Controversial Decisions In Boxing

November 15, 2023
6 months

One of the most debated aspects of boxing is the role that referees play in determining the outcome of a fight.

There have been numerous instances where controversial refereeing decisions have changed the course of a bout, and in some cases, the trajectory of a boxer’s career. In this article, we will explore some of the most controversial refereeing decisions in boxing history.

Jermain Taylor vs. Bernard Hopkins (2005)


In their first meeting, Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins fought a closely contested bout that ended with Taylor being awarded a controversial split decision victory. Many experts believed that Hopkins had done enough to retain his titles, but the judges saw it differently.


The referee’s decision to not deduct a point from Taylor for excessive holding in the 10th round proved to be the difference in the fight, as it gave Taylor the edge on two of the three judges’ scorecards. The controversial decision led to a rematch, where Taylor would once again be awarded a close decision victory, further fueling the outrage.


Lucian Bute vs. Librado Andrade (2008)

In a closely contested super middleweight bout, Lucian Bute faced off against Librado Andrade. Both fighters had their moments. However, the referee’s decision to administer a long count after Bute was knocked down proved to be one of the most controversial moments in boxing history.


The long count allowed Bute to recover, and he went on to win a unanimous decision. The disputed decision led to a rematch, where Bute would once again emerge victorious, albeit in a more convincing fashion.


Abner Mares vs. Vic Darchinyan (2010)

In a closely contested bantamweight bout, Abner Mares faced off against Vic Darchinyan. The fight was hard-fought. The referee’s decision to deduct a point from Mares for a low blow in the 4th round didn’t hamper him. However, Darchinyan accused the referee of wrongly stating that he was pushing and holding.

”The referee didn’t let me do my fight. It was disgusting. I wasn’t pushing him or holding him.”

It ultimately cost Darchinyan the fight, as Mares was awarded a split decision victory.



Park Si-Hun vs. Roy Jones Jr. (1988 Olympics)

Roy Jones Jr.’s controversial loss to Park Si-Hun in the gold medal match of the 1988 Olympics is widely regarded as one of the most egregious examples of poor refereeing in boxing history. Jones clearly outperformed Park, landing 86 punches to his opponent’s 32.


However, the judges awarded the victory to Park in a shocking 3-2 decision, as Jones never received the gold medal he deserved.

Joseph Agbeko vs. Abner Mares (2011)

In this bantamweight bout, Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares’ bout ended in a controversial majority decision victory for Mares.

Throughout the fight, referee Russell Mora repeatedly failed to call Mares on his numerous low blows, allowing the illegal punches to go unpunished.

Mora’s officiating in the fight was widely criticized, with respected broadcaster Al Bernstein calling it the “most disgraceful performance by a referee” he had seen in the last 15 years.

Marquez vs. Jaca (2006)

In a fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca, referee Laurence Cole made a controversial decision that ultimately benefited Marquez. After an accidental headbutt left Marquez injured, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards and asked if he wanted to stop the fight.



Marquez, to his credit, chose to continue and went on to win by knockout. However, Cole’s decision to share the scorecard information with Marquez was seen as a blatant act of favoritism and led to his suspension.

Cotto vs. Foreman (2010)


In a match between Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. made a controversial decision. When Foreman’s corner threw in the towel, Mercante refused to accept the surrender and allowed the fight to continue.


Cotto would go on to win by TKO, but many felt that Mercante’s decision to ignore the towel was dangerous and irresponsible.

Sven Ottke vs. Robin Reid (2003)


In a bout between Sven Ottke and Robin Reid, referee Roger Tilleman’s controversial decisions heavily favored Ottke. Tilleman ruled a clean knockdown by Reid as a slip in the sixth round and deducted a point from Reid for a headbutt that never occurred.


These decisions played a significant role in Ottke’s eventual victory, further fueling allegations of corruption.


Controversial refereeing decisions in boxing can have a significant impact on the outcome of fights and the careers of the boxers involved. As long as boxing continues to be a high-stakes, fiercely competitive endeavor, there will likely always be debatable decisions and controversies that keep the sport in the headlines.