It is inevitable in all sports that things will get a little heated from time to time. There could be some trash talking going on, the stakes could be higher than a regular game, it could be a match between rivals or it might be slightly more physical than usual. This can add some drama and spice to the competition, but often tempers will flair and things will boil over. This is where the spirit of competition goes out the window, and instead violence erupts. Usually this results in little more than pushing and shoving, as players are aware of the punishment for throwing punches during a game. These fights can provide great entertainment for the crowd, and once things get underway again the skirmish will have had a noticeable impact on the game. These fights that erupt are not always just skirmishes, however.
Throughout all sports there are the occasional fights that break out that cause complete bedlam. These fights can remain between two players and be one that no one wants to get in the middle of, but often they will turn into brawls that feature teammates and even the coaching staff at times. The officials can do little to contain these fights so they will usually run their course, which has often seen some shocking scenes which always result in lengthy bans and heavy suspensions. As this list will demonstrate, these fights are not always just contained to the players on the field of play, and there are some infamous fights that have had a lasting impact on the sport.
These fights can be wild, primal, ugly yet often still quite entertaining (provided nobody is seriously injured), but there will never be a winner in these situations and it paints the sport in a bad light.
Here are the 15 craziest fights in all of sports.
15 Charles Barkley vs. Shaq
Talk about a heavyweight showdown, these two enormous players may now be chummy on TNT together, but they were never great friends on the basketball court. This came to a head when the Rockets faced off against the Lakers, seeing them get into an altercation under the basket after Barkley bounced the ball off Shaq’s head. Soon punches were being swung as these two heavyweights went at each other, and due to their weight and size there was little that could be done to separate them (not that you would want to get in the middle). Both players faced fines and a one game suspension.
14 Johnny Roseboro vs. Juan Marichal
A fierce and historic rivalry, the most notable moment came in a game at Candlestick Park in 1965. Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro clipped Giants pitcher Juan Marichal with a throw, and Marichal then astonishingly smashed Roseboro in the head with his bat which unsurprisingly sparked a huge fight. This was eventually broken up and bleeding Roseboro had to be helped off the pitch. Roseboro and Marichal formed a friendship out of the incident, seeing Marichal speak at Roseboro’s funeral in 2002.
13 Julio Castillo vs. Innocent Fan
It is not often that you will see a Midwest League game make the news, but a gigantic fight between the Peoria Chiefs and Dayton Dragons back in 2008 caused major headlines. Both managers along with 15 players were ejected from the game which had showed signs of erupting throughout, but it was the managers who got things going. They began pushing each other which caused both benches to clear, but not before Peoria pitcher Julio Castillo angrily fired a ball towards the Dayton bench which flew into the stands and hit a fan in the face. The fighting went on for around 10 minutes and caused an hour delay. Castillo was later arrested and would be sentenced to 30 days in jail.
12 Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning
It may not be much of a rivalry these days, but in the 90s this was a fierce and physical rivalry and each matchup was eagerly anticipated. A lot of the rivalry stemmed from the fact that these two teams met in the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, something that had not occurred before. A huge fight broke out in the 1997 Eastern Conference semi finals which would cost the Knicks the series, but it is the 1998 Eastern Conference First Round which sparked the most memorable fight between these teams.
With the last year clearly in the back of everyone’s minds, Game 4 saw a fight break out between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson (two of the biggest players on the court). Just as the fight started, Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy sprinted onto the court in an attempt to separate the two. Van Gundy, giving up about two feet to Mourning, could only hold onto Mourning’s leg in what has become a lasting and famous image in NBA history. The Knicks would go on to win the series and Van Gundy established himself as a NY legend.
11 Diego Maradona vs. Andoni Goikoetxea (Round 2)
Soccer is not a sport which often erupts in violence, as usually it will go no further than some pushing and shoving and of course players diving to the turf as if they have been shot. This was not the case in the 1983-84 Copa Del Rey Final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, as this match would end with disturbing scenes and perhaps the worst fighting the sport has seen. This was all a result of the fierce rivalry between Diego Maradona and Andoni Goikoetxea, as just a year earlier Goikoetxea had severely injured Maradona which kept him sidelined for three months. Out for revenge, Maradona delivered a cold blooded kick to his rival's head and then went on a kicking rampage that saw him deliver many blows, including knocking out Bilbao’s goalkeeper.
10 Terry O’Reilly vs. the City of New York
Just two days before Christmas in 1979, the Boston Bruins and NY Rangers got into an epic brawl at MSG which resulted in the Bruins taking on the New York fans. As the Rangers were leaving the ice after the defeat, Ulf Nilsson was tripped by Al Secord of the Bruins. A fight soon broke out between players near the tunnel, and this is when John Kaptain, a fan, reached over and punched Stan Jonathan and made off with his stick. The fan was then confronted by Terry O’Reilly, who was subsequently swarmed by fans which caused many of the Bruins players to go over the boards and fight the Rangers supporters.
9 Mardy Collins vs. Carmelo Anthony
Never a team (or city) to shy away from a fight, the Knicks got involved in a fierce scrap at MSG against the Nuggets which would take place all over the court and even spilled into the stands. It all began with a flagrant foul by Mardy Collins at the end of the blowout win for the Nuggets, resulting in several players pushing and punching each other and causing players to fall into the photographers and first row. Just as it appeared to be simmering down, Carmelo Anthony landed a punch on Collins which sparked a second wave of fighting. All 10 players on the floor were ejected, and seven players were suspended for a combined total of 47 games. It is said that the coaches had a key role in incident, with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas encouraging his team to be physical after Nuggets coach George Karl kept his starters on the floor despite his team being up 20+ points with just minutes remaining. Carmelo and J.R Smith would join the Knicks just a few years later.
8 Canada vs. The Soviet Union
An enormous fight broke out at the final game of the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Piestany, seeing both Canada and the Soviet Union ejected. This cost Canada a guaranteed medal while the Soviet Union had already been eliminated from contention, but this was the least of their worries as the players involved were suspended for 18 months whilst the coaches were banned for three years. The fight broke out in the 2nd period, and this quickly escalated into a line brawl. Soon enough both benches were involved, and it soon turned violent as a head-butt resulted in a broken nose and there were fights all over the ice. Having gone on for over 20 minutes, the officials were unable to contain the situation and evacuated the ice, before the lights were turned off which did little to stop the brawl. It eventually finished and the game was declared null and void, but the brawl remains one of the most infamous in sports history.
7 Don Zimmer vs. Pedro Martinez
Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox was overshadowed by a bench clearing brawl, and one particularly despicable act all resulting from a Pedro Martinez fastball which hit Karim Garcia on the back. Gestures were made and both benches were warned, but later on Roger Clemens threw a high pitch and Manny Ramirez charged the mound.
Both benches ran onto the field, and 72-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer ran at Pedro Martinez, who then threw Zimmer to the turf. The fight lasted over 10 minutes, and towards the end of the game a groundskeeper got into a fight with Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson. The Yankees won the game and would go on to win the series in seven, delivering a crushing blow for the Red Sox who were hoping for their first World Series victory since 1918.
6 China vs. Brazil
This huge fight goes to show that even a “friendly” game can see tempers flair and things boil over, and this scrap saw shocking scenes between the Chinese and Brazilian basketball teams. The game became very physical after China’s coach began to argue with the referee, and soon this physical play became violent and punches started to fly. Both benches ran onto the court and got involved in the melee. The teams were separated and the Brazilian squad attempted to go back to the locker room, but they were again attacked by the Chinese team who began to stomp on players. Both teams had players who sustained injuries, including one Chinese player who left in a neck brace.
5 Dr. J vs. Larry Bird
It is normal for two of the greatest players of their generation to be locked into some kind of duel anytime they face off, but you never expect things to escalate to punches being thrown. This is what happened when the Celtics hosted their fierce rivals the Sixers back in 1984, after Dr. J managed to throw Bird to the ground on a trip down the court. A fight breaks out, and in this Dr. J manages to land a few punches to Bird’s face after Charles Barkley and Moses Malone manage to restrain him in a head lock. Both were ejected from the game, and although Erving managed to get the better shots in, Bird got the last laugh as he left the game with 42 points to Irving’s six, and the C’s got the all important win at the end of the game.
4 Martin Havlat “eats his lunch”
March 5th, 2004 will always be remembered by hockey fans for this remarkable fight, which resulted in a league record for penalty minutes handed out (419). Like many brawls, this one grew from an incident when the teams had previously met, which saw Martin Havlat hit Mark Recchi in the head with his stick. Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock later swore revenge, stating that “someday, someone’s going to make him eat his lunch.” It seemed inevitable that fights would occur in their next meeting, and there was certainly no shortage of them as the officials could do little to contain the melee, which included Radovan Somik slashing Havlat. Twenty players were ejected from the game, with each Flyers player getting a cheer and high five as they left the ice one by one. The instigator, Donald Brashear, was asked why he started the fighting, to which he replied – “Why wouldn’t I? Did you see the last game?”
3 Eric Cantona vs. Fan
Former Man United striker Eric Cantona was a highly talented player and one with great abilities, but he also had a mean streak in him. He is now best remembered for this moment of madness, which saw him launch a “kung-fu” kick into the crowd which stunned the entire football world. Cantona saw red, in more ways than one, after 48 minutes and was given his marching orders for lashing out at Crystal Palace defender Shaw. He began walking down the touchline towards the tunnel, meaning that he was walking right past all the home fans. One of these fans, Nigel Simmons, saw this as an opportunity to further wind up the Frenchman, and gave him some verbal abuse. Cantona then responded by kicking the fan square in the chest, before getting up and attempting to swing at him. Cantona was suspended the rest of the season and fined, but this remains a key moment in Premier League history.
2 Miami vs. FIU
This epic brawl in 2006 between the University of Miami Hurricanes and the Florida International Golden Panthers at the Miami Orange Bowl goes down in history as one of the craziest fights of all time. The bench clearing brawl contained players kicking each other in the head, using their helmets as weapons and body-slams along with all kinds of other violence. The schools are separated by just nine miles and things were heated throughout, but they eventually erupted with nine minutes left in the 3rd quarter as players began to fight, and not even two dozen policemen could break up the ugly scenes. A total of 31 players received suspensions for their involvement.
1 Ron Artest vs. The City of Detroit
The Malice in the Palace remains one of the most bizarre and shocking things to have happened in sports history, and its impact is still felt over 10 years later. Ron Artest was of course in the middle of all of this, and it was his hard foul on Detroit’s Ben Wallace that sparked the incident. Ben Wallace felt that the foul was dangerous and over the top, so he responded by pushing Indiana’s Artest which caused players to attempt to separate the pair. Artest then decided to lie down on the scorer’s table whilst the situation escalated, but then a fan threw a drink at Artest which caused him to explode. He jumped into the crowd to confront the fan and was quickly followed by Stephen Jackson, who punched a Pistons fan. All hell then broke loose, with more Pacers players entering the stands as fans also spilled onto the court. Artest punched a fan as he returned to the court, as did Jermaine O’Neal who took a running start. The madness continued as fans bombarded the Pacers players with drinks and debris as they attempted to leave the court.
The brawl stunned the entire sporting world, and resulted in nine players facing a combined total of 146 games on the sidelines. Five players were also charged with assault, and five Pistons fans faced criminal damages and can no longer attend games at the Palace.