Sporting battles your eyes couldn’t believe

December 27, 2017

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The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt and comedy heavyweight Kevin Hart have pitted wits all through 2017 in PokerStars’s #GameOn campaign. The long-running feud will come to an end in January at the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, when the two will tangle for supremacy in a final heads-up battle. It’s an unlikely match-up that you might think could only happen at the poker table, but the sporting world has enjoyed more than its fair share of bizarre clashes over the years.


Usain Bolt and Kevin Hart will settle their differences at the poker table

Floyd Mayweather vs The Big Show

March 2008, Florida

It seems that Mayweather will do anything for money, including taking on a man whose fist is bigger than his head. Luckily for Mayweather this fight was scripted, although it turned out to be one of the best celebrity fights the WWE has ever put on. The angle started at the 2008 PPV No Way Out, when Mayweather raced out to protect Rey Mysterio and ended up legitimately breaking the Big Show’s nose (reportedly with the big man’s permission!). The fight took place at WrestleMania XXIV and although Mayweather was supposed to be the babyface (AKA the good guy), his arrogance led to most people wanting Big Show to squash him. That’s not the way the script went though and after a few chair shots to the head, Mayweather took out the giant with the aid of some brass knucks.


Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather has never been afraid to tackle some unorthodox challenges in the pursuit of even more money

Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki

June 1976, Tokyo

Ali might have been the greatest boxer ever but he wasn’t the world’s smartest wrestler. When he came up against Antonio Inoki in a fight contested under hybrid martial arts rules, he wore boxing gloves – and that gave him a problem grappling. Inoki started the fight by rushing in and attempting a kick, before lying on his back and trying to goad Ali into taking it to the ground. Ali wasn’t interested and neither was the crowd after it became apparent that there wasn’t going to be much in the way of action. Ali landed five punches in a bout that ended in a draw and drew much derision from the crowd watching. Afterwards, it became apparent that Inoki had been banned from throwing, grappling or tackling, and couldn’t land kicks unless he had a knee on the mat.

Muhammad Ali is one of boxing’s all-time greats but struggled against Japanese pro wrestling legend Antonio Inoki

Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather

August 2017, Las Vegas

No one really thought Floyd Mayweather would stay retired, with a professional record of 49-0 matching that of Rocky Marciano’s. Few expected him to fight UFC bad boy Conor McGregor in his 50th bout though. In the lead-up to the fight the hype led many people to believe that McGregor had a chance against the best pound-for-pound boxer in a generation. From the first bell though it became clear that Mayweather was going to choose when and how to end the fight. In the end he left it until the 10th round to score a win via technical knockout, in a fight that has been labeled one of the sporting world’s biggest con jobs. Mayweather was reported to have made $300m from the bout, with McGregor earning over $100m.

Jerry Lawler v Andy Kaufman

April 1982, Memphis

The feud between Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and comedian Andy Kaufman is one of the greatest in the history of professional wrestling, and paved the way for the modern day antics of the WWE. Back in the early 80s wrestling was about grappling and it was still being portrayed as a legitimate sport. Kaufman, best known for his role as Latka in the sitcom Taxi, was a huge wrestling fan and started declaring himself as the Intergender World Champion after his bouts against female opponents. Lawler took offence to this and challenged him to a match which took place in 1982. Kaufman was hospitalised after the bout, which propelled Memphis Wrestling into the mainstream spotlight. Lawler and Kaufman appeared on Late Night with David Letterman where the feud continued, making the front page of the New York Times. It wasn’t exposed as a staged angle until 10 years after Kaufman’s death.

Ivan Lendl v the golfing world

1996-2008, various

When Lendl retired from tennis in 1994 he had a masterplan and it involved him swapping his racket for a club and becoming a pro golfer. He played up to 250 rounds a year to try and beat his game into shape after missing the cut in the 1996 Czech Open, his debut tournament. He birdied the first but then bombed out to a round of 82. He got his handicap down to 0 and took a shot at qualifying for the 2008 US Open, but fluffed a bunker shot at the first and missed a tap-in at the second en route to a round of 77.

Tim Sylvia v Ray Mercer

June 2009, Alabama

Randy Couture v James Toney

August 2010, Boston

The Mayweather v McGregor fight wasn’t the first time the boxing and MMA worlds collided. However, both of these fights took place under MMA rules, which should count massively against the boxer. That didn’t help Tim Sylvia in a huge upset, after he was stopped by former heavyweight champ Ray Mercer in just nine seconds. Sylvia was a two-time UFC champ who was only one year off being ranked among the top 10 MMA heavyweight fighters in the world. For some reason though, the 6ft 8in man, who could kick as well as punch, walked in with his chin out and left himself wide open to a Mercer overhand right. It was left to Randy Couture at UFC 118 to strike back for the MMA world. He took the fight to the ground early on in Round 1 and Toney, a three-weight world champion, never got back to his feet. He was submitted via an arm triangle after three minutes and 19 seconds.

Jesse Owens vs Julio McCaw

December 1936, Havana, Cuba

Hitler wanted to prove to the world that the Ayran people were the dominant race at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but it didn’t go to plan. Jesse Owens was the most successful athlete at the games, and became the first American to win four track-and-field golds in one Olympics. However, shortly after, he was reduced to racing exhibition races for cash and travelled to Cuba for one to race Julio McCaw. What’s so extraordinary about that? Well, McCaw was actually a horse. Owens was given a 40-yard start and came home just ahead of McCaw in a time of 9.9 seconds.


Jesse Owens in magnificent full flight

Billie-Jean King vs Bobby Riggs

September 1973, Houston

As far back as 1973, female tennis players were starting to speak up about inequality in pay. Billie-Jean King actually organized a walkout on the Pacific Southwest Tennis Tournament that offered women just 15% of the prize money it gave to men. It meant there was a lot at stake when she finally accepted the challenge from Bobby Riggs, a self-professed chauvinist with a gambling problem. Riggs, a former Wimbledon champion (in 1939), had retired in 1951 but still thought he could beat any female player. He couldn’t beat King. He broke her serve in the first set, but King dug in and eventually enjoyed a 6-4 6-3 6-3 victory that was witnessed by 90m people. The match is the subject of a major new film, Battle of the Sexes, starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone.


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