Through the history of boxing we've had thousands of controversies. Be it questionable score-cards, poor stoppages, rules enforced badly or any number of other things we have had controversial actions and dubious incidents plaguing the sport. As part of this series we look at some of these disputable decisions and contentious contests.
The format for this series will see us setting the scene for the bout, discussing the bout briefly and then discussing the controversy of the contest, and where applicable what happened afterwards, with potential fall outs. We also want to include footage of the bout where we can!
Hiroki Ioka (10-0, 6) vs Napa Kiatwanchai (6-0, 3) I
To begin this series we're looking at a bit of a forgotten controversy but it's actually the bout that inspired us to cover controversial fights in this manner. Especially given how blatant the controversy is and how forgotten it is now, more than 30 years later
In October 1987 Japenese teenager Hiroki Ioka had taken a decision over Thai fighter Mai Thomburifarm to become the first ever WBC Minimumweight champion. At the time Ioka was just 18 years old and fighting for the 9th time. He would make his first defense just 3 months later, whilst his mentor Eddie Townsend was incredibly ill, and later passed after Ioka's win. In June 1988 Ioka would fight for the first time following Townsends's death, taking on little known Thai challenger Napa Kiatwanchai.
Kiatwanchai had done little to earn a world title fight. He was 6-0, inexperienced and taking a huge step up in class. That however didn't phase him and he travelled to Japan with plenty of self belief.
The fight started perfectly for Ioka, who dropped his Thai foe mid way through the opening round to secure an early lead. Ioka built on that but Napa wasn't there to make up the numbers and the diminutive Thai fought his way back into the bout.
Through 11 rounds it wasn't the most exciting or dramatic of contests, but was hotly contested, incredibly competitive and compelling with the unknown Napa out doing all expectations to make things very competitive. Ioka, who was apparently advised to avoid southpaws, struggled to read the Thai's lefty stance despite being the much taller and longer fighter.
In round 12 however things changed and a tiring, swollen Ioka was slowing. The tempo had gotten to both, but particularly to Ioka. At one point in the final round the Japanese fighter took his gum shield out and even threw it to his own corner, getting himself a short break. The break didn't do him any favours and he was rocked badly just moments later. He looked out on his feet with about a minute to go. Napa couldn't finish him in a follow up and then the bell rang...about 32 seconds early. There was a sense of confusion.
Napa's team were celebrating, as if their man had stopped Ioka. Ioka's team looked confused and dejected. Their was a real air that the title was changing hands. Had the bout been stopped because of the damage to Ioka? Had the time keeper been confused by the gum shield situation? Or was there something else at play?
After a few moments an announcement came out that the bout was a draw and the referee raised the hands of both men.
Ioka had been bailed out from being stopped with the early finish and had retained his title with a fortunate draw.
The finish to the bout lead to protests in Thailand at the Japanese embassy in Thailand and WBC would go on to order a rematch between the two men. That rematch came in November 1988, with Napa narrowly beating Ioka, with a majority decision, to take the win, and the title. The two would then have one more bout, in June 1989, with Napa stopping his Japanese rival in 11 rounds to record his second successful defense.
Whilst this is certainly not the biggest controversy to ever hit the boxing world, it is still an interesting one, and one that rarely gets a mention. For those wanting bigger profile controversies in this series, don't worry, we have some big ones lined for the future but with this bout being the inspiration for the series, it made sense to start here!
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features