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The Agony of Defeat

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  • The Agony of Defeat

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    By Ted Sares

    Bad decisions are as much a part of boxing as enswell, but reactions from the losers vary widely.

    The look on Roberto Duran's face wasn't agony, but it was something pretty close when the judges ruled against him in his 1996 bout with Hector Camacho. The crowd booed when the scores were announced: 115-113, 116-113, and an unbelievable 117-111, all for the "Macho" man. In the eyes of many, the well-conditioned Duran had controlled the fight since round five.

    When George Foreman was robbed in his 1997 fight with Shannon Briggs, he simply left the ring and retired while the crowd screamed Bull****! Bull****! Bull****!

    The same happened when Dave Tiberi was robbed in his infamous 1992 fight with James Toney at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Tiberi simply walked away in disgust and never boxed again. Widely considered one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, this one prompted a federal investigation. Donald Trump’s disgust was such that he reportedly banned boxing in all of his casinos for six months.


    “To be able to fight the number one person in the world [Toney], during his heyday, and in my heart of hearts, knowing that I did everything I had to do to be able to win the world championship, I’m at peace.” -- Dave Tiberi


    Toney himself got a taste of it in the first of his two fights with Samuel Peter. Visibly and pleasantly surprised by the result. Peter literally ran to his dressing room to celebrate, while Toney stood in his corner seemingly in shock with his hands on the ropes and his face looking down in disbelief at the SD loss. He would never be quite the same.

    Paul Williams “win” over Erislandy Lara was such a rank decision that all three judges were suspended. Similar to Dave Tiberi, Lara did not make a big fuss though his boxing stock went up.

    This writer scored the 2007 fight between Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Joel Casamayor 119-109 in favor of Santa Cruz and many sitting at ringside had it the same way. When the bell rang ending the fight, Casamayor was lifted up as the anticipated winner. “I thought ‘Oh Oh,’ said Jim Lampley, “the crowd seems a little nonplussed that someone would lift Casamayor as if he won.”

    In fact, the crowd booed loudly in disbelief when the decision by the relatively inexperienced judges went in favor of Casamayor. Frank Lombardi and Ron McNair scored it 114-113 for the Cuban while Tony Paolillo scored it 114-113 for Santa Cruz. Again, cries of Bull**** Bull**** Bull**** rained down.

    “Just when you think you have seen everything– every bizarre decision — something like this happens,” said Lampley. Harold Lederman chimed in: “That’s a tough decision to explain. It was dreadful. I wish I had a stronger word.” Max Kellerman added, “That’s just not a bad decision; that’s an outright robbery.”

    However, they all witnessed it again when Tim Bradley “beat “Manny Pacquiao in 2012. That one should be expunged.

    Tapia vs Ayala

    In 1999, in his 49th professional fight, Johnny Tapia suffered his first loss, losing a decision and the WBA title to Paulie Ayala in The Ring magazine’s "Fight of the Year." Later that year, the tightly wound Tapia attempted suicide and required hospitalization.

    The following year, Ayala defeated Tapia again in another wild and hellacious fight. Early on, Tapia wobbled Ayala after which the two traded bombs. Johnny appeared to be in control but he was taking his share of Ayala ‘s incoming and sharp blows. After twelve rounds, Tapia was lifted up by his cornermen and had no doubt (in his mind) that he had won. But when Ayala was once again declared the winner by unanimous decision, Tapia became enraged and a look of pure agony appeared on his face. That look said it all; it was indelible. And it might well have been the precursor to more demonic issues down the line.

    "We all have our demons…But Johnny had them to an extent that's almost impossible to believe. He was fighting addiction. He was fighting mental illness. He spent years in jail…” Lou DiBella

    For the losers, this was all about the pain of knowing---correctly or not--- that you won but realizing you hadn’t.

    Ted Sares can be reached at

  • #2
    Good one Ted! 👍 President Donald Trump’s disgust with bad decisions goes back a very long way. Way before they criminally robbed him of his title in 2020. In my review of Scoop’s Trump book I wrote, “Kallen also remembers the day in 1992 that her fighter, James Toney, received a gift decision at the Trump Taj Mahal against underdog Dave Tiberi. “Trump thought it was an outrage and went straight to Tiberi’s locker room to console him,” says Kallen. “I remember him looking at me in the ring as the referee held Toney’s hand in the air. He shook his head in disgust. Even though I had nothing to do with the decision, I could tell he was upset with me, and I did not know why.”

    You knew why! 🤐


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks KO. I was at that fight and am still booing.

    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      "My conscience won’t let me remain a passive spectator to scandal any longer.
      I think too much about Bee Scottland being strapped onto a stretcher. I
      dream about Ali’s tremor. I am haunted by the Alzheimer’s stare in Ray
      Robinson’s eyes. I think about underdog David Tiberi, and how he fought
      the fight of his life but was cheated out of the decision against James Toney,
      and how he retired in disgust after that spirit-breaking injustice."

      —Jack Newfield, from the “Shame of Boxing.”

  • #3
    Tapia had many, many demons tormenting him. He truly was living La Vida Loca.


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, and those demons finally got to him but not before his beloved wife, Teresa , gave him him true joy and happiness. The entire story is one that is hard to read. But I dearly loved Johnny.

    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      Once, while visiting the Hall of Fame, Johnny Tapia was busy signing autographs
      in the museum when his publicist said, “Come on, Johnny, we’ll be late
      for the plane.” Tapia apologized to the other people who were waiting and then
      started to leave. All of a sudden, he spotted this young fellow in a wheelchair who
      wanted his photo taken with him. When Johnny walked over to accommodate
      him, his publicist, annoyed, said, “Damnit, we’ll miss our plane.” Johnny’s reply
      was “Fuck the plane.” I’ll never forget the look on that young fellow’s face. At
      that particular point in time in Canastota, New York, he was the most important
      person on this planet. Who could ever forget that? Johnny has given us a lot of
      memories. Some were good and some were not so good. This one was special.

    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      "I know this article is about bad decisions in boxing; however, when I saw the photo of Johnny Tapia, I wanted to mention the mental health (or lack thereof) of some of the combatants. I don't know what the stats are regarding mental health in other sports, but boxers sure have their fair share of demons. Troubled guys like Tapia, McCall, Gatti, Valero, Fury, et al., tend to gravitate towards boxing. Does anyone venture to guess why? In my humble opinion, I think it has something to do with the violent nature of the sport, but my psychology background only goes so far as Psych 101 some 40-years-ago at Ventura Community College.

      "Great coverage, Ted. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the read.

      -- Johnny Tango"

  • #4
    I’ll venture a guess.

    They are in a fallen state.

    Fallen away from God.

    Attracted to their Daddy Satan.

    #DemonTalk 🔥


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
      Editing a comment
      "Nice roundup. There are so many of these. Maybe the worst ones are robberies of little 4-rounders. When kids trying to get started get smacked by corrupt or moronic judges." Ivan Goldman

      "Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class (Permanent Press, 2015) is a 'gripping ...triumphant read,' says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with 'howlingly funny dialogue,' says Booklist. Available wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author."