Boxing is a sport like no other. Stick two people in a ring, put pride and money on the line, set them against each other and watch the sparks fly. It’s a sport where quite literally anything can happen and, as these five strange conclusions to boxing matches over the years prove, it quite often does...
Riddick Bowe vs Elijah Tillery: The Renegade Trainer
It’s fair to say that New York heavyweight Riddick Bowe has seen his fair share of crazy since he turned pro in 1989. There was the giant brawl in the aftermath of his bout with Andrew Golota in 1996 which resulted in Golota’s 74-year-old trainer Lou Duva being rendered unconscious and the rest of the arena rioting, and let’s not forget the time a man, strapped to a giant fan, crash landed in the ring during one of his fights with Evander Holyfield.
But the moment where it really got bonkers for Bowe was against Elijah Tillery at the Washington Convention Center in 1991. After the first round had ended, which Bowe dominated and floored his opponent, Tillery decided to taunt Bowe to which Bowe responded in kind with a punch to the face. Tillery, deciding that his fists weren’t enough, proceeded to kick Bowe repeatedly. Then things really got nuts.
Bowe battered poor Tillery hopelessly against the ropes before Bowe’s trainer, Rock Newman, decided to sneak behind Tillery, place him in a chokehold and then pull the fighter off the ring apron and into the crowd. Tillery was eventually disqualified for his kick, giving Bowe the win.
Steve McCarthy vs Tony Wilson: The Fighting Mum
Even in the dark, brooding world of prizefighting, there are few things more terrifying than a particularly protective mother, who’s just watched her son get utterly blitzed in the ring, wielding a deadly weapon.
Ok, so the deadly weapon was a shoe but it was no laughing matter for Steve McCarthy who in the third round of his 1989 bout with Tony Wilson at Southampton’s Guildhall, after a particularly brutal onslaught on Wilson, was confronted in the ring by Wilson’s 62-year-old mother. She gave McCarthy an almighty smack around the head, cutting him. McCarthy refused to fight on, handing Wilson the victory. That’s Mum of the Year right there.
Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield II: The Bite Fight
A fight that really needs no introduction, Mike Tyson’s rematch with Evander Holyfield could be the most shocking conclusion to an event, not just in boxing, but in sport as a whole. Only Tyson knows what was going through his head when, in the midst of desperation, he decided to bite off the helix of Holyfield’s left ear and then spit it on canvas. What followed was pure, unadulterated bedlam.
Tyson went on a rampage towards Holyfield and his trainer while they were still in their corner and security were forced to step in to form a barrier around Holyfield and to escort Tyson back to his own corner. When all was said and done, Tyson was disqualified, had his license suspended indefinitely, was fined $3,000,000 and had to do community service.
Timothy Bradley vs Jesse Vargas: Referee Confuses Everyone Including Himself
Boxing referees certainly don’t get as much stick as their football officiating counterparts but that doesn't mean they’re not culpable for the odd match-ruining mistake as Pat Russell found out during Timothy Bradley and Fernando Vargas’ 2015 welterweight fight.
With just 15 seconds left of the twelfth and final round of the fight, Bradley looked to be cruising to a dominant points victory having looked on top from the opening bell but disaster struck in those dying embers when Vargas landed a crunching overhand right, severely hurting his opponent. Bradley didn’t hit the canvas and seemingly recovered well, managing to clinch to Vargas for dear life but that’s when Russell really confused things, jumping between the fighters and waving his hands in the air, apparently signalling a Vargas TKO.
Nobody in attendance had a clue what was happening, including the referee, who, as it turned out, thought he heard the final bell of the fight and was trying to end the fight. Instead of a victory for Vargas, the fight went to the scorecards and Bradley won via unanimous decision
Bernard Hopkins vs Robert Allen: The Ankle-Breaking Referee
Across a career spanning nearly thirty years and multiple world titles, Bernard Hopkins developed a reputation as a fighter willing to put in some dirty work to get the nod on the scorecards, so it wasn’t uncommon to find ‘The Executioner’ locked in a clinch with his opponent. Usually such tactics would prove beneficial for Hopkins but in 1998, during his showdown with Atlanta’s Robert Allen, it was the clinch, and an overexcited referee, that would prove to be his downfall.
In the fourth round, with the fighters spending more time in a tender embrace than punching the living daylights out of each other. Mills Lane, the clearly peeved referee, set about breaking the two fighters up - unfortunately, he might have tried a little too hard to break them up, as poor Bernard Hopkins was pushed through the ropes and out of the ring by Lane, snapping his ankle on impact and thus ruling the fight a No Contest. Fortunately for B-Hop, his ankle recovered and he was able to secure comfortable wins in the rematch in 1999 and again in 2004.