Inside sport’s most toxic feuds – from ice skater who hired hitman to Joey Barton bust-ups and boxer pummelled to death

Inside sport’s most toxic feuds – from ice skater who hired hitman to Joey Barton bust-ups and boxer pummelled to death

HITMEN, golf club attacks and deadly clashes in the boxing ring – some sporting feuds go much, much further than others.

This week, Paris Saint-Germain footballer Aminata Diallo was taken into custody after allegedly organising a brutal attack against a teammate. 


Kheira Hamraoui was dragged out of a car by two masked men, beaten up and struck with an iron crowbar multiple times – requiring stitches in her legs and hands. 

It’s claimed the vicious assault was part of an escalating feud over the player's spot in the PSG first team.

In the wake of the arrest, stunned sports fans have compared the alleged crime to the infamous case of Tonya Harding, who hired a hitman to incapacitate her ice skating rival Nancy Kerrigan with a baton.

Here, we remember some of the sporting rivalries that got wildly out of hand.

Hitman took out rival

Tonya Harding was one of the most promising figures in US figure skating in the Nineties and tipped for great things due to her win-at-all-costs approach.

One obstacle stood in the way of her making it on to the Olympic team – her long-time rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Less than a day before they were due to face off, one of the most astonishing scandals in the history of sports happened.

In 1994, as Kerrigan walked out of the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan, a hitman pounced and continuously struck her right knee with a 21-inch baton.

“Why? Why? Why? Why me?” she screamed into nearby cameras, bursting into tears.

Fortunately, Kerrigan only suffered bruising and no broken bones, but was forced to pull out of the national competition.

Later it was revealed that Harding's bodyguard and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly had hired hitman Shane Stant to stop the skater’s rival from challenging her.

Despite denying any knowledge of the situation, Harding later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution.

Among her penalties were three years on probation, a $100,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.

The skater was stripped of her 1994 US Championship title and was banned from skating professionally for life.

Later Harding admitted that she “knew something was up” ahead of the attack and despite it nearly ending Kerrigan's career, she never apologised.


Mike Tyson gets an earful 

Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield will be long remembered for a 1997 heavyweight clash where one fighter truly bit off more than he could chew.

However, US sports reporter Ron Borges revealed their feud stretched back to a “pool table incident” back in 1984.

The then-amateur fighters squared up after Tyson lost a game but refused to “give up the table”.

“Tyson tried to bully him [but] Holyfield walked up to Tyson, didn’t say a word and took the cue stick from him,” Borges told Talk Sport.

He claimed ‘Iron Mike’ vanished after the stand-off and recognised Holyfield was the “one guy he couldn’t intimidate”.

In 1996, when Tyson lost his first title fight to Holyfield, he complained that his foe fought unfairly by headbutting him, which cut open his eye.

During the second fight, Tyson bit off a one-inch chunk of cartilage from Holyfield’s right ear and spat it on the floor.

Holyfield bled profusely but was able to continue and the referee decided to two points from Tyson.

But when Tyson bit his rival’s ear for a second time, he was disqualified.

Last year, when questioned about whether he regretted the attack, Tyson said he “might do it again” and appeared to show no regret.

“If he does what he was doing to get bitten, I would bite him again, yeah!” Tyson told Fox News.

“I was really mad about my head being bumped and everything, I really lost consciousness of the whole fight… I bit him because I wanted to kill him.” 

And with talks of a third Tyson vs Holyfield fight in the works, their feud could be reunited once again. 

Whacked teammate with golf club

Normally the pressure of competition can lead teammates to fall out – but bizarrely the clash between Craig Bellamy and John Arne Riise started over karaoke.

The Liverpool players were enjoying a holiday in the Algarve ahead of their Champions League clash with Barcelona in 2007.

They were all drinking at a local bar when Bellamy tried to pressure the defender into performing for them and said: “Riise’s gonna sing! Riise’s gonna sing!”

According to his 2018 autobiography Running Man, the "furious" Norwegian yelled: “I’m not singing! Shut the f*** up or else I’m gonna smash you.”

Bellamy then “screamed back” the words: “I’m gonna f***ing kill you, you ginger c***!”

Back at the hotel, Riise was sleeping in his room when he woke to see Bellamy raise a golf club “over his head".

Moments later the footballer claimed his teammate "swung down as hard as he could”.

“He tried to hit my shins, which would have ended my career, but I managed to pull my leg away in time," Riise claimed.

Bellamy allegedly told him “I’ll f***ing do you” and he “didn’t care” if he went to jail because his children were financially taken care of.

The footballers nearly fought outside that evening and later the Welsh star was fined £80,000 for his outburst and forced to apologise.

Both players scored during the 2-1 victory against Barca and in a controversial celebration of his goal, Bellamy mimed swinging a golf club at fans. 

Joey Barton's infamous temper

Joey Barton was renowned for being unable to keep his temper under control, both on and off the pitch. 

After the 2006 World Cup, the fiery footballer mocked England star Frank Lampard for releasing a biography and questioned his talent.

“I can’t get my head 'round that. England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out?” Barton snapped.

“‘We got beat in the quarter-finals, I played like s***, here’s my book’ – who wants to read that?”

Lampard argued that Barton didn’t have the right to judge him and said: “As a professional… you shouldn’t talk about other players too much.”

In 2012, during a heated exchange, Lampard moved away from Joey’s table only to be told: “It’s alright, I’m not going to nick your breakfast, you fat p****.” 

This wasn’t the only clash between Joey and another player.

In 2008, he landed himself a six-match ban for attacking teammate Ousmane Dabo, which left him with cuts, bruises and a detached retina.

He received a four-month suspended sentence by the courts after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 

Later he stubbed a lit cigarette out in youth player James Tandy’s eye and was fined six weeks wages and forced to apologise.

In another incident, Barton was convicted of assault and served 77 days in prison after punching a man 20 times and breaking a teenager’s teeth. 


Pummelled to death in the ring

Boxing fans are used to seeing cuts, swellings and knockouts in the ring, but a 1962 fight in Madison Square Garden ended in tragedy. 

Ahead of their face-off, Benny ‘Kid’ Paret enraged Emile Griffith by calling him a “maricon” – the Spanish word for homosexual. 

In the 12th round, Griffith had his opponent on the ropes and was pummelling him with continuous right-handed jabs.

Paret's nose bled and a cut opened under his right eye as the boxer rained countless punches on to his face.

The ferocious nature of the fight meant it was hard for the referee to force himself in between them to stop it.

Moments after he finally ended the round, Paret sank on to the canvas, passed out and failed to regain consciousness.

In the hospital, surgeons removed two blood clots but the boxer never woke up. He died four days after the fight. 

Punched cricketer off a bar

Cricket stars Ian Botham and Ian Chappell had a memorable rivalry that lasted through the decades.

When Botham played cricket in Australia, he gave his rival “three official warnings” before he decided to “flatten him”.

According to Chappell, the British sportsman “threatened him with a broken glass” while they were at the bar.

It resulted in either a punch or a shove that led the Australian to “part company with his stool” and fall.

The cricketer was last seen that night “fleeing the scene” according to Botham, but Chappell claims he was composed.

They continued to exchange verbal jabs including Chappell making remarks about his rival's intelligence and have continued to “lock antlers” ever since.

Drove himself to death after toxic rivalry

Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi were described as having one of the most toxic rivalries in Formula One.

They were both racing for Ferrari and had equally ferocious desires to win. 

Villeneuve, who had helped his teammate Jody Scheckter win a championship title in 1979, felt it was his time to be in the spotlight.

However, Pironi had other ideas. He decided to ignore his team’s orders to stay behind Villeneuve and overtook him to win during the final lap.

His teammate was furious and at the next race – while trying to secure pole position from Pironi – made a risky move to get around Jochen Mass.

He crashed and died immediately. According to sources, Pironi was never the same after the death of Villeneuve.

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