to retire from boxing.
“So Pat, myself and Pat’s girlfriend, we drove through the fog, I remember to New Hampshire where Hagler had a house. Pat urged him to do the fight, and he agreed that he and Goody would reduce their one-third interest in Hagler’s purse to 15%. Hagler started pounding the table and said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to fight that p—y, but if I do — you’re going to take that one-third!’ And finally, Hagler agreed to do the fight.
“Then Trainer was still saying, ‘No Top Rank, no Top Rank,’ and then finally when there wouldn’t be a fight without Top Rank, he said, ‘OK, we’ll take a buyout’ and we agreed to pay them $11 million, which was a big sum of money at the time. Hagler fought for a lesser guarantee against the percentage — and ended up making $19 million. Ray, who’s a great guy, teases me about it, how he’ll never forgive me for that.”
Arum on the controversial ending: “First of all, it wasn’t a level playing field because [WBC president Jose] Sulaiman brought in this judge from Mexico (Jojo Guerra), who scored the fight 10-2 for Leonard. Now, whatever you said, whether you agreed that Leonard squeaked out a decision — it wasn’t that kind of fight.
“He hated Hagler and the Petronelli’s because they fought [Sulaiman] about 15-round fights, rather than 12-round fights. That was the big issue, then So Marvin and the Petronelli’s were not in good graces [with the WBC]. And I didn’t help the situation because I was fighting with Sulaiman. The other two judges, Lou Filippo from California, had the fight 7-5 for Hagler, and [Dave] Moretti had it for Leonard, but close.”
Arum’s reaction on who won: “Ray’s a great boxer, and Hagler didn’t have any kind of impetus, he didn’t get going until the late rounds. But that being said, I scored the fight seven rounds to five for Hagler the way judge Lou Filippo did.”
Floyd Mayweather UD12 Jose Luis Castillo (April 20, 2002)
After a highly successful stint as a 130-pound belt holder, Mayweather moved up to lightweight and challenged Castillo for his WBC title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Many believed that Castillo, who defeated the respected Stevie Johnston in 2000 to win the title, was just keeping the belt warm for Mayweather and his sublime skills. But Mayweather found out that Castillo wasn’t your garden variety belt holder, and was pushed to the limit. If there is a fight that you could argue that Mayweather was outpointed in, it’s this one.
But as the scorecards were rendered, Mayweather kept his undefeated record, as he came away with a unanimous decision by the scores of 116-111 (Anek Hongtongkam), 115-111 (John Keane) and 115-111 (Jerry Roth).
Arum on how the fight came to be: “Castillo was a great, tough Mexican fighter and those guys gave Mayweather trouble because they didn’t go for the feints, they didn’t go for anything. They were just brawlers. When Floyd fought Carlos Hernandez, Jesus Chavez, they gave him trouble. He won those fights, but they gave him trouble. Mayweather knew Castillo was a very good fighter, but again, Mayweather believed he was the best fighter out there. He was always confident in his ability, and indeed, in his early career, he would’ve fought anybody. It was Bruce Trampler, Top Rank’s matchmaker that was holding him back, matching him correctly. I remember the arguments in my office with the father, with him, asking me to get him Genaro Hernandez. I said, ‘Bruce said he’s not ready for Hernandez,’ and so forth. They were so insistent, we made the fight — and they were right, and we were wrong.”
Arum on the controversial ending: “Look at Harold Lederman’s commentary on it for HBO, he scored it 116-111 for Castillo and look at the punch stats. And then, for them to not only score the fight unanimously for Mayweather — but to score it like it wasn’t even a competitive fight for Mayweather. They gave him all the rounds, what kind of craziness was that scoring?
“After watching that fight, I got in the ring and I went over to the Mayweather corner, commiserating with them and I was telling them that one loss wouldn’t destroy their career, and I remember how down they were after that fight. They believed they had lost and not only did they win the fight, the judges scored it overwhelmingly for Mayweather.
“People started booing and everything. Mayweather, who was disgusted with his performance, said right there that he would do the rematch. So I didn’t have to persuade Mayweather. He’s an astute boxing guy and he realized he had f—ed up in that fight.”
Arum’s reaction on who won: “Castillo won that fight, eight rounds to four. I mean, no question about it.”