As boxing will be one of the sports covered in my upcoming book Larceny Games, it's time the sport was recognized on this site. Here's the first such post, written by guest writer Robert Lobitz.
One of Boxing Earliest Fixes
As long as there have been sporting events, there have been people looking to change the outcome of a match through dubious means. One sport that has some of the highest potential for fixed matches is boxing. This is because the match is in the hands of only two people, either of which could decide to throw the fight and completely change the outcome of the match. It’s time for a bit of a history lesson and to learn about one of the earliest accounts of a fix in professional sports.
Long before the age of Everlast boxing gloves, back in 1822, Jem Ward was one of the best boxers in the game. He had started boxing at the age of 15 and held the amazing honor of being undefeated in his professional career. This is why his loss to Bill Abbot was such an upset and was so controversial.
How could the undefeated champion suddenly lose to another fighter who was widely considered to be an inferior pugilist? Jem Ward was quoted as saying “Now, Bill, look sharp, hit me and I’ll go down.” At this point, Bill abbot struck Jem Ward and Ward did indeed go down. Was it a lucky shot? Was Ward’s hubris his downfall or was he tempted by the power of greed?
A loss like this was akin to Mike Tyson getting knocked out with a single punch by an unknown boxer with an upstart career. Of course, this aroused suspicion and led to an investigation at the hands of The Pugilistic Society, the organization that oversaw boxing matches and enforced the London Prize Ring Rules. During this investigation, Ward admitted to taking a bribe to throw the fight.
This absolutely ruined his early career. He was banned from the sport and was not allowed to return to any ring governed by The Pugilistic Society. Imagine Mike Tyson being expelled from boxing, told to turn in his Everlast Boxing gloves and having to fight in unregulated fights under false names to make a living.
Why would a promising fighter like Jem Ward throw a fight when he knew how dangerous it would be to his career?
Greed is the most likely answer.
This event took place before the sports contenders of the world were the superstars that they are today, but even later in his career, when Ward was comfortable and in good economic standing, there was suspicion of further back room dealings. The offer of a decent sum of money for no work was just too tempting for a man known to be dishonest and deceitful. It’s amazing that many years later, Ward was allowed to contend in official fights again and went on to hold a champion title for most of his remaining career. He was also inducted into the Boxing hall of fame in 1995, a decision that is still considered controversial and questionable.
This is one of the earliest accounts of a confirmed fix and it is a practice that has not stopped or even slowed down. Fixed matches and fights are all too common in the world of sports and this practice needs to be exposed along with those that would even consider it.