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5 Most Rigged Professional Sports Games in History

Publish Date: 15/03/2021
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Sonny Liston vs Muhammad Ali #2:

Video: Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston II (1965) [FULL FIGHT]

Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston II (1965) [FULL FIGHT]

We all know about the "phantom punch" that sent Sonny Liston to the mat, during his infamous second bout against the all-time great... but what often lacks, when referencing this fight, is the context in which the two heavyweights actually battled: Ali had recently changed his name to from "Cassius Clay" because of his political and spiritual awakening, which means the newly-minted Nation of Islam had millions of dollars to gain due to this re-branding, should Muhammad Ali win the heavyweight title. Starting to see a motive for why Liston dropped so strangely?

Remember, this was back in the day when civil rights activism was still new and fresh, and Ali joining the Nation's movement was kind of like them winning the endorsement lottery, especially considering what went down over the next 15 years after this odd victory: championship fights galore, and all the prize money you could ever want. Don't forget, boxing has always been known as a dirty sport much like horse racing, and with "classic" displays like this one, it's no surprise why

The Hand of God game:

Video: Maradona 'Hand of God' Goal 1986 World Cup

Maradona 'Hand of God' Goal 1986 World Cup

Diego Maradona has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, and that was never more evident than when Argentina played England in the Mexican edition of the FIFA World Cup. His second goal remains a work of art to this day, but it's his first score that has been grabbing headlines since 1986, when it first blossomed on the field for all to see. Diego ran, he jumped... and then he just punched the ball into the net? Somehow this was counted as a legitimate goal, which if you know anything about soccer, is huge.

rigged sports moments

The English never really came back from their deficit, and even after tying the Argentinians ended up losing 2-1. What gets lost in all the banter surrounding his obvious foul, is that the Falklands War was still very present in everyone's mind when the game was being played, as it had only happened 4 years prior (and continues to be a sore spot in international relations) which means there's a very good chance that this "inexplicable" referee mistake might be tied to geopolitics, hoping to appease any lingering anti-U.K. sentiments

Kobe Bryant's last game (Utah Jazz v. L.A. Lakers):

Video: FULL KOBE BRYANT LAST GAME | JAZZ VS. LAKERS (13/04/2016)

FULL KOBE BRYANT LAST GAME | JAZZ VS. LAKERS (13/04/2016)

This one was so obvious, they just recycled Derek Jeter's farewell script and pasted it onto Kobe's final season, seeing how the dude was basically just on an exhibition/farewell tour throughout the NBA. And of course, where else could it end but at the "LA Forum" where Utah decided they not only didn't care to guard Kobe all night, but actually appeared to be actively helping him score 60 points.

They literally had a player step onto the paint during his last free throw, just in case he missed it... so yeah. Utah's team allowed Bryant to take 50 shots that night, and lost 101 to 96 (a totally illogical victory that even got called out by the LA Times). But guess it's what the fans wanted though, considering they sold over $2 million worth of "Kobe" merchandise in the 24 hours leading up to this game.

The 1919 World Series:

Video: The 1919 World Series Fix that Tarnished America's Pastime

The 1919 World Series Fix that Tarnished America's Pastime

I know it's not technically one particular game, but the series is so blatantly corrupt and famous for featuring fixed games, that it was hard to single any individual contest out. The narrative had the White Sox as heavy the favorites, but strangely Vegas saw that all of their gamblers were putting money on the Cincinnati Reds, who were supposed to be the underdog. Of course, the Reds would go on to win the championship 5-3 (back then they had eight-game series) but then the truth came out: several White Sox players admitted to having accepted bribes and said they under performed during the series.

 

After all was said and done, eight of Chicago's players were banned from ever playing professional baseball again. This included “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, even though he only confessed to taking $5,000 under duress, after intense and abusive questioning. It's such a contentious topic in the baseball world, that some pundits are still arguing about the details of this event... Go figure.

Superbowl XLVII:

Video: Super Bowl XLVII Blackout - 60 Minutes Sports - CBS News Report - SHOWTIME

Super Bowl XLVII Blackout - 60 Minutes Sports - CBS News Report - SHOWTIME

Something very strange happened 9 years ago, on that chilly February night. Destinies shifted and fates collided as Jim and John Harbaugh found themselves pitted against each other in a "too good to be true" championship game of sibling & coaching rivalry... but then it all went wrong. San Francisco couldn't keep up with Baltimore (despite being 4 point favorites) and suddenly, the Ravens were heading into halftime with a double-digit lead. The Halftime show came and went, and when the third quarter rolled around and Baltimore went up by 22 points... the power went off.

Yes, you read that correctly: the electricity inside the Superbowl stadium was cut for 22 minutes and play was interrupted for over half an hour. Then lights... camera... action! The game starts back up and Kaepernick, the steroid-weasel himself, wills his 49ers back to within inches of taking the lead. Yes they fell just short, but the fact that they made it a close game in the final minutes (after the extended halftime) reeks of interference. Maybe that's why the team retired/scattered immediately after that season... but hey, at least Kappy has an Afro and an ice-cream now.

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