Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Amir Khan and boxing’s biggest conspiracy theories

In 2021 you're never more than five minutes away from hearing about the latest conspiracy theory.

Most of them tend to involve Donald Trump or coronavirus, but the boxing world is also ripe for such weird and wonderful tales which catch the imagination and grow legs of their own.

From incidents in sparring to elaborate excuses for high-profile defeats, we've heard them all.

And with so much of the fight game taking place behind closed doors, we don't really ever get to the bottom of them.

And so here, we take a look at some of the highest-profile conspiracy theories in the sweet science…

1. Anthony Joshua was knocked down in sparring

Anthony Joshua's first professional defeat in 2019 sent shockwaves through the heavyweight divison.

Having been floored and stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr, it seemed inconceivable that Joshua was simply beaten by the better man.

The first theory behind his seventh-round stoppage was that Joshua had suffered a panic attack in his dressing room, making him late for his ring walk.

Fans then theorised that Joshua looked ill at ease before the fight started.

No sooner had these theories been dismissed as new ones sprung up; including that Joshua was KO'd in sparring by former European champion Agit Kabayel.

There was only problem – the pair hadn't even sparred.

That wasn't the end, however, and soon it was claimed that it had been Joey Dawejko who dropped Joshua during his preparation for his late-notice fight against Ruiz Jr.

The pair did at least spar – and it is a rumour which has persisted to this day which Dawejko has refused to deny.

Joshua, as you would expect, rubbished the claim, saying: "Definitely not. I feel like people are more interested in their five minutes of fame.

"Even in sparring, everyone wants to be famous, rather than a good fighter.

"Silly stories about knocking me down and all that stuff.

"You can't even enjoy your training and work on things without someone trying to make up false allegations, and trying to get five minutes of fame.

"You bring someone into your training camp to do them a favour, you’re paying them, nothing like [the knockdown rumour] in that nature has happened, you beat them up in every round, then they go and do an interview.

"It just happens all the time in boxing, there is just a lot of envy, and there’s no realness, and that’s why it doesn't really sit well with me boxing sometimes, where I just lose that passion for it."

2. Tyson Fury's 'loaded gloves'

Next weekend will the one-year anniversary of Tyson Fury's famous win over Deontay Wilder.

And this is the perfect example of a fighter not accepting he was beaten fair and square.

Wilder has blamed everyone and everything for his loss – except himself – but the most serious accusation was levelled at Fury.

In fairness to Wilder, the accusation started on YouTube with fans claiming Fury had doctored his gloves before his first meeting with Wilder in 2018.

Those accusations morphed into claims that Fury had loaded his gloves with an 'egg-shaped object' for the rematch, something Wilder latched on to and ran with.

Fury and his team have consistently denied they tampered with their gloves and regardless, everyone in boxing knows how strict the gloving-up process is.

In fact, even Wilder's former trainer Mark Breland dismissed the theory last week, confirming: "I doubt it very much, I don't know, I never seen nothing.

"But still at the same time – he’s not gonna beat Tyson Fury regardless.

"[Head trainer] Jay Deas was standing right there when the man was getting his hands wrapped. If they put something in there, either Jay’s blind or…"

Fury has moved on from the rivalry – it's time Wilder did the same.

3. Amir Khan and the 'man in the hat'

We're taking you back 10 years for this one and the story of Amir Khan and his defeat by Lamont Peterson.

Khan was defending his two super-lightweight titles and was deducted two points for pushing which condemned him to a split-decision defeat.

But attention soon turned to a mystery man who happened to be wearing a hat and who was later identified as Mustafa Ameen.

Ameen was an IBF official but despite having no role on the night, he was seen talking to a WBA supervisor and handling a piece of paper Khan's team claimed was a scorecard. He was then seen celebrating in the ring with Peterson.

Outraged, Khan demanded answers, saying: "He was [in Peterson's corner]. You only see that on the video – at the fight I didn't realise.

"But after watching it on tape, you see him around the same corner as Lamont Peterson's team, cheering with them and celebrating.

"That's the reason I want to know who this person was and why was he sat with the judges? Why was he passing papers around? Why was he handling things?

"The rule is: whenever the judges are working, no one is allowed to touch the judges' papers or scorecards. Were they scorecards? I don't know. That's the thing I want to know and that's the complaint I sent out."

The WBA ordered an immediate rematch but Peterson was then stripped of his titles after failing a drug test. Khan went on to lose to Danny Garcia in his next fight.

4. Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston and the 'phantom punch'

This one takes us back to 1965 but lives long in the memory of boxing fans.

In 1964, Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, had upset Sonny Liston with a seventh-round stoppage.

The rematch the following year lasted less than two minutes as Ali dropped his rival with a right hand – or did he?

Liston rolled around on the canvas, half-heartedly tried to get up before collapsing down again, all while Ali was shouting "Get up and fight, sucker!" and "Nobody will believe this!"

The farce continued as referee Jersey Joe Walcott eventually restarted the fight before being waved over by timekeeper Francis McDonough who insisted Liston had been counted out. The fight was then stopped and Ali awarded victory.

Controversy reigned long after the bout with Liston claiming that he wasn't hurt by the punch but was distracted by Ali and therefore didn't hear the count.

Liston's reputation was all but ruined by the fight and he would never again rule the heavyweight division.

5. Deontay Wilder's 'spiked water'

We return to Deontay Wilder and his long list of excuses for his defeat by Tyson Fury.

It was bad enough when Wilder blamed his 40lb walk-on suit for his loss, claiming it was too heavy and weakened his legs.

But things took a turn for the absurd when he claimed trainer Mark Breland – whom he had already chastised for throwing in the towel – had spiked his water during the bout.

The idea is so preposterous that it shouldn't even be entertained, but Breland himself addressed the accusation last week.

"I mean, so many people know me, my character speaks for itself," he said. "Spiked the water? If you’re looking at the tapes or whatever, you don’t even see that water in my hand, someone else is giving him the water.

"And regardless of that, I’m there to help you. My attitude is, 'When you win, I win.' I've seen some foolish people talking to me about that fight. Come on now, only foolish people come out with stuff like that because it’s crazy. If you know me, you know me."

Hopefully Wilder can put an end to this nonsense and return to the ring with a reminder of his ability.

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