Bobby Riggs Accused of Throwing 'Battle of the Sexes'

To pay mafia debts, alleges new report

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 25, 2013 4:49 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new report by ESPN lobs some heavy accusations the late tennis legend Bobby Riggs—namely, that he threw the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" game he lost to Billie Jean King in order to pay off gambling debts to the mafia. A little history refresher: Riggs, then 55, easily defeated Margaret Court in the first Battle, but was thwarted by King later that year. According to a man who says he witnessed the whole deal go down amongst mobsters at a golf club where he was an assistant pro, both games were a set-up: Riggs, who he says owed the mob $100,000, would win the game against Court and brag about it obnoxiously to entice King to play him. Then he'd deliberately lose to King, letting his mob buddies in on the fix.

Riggs' son, Larry, confirms that his father didn't practice seriously for the match, and some "shady characters" in "flashy suits" started showing up to meet with him. Friend and former tennis great Gardnar Mulloy also says Riggs told him not to bet on him to win. And the son of tennis star Don Budge says his dad told him it was fixed. But others don't buy the allegations—arguing bookies surely would have noticed the huge wagers coming in. Riggs' former best friend says he didn't owe the mob a dime. "There are no mob people involved with this match," he says. "The mob doesn't even play tennis." King doesn't believe the story, either. "That was not really in Bobby's best interest in any way to lose that match," she says. There's way more worth reading in the full ESPN article.

In this 1973 file photo. Billie Jean King raises her arms after defeating Bobby Riggs, rear, getting ready to jump over the net, in the Battle of the Sexes.
In this 1973 file photo. Billie Jean King raises her arms after defeating Bobby Riggs, rear, getting ready to jump over the net, in the "Battle of the Sexes."   (AP Photo, File)
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