By Sean Bastow @SeanBastowESBR
In the modern world of the sport of boxing social media and the introduction of platforms like YouTube and now Eddie Hearn’s “Billion Dollar Deal” with DAZN, one thing that has not changed is the fact that a fighter who can cut a good promo or a manager that can act as the mouthpiece for the strong silent type will sell huge numbers in tickets, but it is the controversial antics in the lead up to fights that creates the most cash.
In this article we explore some of the greatest and most controversial incidents in boxing that have led some of the most memorable moments in history and certainly helped create enough hype to bring it to the mainstream audience.
Muhammed Ali vs Smokin Joe Fraizer
In the build up to what was billed as the fight of the century in 1971 former friends became foes as Muhammad Ali, who is considered as one of the greatest trash talkers of all time, had Joe Frazier in his cross-hairs.
During Ali’s exile from boxing following his refusal to fight in Vietnam, when he was stripped of his title and widely ostracized in mainstream America, Frazier lent Ali money and lobbied then president Richard Nixon to allow him to box.
Ali, a hero of the black civil rights movement, relentlessly portrayed Frazier in offensive terms, painting him as an “Uncle Tom”, a passive, inarticulate pawn of the “White Establishment.”
“Joe Frazier is an Uncle Tom. He works for the enemy”, Ali taunted.
Whether it was an early example of promotional trash-talk or genuinely held sentiment, Ali’s words stung Frazier — the son of Alabama sharecroppers who had been subjected to racism in his youth — to the core
As history taught us on this occasion, Frazier was able to exact revenge by dropping Ali in the 15th and final round to win via a unanimous decision, a victory that would set the tone for the rest of their historic trilogy
Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis
While most pre-fight incidents often appear staged to create those seemingly controversial moments, those involving Mike Tyson tend to appear frighteningly authentic.
Five months before the pair were due to officially fight in the ring, Tyson confronted undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis as the British heavyweight walked onto stage in a press conference to promote their Las Vegas bout.
As a bodyguard of Lewis’ tried to block Tyson’s path, the ‘baddest man on the planet’ threw a straight right, sparking a huge melee of brawling bodies that saw WBC president Jose Sulaiman knocked unconscious.
“It was Lennox’s bodyguard who panicked and shoved me,” claimed Tyson, grabbing his crotch, protesting to the assembled media after the bundle of bodies dispersed.
“I was here to promote the fight, not be intimidated. I will never be intimidated by anyone, and Lennox will pay in June.”
Lewis recently stated on a podcast with Tyson that during the brawl “we ended up on the floor and I just felt this in sharp pain in my leg, I looked down and there was Tyson with his teeth sunken into my thigh”.
Lewis went on to beat Tyson with an eighth-round knockout.
Dereck Chisora vs David Haye
A rare instance where we get a post-fight fight.
In 2012, after just going 12 rounds with Vitali Klitschko, Dereck Chisora was giving his thoughts on the performance before being goaded from the back of the room by Haye, who was covering the match for German television having recently retired, this prompted Chisora to get into Haye’s personal space sparking a frenzied fight that saw Haye wielding a camera tripod as a weapon.
Chisora accused Haye of ‘glassing’ him during the incident before insisting he would ‘physically burn him.’
The eventually went on to meet in the ring in a fight which was not sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control and ended in round five with a knockout victory from Haye.
Notable mentions – Riddick Bowe’s one two combination to Larry Donald at their press conference in 1994, David Haye catching Tony Bellew with a left hook at the press conference in 2017, and Dereck Chisora slapping Vitali Klitschko at the weigh in ahead of their clash in 2012.
Whatever your opinion is on these types of incidents that occur in a lead up to a fight or even create the hype for a future fight, it is certainly proven by history that “Controversy Creates Cash!”