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The decision in the Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson main event at UFC 165 has the MMA world buzzing.
Jones won by unanimous decision, but many fans and cageside observers believe the fight could have gone either way.
MMA is still a relatively new sport and the reaction to the decision is likely fueled by a generation of MMA spectators experiencing big-time controversial decisions for the first time. As the sport of MMA establishes deeper roots in the sports culture, and as fans develop a greater long-range understanding of the sport’s nuances and idiosyncrasies, decisions like the one with the Jones and Gustafsson fight will be more understandable.
MMA’s sister-sport, boxing has a rich history of arguably even more debatable decisions. Here’s a look at some that have sparked wide-ranging responses from fight fans:
Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix “Tito” Trinidad
The “Golden Boy” dominated Trinidad in what at the time was a dream match between two pound-for-pound greats. Trinidad was the favorite going into the fight. De La Hoya shocked many with his angles, foot speed and power-punching for the first nine rounds of the fight. Then De La Hoya decided to coast.
Thinking he had the fight in the bag, De La Hoya danced the last four rounds, and Trinidad probably won those frames. The judges scored the fight 114-114, and 115-113, 115-114 for Trinidad. The close rounds mattered and judges typically remember the aggressiveness of a fighter in the later rounds.
De La Hoya never recovered from the loss, and it was just the first of two controversial decisions he was on the losing side of.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Hagler at the time was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, taking on Leonard, who was coming out of retirement after suffering a detached retina. Leonard was lured by the public and a big pay day to fight Hagler, who at the time was untouchable. He had knocked out Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, John “The Beast” Mugabi and other heavy hitters, and most figured Hagler would KO or easily defeat Leonard by decision.
The judges saw it differently.
Leonard danced, pranced, shuffled and flurried en route to a split decision victory. Hagler started slow, but paced himself and by the end of the fight seemed to have the physical and stamina edge. The judges, however, were dazzled by Leonard’s showmanship. They scored it 115-113 Leonard, 118-110 Leonard and 115-113 Hagler.
Leonard pulled off a storybook comeback. Hagler was disgusted by the decision. He never fought again.
Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather has been the recipient of several close decisions in his career and his victory over De La Hoya was one of them. De La Hoya pressed the action and tried to turn the fight into a brawl, but Mayweather proved too smart and slick to fall into his opponent’s trap.
Mayweather fought in his typical defensive style, with spectacular counterpunching. De La Hoya simply wasn’t able to land enough to convince the judges that he was winning the fight. The crowd at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas roared with boos after the fight. The judges ruled it 116-112, 115-113 for Mayweather, with De La Hoya winning 115-113 on the third scorecard.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley
When everyone was pining for the dream fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pacquiao decided to take what was supposed to be a tune-up fight before a possible clash with Mayweather. It was a typical Pacquiao fight. He was faster, landed more punches and fought with high intensity. Pacquiao seemed to dominate the fight, although he slowed down toward the end, as Bradley finally gained some momentum. Still, to everyone it appeared as though Pacquiao had won another unanimous decision. The judges felt differently.
Two judges scored it 115-113 for Bradley and a third judge scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao. Like with De La Hoya and Hagler, the decision loss knocked Pacquiao off track. He was later knocked out badly by Juan Manuel Marquez and no one is talking about a dream fight between he and Mayweather anymore.