Living in Las Vegas, I try to avoid staying inside of a Sportsbook for too long because you hear stories from the regulars about how they were screwed out of big paydays due to rigged games. They then start to delve into conspiracy theories that are vague and convoluted at best while blowing cigarette smoke in your face. No matter how many times you wash your clothes, it seems that the Sportsbook stink just never goes away, either.
In a place where sports gambling is allowed (and the only place in the United States), Nevada has been the source of a lot of these conspiracies about how bettors have paid off athletes...which lends a little bit of merit to those people in the Sportsbooks (but not much). Once in awhile, though, there seems to be some theories that absolutely make sense, and some have even resulted in disciplinary action.
The most notable of these have been the likes of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, NBA referee Tim Donaghy and many more. After all, everybody's got a price. Games aren't always seemingly rigged because of a bet that was placed on one team or the other. Sometimes, a feel good story and potential incoming money for the team or league is too much to pass up.
Here, we will take a look at 13 instances where the end result was just too easy to predict and why there might have been corruption at the source of the outcome. From NBA playoff games to NASCAR races, rigged events can be found anywhere. Here are some of the stories and why it’s believed these events were fixed from the beginning.
13 Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley I
Before the mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, we had to settle for a match between Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. On June 9th, 2012, the two squared off in Las Vegas and it seemed that Pacquiao had gotten the best of Bradley. Those that were scoring the fight unofficially gave Pacquiao a convincing win, but the judges scored it as a split decision in favor of Bradley. The theory about why it was rigged is because both fighters were represented by TopRank, who paid off the officials to make it a split decision so that they could get their rematch. They ended up getting two more matches out of it as Pacquiao won in 2014 and again in 2016 (all by unanimous decision).
12 2006 NBA Finals Game 5
Very rarely does a single player on one team shoot as many free throws as the entire opposing team, especially in the postseason. That’s what happened in the 2006 NBA Finals during game five, when Dwyane Wade went 21-for-25 from the free throw line, which was the same line that the entire Dallas Mavericks team had. Dallas won eight more games during the regular season, beat the Heat both times in the regular season and then won the first two games of the 2006 NBA Finals. The tide turned when Miami won a close game three and then game four by a wide margin. The controversial fouls on Wade led the Heat to a third straight win in the series, which they would eventually win. Pundits (including Mark Cuban) say the game was rigged, especially because of the league’s dislike of Cuban’s comments.
11 Super Bowl III
In the first two Super Bowl games, the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers easily defeated the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs then the Oakland Raiders. A third straight blowout was expected when the Baltimore Colts took on Joe Namath and the New York Jets, a game that Namath guaranteed the Jets would win. The Colts were heavy favorites with a 13-1 record and scored under 20 points just once all season. In Super Bowl III, they scored just seven points, leading people to believe that the Colts were paid off to not put forth any effort to help make the AFL look legitimate and induce more league parity. The result has been a massively profitable league with 32 teams that are all on equal playing fields, so make your own guesses there.
10 Magomed Abdulhamidov vs. Satoshi Shimizu
Not too many people tune into Olympic boxing anymore, but those that did in 2012 got to see one of the most obvious fixes in the sport’s history (and that’s saying something). Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan was taking on Satoshi Shimizu of Japan and what made this weird the match weird was the fact that Abdulhamidov had a large lead going into the second round, but seemingly lost it when Shimizu knocked him to the mat six times in the round alone. After a referee’s decision gave Abdulhamidov the five point win, leading referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov to be sent home from the games.
9 Super Bowl XL
Super Bowl XL had the distinction of being played in Detroit, which happened to be the hometown of Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis. That was pretty much the only interesting storyline and a lot of fans believe the league used the officiating crew to make the homecoming championship to end The Bus’s career come true. The Seahawks were flagged multiple times on controversial gamebreaking calls and their offense was never able to get going, losing the game 21-10. Years later, official Bill Leavy said that he and his crew screwed up, but claimed it was because they didn’t understand the rules.
8 2002 Olympics Figure Skating Competition
Although there isn’t a ton of money moving in Las Vegas when it comes to Olympic figure skating, it doesn’t mean that the sport can’t be as shady as any other. In 2002, the Canadian pair of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier did so well that the announcers deemed them the winners as soon as their technique was over. However, presentation was the bigger part of the scoring and they didn’t receive a high enough score to top Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia. French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted in private that she allowed the Russians to have a higher score in return for a higher French score from the Russians in a later tournament during the games. When confronted in public, Le Gougne denied these claims.
7 2000 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 7
The 2000 Los Angeles Lakers were the heavy favorites to win the NBA Championship with both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on the team. As a small market team, the Trail Blazers were a bit of an afterthought for some, but still had the second most wins in the regular season. The Lakers took a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals, but Portland won the next two to force a game seven. Leading by 16 in the second half, it looked like Portland was going to the NBA Finals, but Arvydas Sabonis and Scottie Pippen fouled out as the Lakers got the calls and mounted a comeback to win.
6 Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston II
The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston was one of the most anticipated boxing matches of all-time, and it ended in a controversial technical knockout when Liston didn’t answer the bell for the seventh round. Fans immediately claimed that the fix was in, but the rematch was met with even more controversy. Ali knocked Liston out in the first round before people were even in their seats, with what many claim as a “phantom punch.” To this day, many boxing historians claim that Ali never landed that right hand punch on Liston, and that it was fixed from the beginning.
5 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 6
The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in another Western Conference Finals game that seemed to have some corrupt roots. The top-seeded Kings had a 3-2 series lead heading into game six and they had the same small market problem that the Trail Blazers had two years before them. In the game, the Lakers won by four after shooting 18 more free throws in the final quarter than the Kings. After former referee Tim Donaghy was convicted for fixing games, he said that this contest between the Kings and Lakers was one of the most obvious, and it was fixed to increase ratings and set the Lakers up for an NBA Finals appearance.
4 1972 Olympic Basketball Finals
Heading into the finals of the 1972 Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament, the United States team had a record at the games of 63-0 and were taking on the Soviet Union for the gold medal in Munich. The Soviets were winning much of the game, but the Americans came back to make it 48-49. Doug Collins then went to the line after a foul to try and take the lead, making the first to tie it. A horn went off during the second shot, but Collins still made it. Afterward, the Soviets were supposed to inbound the live ball and were not penalized by their coach charging to the scorers. The Soviets were given three opportunities to inbound the ball, and on the final one, they made a layup to win.
3 1919 World Series
The 1919 World Series is among the most famously fixed games in sports history, since it was essentially confirmed to have been rigged. The White Sox were the favorites, but all of the gambling money was being put on underdog Cincinnati. In an eight game series, the Reds would win 5-3, as several of the White Sox players had said they took money to throw the series in Cincinnati’s favor. As a result, eight of the players were banned from baseball for life, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson who confessed to taking $5,000, but then later stated that he made that admission under duress. How much was really moved to the players is still a mystery to this day.
2 2001 Pepsi 400
At the 2001 edition of the Daytona 500, the racing world was stunned when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. crashed his number three car into the wall and passed away. NASCAR has two races per season at Daytona International Speedway, and the first one after Earnhardt’s death was the 2001 Pepsi 400. By the time of the race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had not won in over a year, but it seemed like it would be his day as he led 116 total laps out of 160. With Junior falling back in the pack, but regaining the lead with five laps left. Junior would win the emotional race at the track where his father died just months prior, leading to claims that it was fixed for an emotional and viewership standpoint.
1 1.Roy Jones, Jr. vs. Park Si-Hun
Olympics and boxing appear a lot on this list, so it seems fitting to end it with an Olympic boxing match. In the light middleweight gold medal match of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Roy Jones, Jr. was taking on South Korean Park Si-Hun. Jones, Jr. dominated the match, landing 86 punches to just 32 for Park. The decision was a surprising one as it was scored 3-2 in favor of Si-Hun. Judge Hiouad Larbi was heard making comments to reporters that he wanted to make the home crowd happy and the two judges that scored in Si-Hun’s favor were banned from boxing. Si-Hun would end up retiring after the games, while Jones, Jr. had a long and illustrious pro career.