Sports fans love to endlessly debate controversial decisions and unbelievable upsets. However, some things are just so hard to believe that they go in sporting folklore as conspiracies. What are the biggest sporting conspiracies and are they true?
Super Bowl III Was Fixed
One of the biggest upsets in NFL history came in 1969. This was the first time that the Super Bowl name had been used for this showpiece game between the AFL and NFL champions. It was the New York Jets against the Baltimore Colts, and virtually no-one expected the team from New York to triumph.
Therefore, eyebrows were raised when the Jets' quarterback, Joe Namath, guaranteed a win for his team. Anyone who bets on football games would have taken a huge risk by putting money on the Jets to win against all the odds.
Yet, they won with a comfortable 16-7 scoreline. This led to claims of the game being fixed so that a New York team would win, or because of huge bets that had been placed on the outcome. Bubba Smith spoke out about the strangeness of the game but we will probably never know if it was really fixed or not.
Muhammad Ali and the Phantom Punch
One of the most surreal moments in the history of boxing occurred when Muhammad Ali knocked down Sonny Liston with what became known as the phantom punch. This was in 1965, when the boxers met in Maine for a fight that was marred in controversy before it even began.
Liston had appeared unbeatable, but this was the fight that ended his career while propelling Ali to superstardom. Yet, few people who were there even saw the punch that did the damage. It was a short right-hand jab that Ali threw without much conviction while he was off-balance. It seemed barely capable of causing such damage to the powerful Liston, but it took him down with the strength of a horse competing the Kentucky Derby race.
The boxing world was virtually united in saying that Liston had taken a dive. Even Ali seemed embarrassed about it, although he later claimed it was some sort of secret "karate" move that had knocked out his rival. It has since been suggested that Liston took a dive to protect his family.
Michael Jordan "Retired" Because of a Ban
Jordan announced in 1993 that he was retiring, but a lot of people think that it was a cover for a ban from the NBA. This is mainly due to the governing body looking into his gambling habits and his links to James Bouler shortly before his retirement announcement.
He also made a statement in the press conference at the time saying that he might return "five years down the road" if David Stern "lets me back in". Since he was undoubtedly the best player in the league at the time, it seemed a really strange thing to say.
The theory goes on to suggest that the NBA dropped their investigation once Jordan retired, allowing him to walk away with his reputation and marketable brand intact. It seems to make sense, although if it was a secret ban then they did incredibly well to keep it under wraps.
Nike Forced Ronaldo to Play in the 1998 World Cup Final
The soccer World Cup in 1998 was won by host nation France. However, for many spectators their enduring memory is of the sad figure of Ronaldo looking lost out on the pitch. Arguably the hottest forward on the planet at that time, his listless performance in the final was a mystery.
It was revealed that the Brazilian had suffered a convulsion before the game, with doctors telling him not to play. The conspiracy theory suggests it was his sponsor Nike that forced the Brazilian FA to include him in the team for the big game.
In recent interviews, Ronaldo suggested that he forced the coach to play him, by insisting that he was fine and that the medical tests carried out on him showed no signs of anything untoward. Either way, he suffered a poor performance as the French strolled to a 3-0 victory.