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Top Five Most Controversial Boxers Of All Time

The sport of boxing has seen its fair share of colourful characters over the years. With the sport geared up to driving interest and shifting tickets for big name fights, the big personalities are everywhere. Fighters often court controversy for their bravado and pre-fight claims but there are a few that have over stepped the mark with not only their antics in the ring but also in their personal life. Here are we take you on a rundown of our list of the five most controversial boxers to have ever graced the ring.

5. Tyson Fury

An individual whose mouth can often get him in hot water, yet one who really does not get the credit he deserves for his boxing ability. Coming from a traveller background, Fury quickly developed a reputation as a hard-hitting heavyweight and won domestic and commonwealth titles by the time he turned 23. A record of 24 straight victories eventually saw him earn a title shot at the formidable Wladimir Klitschko, who had dominated the division and gone over 10 years without defeat. However in Klitschko's adopted German homeland, Fury won via a unanimous decision to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

However despite his incredible achievement, the negative headlines surrounding fury have not been far behind. A devout Christian, Fury has been accused of making homophobic, sexist and anti-semitic comments over the years though he has defended some of these allegations by saying they are beliefs attributed to his faith.

His out of the ring antics have also been of a more light-hearted nature also, such as in the press conference ahead of the Klitschko fight when he arrived dressed as Batman. A rematch between the two has had two postponed and ultimately called off due to allegations of doping and drug abuse by Fury, though there are concerns over his mental health. He has announced his retirement from the sport before quickly stating he was merely joking with the media. Whatever the future holds for Tyson Fury however, it is well worth remembering just how monumental his achievement of beating Klitschko really was.

4. Ike Ibeabuchi

Ike Ibeabuchi is far from the most household name on this list but he was in fact one of the most exciting heavyweight prospects during the 90's. The Nigerian won the WBC International title in 1997 when he was triumphant in a thrilling fight with Australian David Tua, in a bout that set the record for the most punches ever thrown in a heavyweight contest. However he never really reached his full potential after being dogged by a number of issues away from the ring, the first of which came just a matter of months after the Tua fight.

Ibeabuchi kidnapped the 15-year-old son of a former girlfriend and drove at speed on the interstate before crashing in to a concrete pillar. The boy was left with serious injuries with Ibeabuchi believed to have been attempting to commit suicide during the incident and was subsequently sentenced to 120 days in jail. After his release he seemingly got back on track to win a further three fights, including against future WBO World Heavyweight champion Chris Byrd. After the Byrd fight however, with his career seemingly going in a very impressive direction Ibeabuchi was involved in another controversy as he was accused of assaulting a woman in his Las Vegas hotel room. Investigations were then relaunched in to another similar case against Ibeabuchi in Las Vegas as well as two other accusations from women in Arizona.

His crimes caught up with hime when he was sentenced for charges of battery with an intent to commit a crime and also for attempted sexual assault and spent 15 years in prison as a result. Having now been released, there is speculation Ibeabuchi is planning a comeback as he looks to add to his record of 20 wins from 20 fights with 15 knockouts.

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3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Undeniably one of the greatest pound for pound boxers of all-time, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been the biggest name in the business in the 21st century. An imperious record of 49 fights undefeated, five-division World champion and the winner twelve world titles in four different weight classes. Well renowned for his brash, abrasive persona, Mayweather regularly flaunts his personnel wealth in a number of postings on social media. However he is not just about winning fights and making eye-watering sums of money. His hot headedness has also seen him fall on the wrong side of the law on a number of occasions over the course of his career.

Mayweather's upbringing was a tough one with his mother dying from drug abuse and most of his youth was spent with father, also a professional boxer and later on his trainer, in the gym to train and that tough environment made up most of formative years. His first criminal conviction came in 2002 when he was charged with two counts of domestic violence and received a six-month suspended sentence, two days of house arrest and 48 hours of community service. Two years after he was given a one-year suspended jail term after being convicted of two counts of misdemeanor battery against two women. The following year he once again received a suspended jail setence, this time for 90-days after an altercation with a bouncer. Mayweather was eventually incarcerated in 2011, for a battery case against a former girlfriend  and served a sentence of 90-days in prison.

Whilst his rap-sheet is not quite as long as the list of his achievements in the ring, Mayweather has certainly racked up a number of very unsavoury black marks against his name and rightly holds the title as one of of our most controversial boxers of all time.

2. Muhammad Ali

The most iconic figure in the history of sport (In our opinion anyway...) Muhammad Ali was not only a phenomenal athlete but also a captivating figure outside of the ring. He thrived in the spotlight and whilst he was inspiring and charismatic, he was also incredibly controversial. After his first high profile fight with Sonny Liston, the then Cassius Clay opted to change his name to Cassius X and then later to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam and affiliating himself with the Nation of Islam. He believed that Cassius Clay was his 'slave name' and courted plenty of controversy given the fact that a lot of the American public believed the Nation of Islam to be a black separatist hate religion. 

Ali's views on race and the oppression of African Americans was also on show once more when he resisted draft to the Vietnam War based on his religious views and stated that he had "no quarrel with the Viet Cong" before stating "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?" His resistance to the conflict saw him lose his boxing licence and he was stripped of his titles and did not fight for three years.

His comeback eventually saw him once more earn a shot at the heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in 1971, a bout that was politically charged and has since been etched in boxing and sporting folklore. A meeting between two previously unbeaten fighters was eagerly anticipated but was even more so due to the antics of Ali. He made it a fight divided upon race as he referred to Joe Frazier as an "Uncle Tom" and his trash talking reached new levels as he savagely attacked Frazier verbally at any given opportunity.

The man dubbed "The Greatest" went on to become the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion in history and will never be forgotten for not only his incredible sporting prowess but also for his superstar status outside of the ring. Not to mention the controversies that came with it along the way...

1. Mike Tyson

Whilst you could argue that Ali created far more controversy than Iron Mike, Tyson tops this list on the account of being responsible for arguably the most shocking scene ever witnessed inside a ring. The man titled "The Baddest Man on the Planet" had courted plenty of other negative moments prior to that moment in a career that was not only incredibly impressive but littered with controversy. Tyson grew up in a tough part of Brooklyn, New York and by the age of 13 he had reportedly been arrested 38-times.

After showing promising signs as a youngster, Tyson made a rapid rise and won 26 of his first 28 professional fights via KO or TKO including 16 in the first round. Just over a year after his professional debut, at the age of 20 years and four months, he became the youngest World heavyweight champion in history. However a shock defeat to Buster Douglas in one boxing's all-time greatest upsets seem to curtail Tyson's career and despite recovering to win his next six fights, he was soon to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In 1992, he was sentenced to six years in prison for rape and served three years at Indiana Youth Centre despite being 25. Tyson was able to make a comeback in the sport and soon won back both his WBC and WBA belts before defending the WBA title against Evander Holyfield. In a surprising turn of events, Holyfield won the fight in the 11th round via TKO, despite being written off before hand as being washed up and passed his best having previously retired from boxing. The Tyson camp complained of repeated headbutts by Holyfield, something which would prove poignant in the re-match.

In June 1997, Tyson had the chance to avenge his defeat but the fight was stopped in the third round when he bit Holyfield on both ears, with part of Holyfield's ear being visible on the canvas. Iron Mike was subsequently disqualified in an incident which has unquestionable gone down as one of the most controversial incidents in sporting history. His boxing licence was revoked and although he did make a second comeback to the sport, he never again reached his previous heights. He did however earn a shot at the big time once more against Lennox Lewis and the build up to the fight, spoke of his desire to eat Lewis children...

He latterly struggled with drug problems and financial issues that saw him declare himself bankrupt, a culmination of issues that see Tyson go down in our eyes as the most controversial man to ever step in to the squared circle.

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