Many of the most disputed fights in the history of the sport inspired more conflict than you ever saw in the brawls themselves. When it comes to controversial fights from history, the older stories grow and mutate as decades pass. Despite the existence of hard facts behind much of these famed battles, the rumors usually emerge as the most entertaining part of the story. Whether displayed on television or behind closed doors in an unknown warehouse, the world’s most disputed fights each inspire a great deal of discourse as to not only their outcomes but what happened after them. Sometimes no clear winner emerges at the end, leaving audience members to debate their own accounts for eternity; in other fights, a clear victor was robbed of their win by either incompetent or corrupt judges.
As you learn about the most controversial fights in history, attempt to put yourself in the judges' shoes, or even a member of the audience. How would you have scored the fights? What do you think could have been done differently? Would you change who you were rooting for had you known the outcome in advance? Regardless of what you think, these are the facts below, and they will likely continue to stoke controversy for years to come.
Bruce Lee vs Wong Jack ManPhoto: Groundswell Productions, BH Tilt, WWE Studios
The 1964 battle between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man comes with a complicated and messy back story that incorporates stylistic differences, race, and the longstanding San Francisco vs Oakland rivalry. It also took place in front of only seven people behind locked doors, meaning the story has since taken on mythic proportions in martial arts circles. According to surviving witness David Chin, the brawl resembled more of a street fight than the cinematic moment fans imagined. They both said the fight lasted around seven minutes and that each competitor fought crudely, attempting to put their opponent away as quickly as possible until Wong lost his footing in the final moments.
A defining moment for both fighters, the brawl certainly shook Bruce Lee's own convictions about the infallibility of his own training, and spurred him onwards towards developing his own style.
George St. Pierre vs Johny HendricksPhoto: YouTube
At the end of this welterweight-championship match at UFC 167, fans believed Johny Hedricks would hold up the the belt in the middle of the octagon, while St. Pierre sat bloodied, black, and blue in the corner. However, the judges ruled in favor of the reigning champion, St. Pierre, who, following the match, said he planned to take some time off. To say that Dana White, Mr. UFC, felt less than pleased about the outcome of the match would be an understatement. After all was said and done, White maintained his opinion that St. Pierre hadn't performed as well as the judges gave him credit for.
"I’m blown away that George St. Pierre won that fight, and listen, I’m a promoter," White told the Las Vegas Sun. "He’s the biggest pay-per-view star on the f*cking planet for me, and I still don’t think he won that fight.”
Timothy Bradley vs Manny PacquiaoVideo: YouTube
This storied fight makes you wonder if all of the gossip surrounding a brawl can actually be as juicy as it's promised to be. The 2012 fight got off to a late start after Manny Pacquiao maneuvered the match's start time so he wouldn't have to leave his dressing room until game 7 between the Celtics and the Miami Heat finished. Sounds like a total diva move, but it apparently totally happened. The fight, which started very late, appeared to be entirely in Pacquiao's corner, until the final scores were released that surprisingly decided in favor of Bradley. Many say this decision resulted from one of either two factors: gross incompetence on the part of the judges, or pure corruption.
Chris Weidman vs Gegard MousasiPhoto: YouTube
What. A. Mess. This fight at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York was your average MMA match for all of two minutes before it spiraled out of control into something that the fighters, and UFC as a whole, would like you to forget. With 1:47 left in the second round, a referee called a time out when he thought he saw Mousasi perform an illegal kick. After bringing in a ringside doctor to check out Weidman, the ref called for instant replay - but here's the thing - instant replay isn't allowed within the state of New York's Athletic Commission. After watching the instant replay, the ref decided that the match needed a break, and then after about five minutes or so he gave Moussai the win. To make matters worse this was Moussai's last match with the UFC for the unforeseen future, meaning Weidman may never get a chance for a rematch.