Defying The Odds: The Biggest Upsets In Boxing

Tom Dunstan

Boxing stands alone as the only sport where you can convincingly lose every minute of the contest and still come out the winner. That’s why we love boxing, a fighter always has a punchers chance and at any second, anything can happen.

Over the years, boxing has showcased some of the sports most iconic underdog stories, fighters who were all written off before the bell, but, somehow managed to overcome all the odds. Here are some of boxing’s most memorable underdog triumphs:

Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson – 1990

The fight that many boxing fans consider to be the biggest upset in the history of the sport. Many bookmakers at the time wouldn’t even accept bets on the bout, the only ones that did had Douglas at 42-1.

Douglas didn’t care about the odds though, coming from the recent death of his mother only a few days before the fight, Douglas was ready to shock the world. Although Tyson managed to drop Douglas in the eighth round, Buster only came back stronger and more determined. After sending Tyson crashing to the canvas in the 10th, Tyson was stumbling but he was unable to reach the ref’s count, boxing fans knew they had witnessed something special.

Antonio Tarver vs Roy Jones Jr – 2004

For Jones, he had barely lost a single round during his reign as a middleweight, super-middleweight, and light heavyweight world champion.

Prior to his first bout with Tarver, Jones had looked in sensational form after dominating WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz. Although in the first contest Jones showed some signs that he was in fact only human he still won with a landslide majority decision.

Many fans expected the same in the rematch, but Tarver had different ideas. They say in boxing, it only takes one punch to ruin a fighter’s career, this fight couldn’t be more proof of that. After Tarver landed a huge left hand, Jones had finally been defeated and he never returned to the ring the same fighter.

George Foreman vs Michael Moorer – 1994

In the sport of boxing, it has shown that father time catches up to all fighters, except George Foreman.

21 years after first lifting the world title, Foreman was back, this time though, he was 45-years-old and a father of 12, many had concerns for Foreman’s health entering the fight.

While Foreman’s career looked to be on its last legs, Moorer’s looked to be just getting underway. ‘Double M’ was just 26 and had won his previous 35 fights in convincing fashion, becoming the first southpaw heavyweight champion along the way.

The first 10 rounds went like many had expected, Foreman was taking a battering. But this is heavyweight boxing and anything can happen. After Foreman landed a short right-hand bang on Moorer’s jaw, the 26-year-old was counting birdies and boxing had its oldest world champion.

Frankie Randall vs Julio Cesar Chavez – 1994

Julio Cesar Chavez is still regarded as Mexico’s greatest ever fighter, entering 1994 he was unbeaten in his previous 90 fights and had cemented himself as one of boxing’s all-time greats.

For Randall, many fans felt that he had wasted the promise he had shown in the late eighties. At the age of 32, this was Randall’s first shot at a world title and many expected it to be a cakewalk for Cesar.

At 19-1 odds, you can imagine the surprise when in the 11th round, Cesar found himself on the ground for the first time in his illustrious career. Cesar handed over his crown and Randall walked out the light-welterweight world champion.

Tyson Fury vs Wladimir Klitschko – 2015

Say what you like about Tyson Fury, but, you can’t doubt that heavyweight boxing is a lot more entertaining with Tyson involved.

Still the Ring magazine heavyweight champion, Fury’s defining night came in 2015 when he traveled to Germany and ended Wladimir Klitschko reign as heavyweight king.

Before the fight, many saw Fury as a loudmouth who would be exposed when he came across an elite operator like Klitschko. The Ukrainian legend was coming off the back of 22-straight wins and had dominated heavyweight boxing in the 21st century.

The fight itself couldn’t have gone more off script, Fury didn’t back down and his awkward style saw him win in dominant fashion. After picking up a unanimous decision, in Klitschko’s adopted home, Fury became the unified heavyweight champion.

Jeff Horn vs Manny Pacquiao – 2017

The latest and arguably most controversial fight to make the list. It was a battle of the two fighters profiles, Pacquiao was an eight weight world champion, a guaranteed Hall of Famer and one of boxing’s most iconic figures. Horn on the other hand, well you would have struggled to find anyone outside of Australia who even knew who he was.

Even with the fight taking place in Horn’s backyard of Brisbane, Australia, the title bout was expected to just be an exhibition for Pacquiao as he looked for some big name fights.

But, Australia’s new boxing superstar pulled off a hugely controversial win and left with the WBO welterweight crown. Despite many pundits feeling Pacquiao had done more than enough to win the fight, the record books will always show Horn’s name as the victor.

Leon Spinks vs Muhammad Ali – 1978

In 1978 Muhammad Ali was a two-time world heavyweight champion, arguably the greatest boxer of all time had only lost two of his 57 fights over his history-making 18-year career.

On the other end of the career spectrum, Leon Spinks was America’s new hot prospect, he was an Olympic light-heavyweight gold medalist who’s decision to jump up to heavyweight after only seven fights really got the public talking.

Weighing in, ‘Neon Leon’ was 27 pounds lighter than Ali, but despite the expectation that the wily veteran would dominate the young hopefull, Spinks proved to be far too industrious over 15 rounds becoming the world champion in the quickest period of time.

Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman – 1974

Four years before being upset by Spinks, Ali was handing out his own underdog story. Ali (who had changed his name from Cassius Clay after his victory over Sonny Liston) had not worn the heavyweight crown since 1967, after being stripped for refusing induction into the armed services.

Prior to their matchup, Ali had hit somewhat of a bump in the road. Before his title shot against Foreman, Ali had lost against Joe Frazier and also lost on points to Ken Norton.

Foreman, meanwhile, had done what Ali couldn’t, he demolished Frazier, knocking him down six times in just two rounds.

But come fight night, Foreman’s destructive power was absorbed by Ali had a series of straight right hands saw the great one knock Foreman down in the eighth and for the second time, Ali was the champ.

Corrie Sanders vs Wladimir Klitschko, 2003

That’s right, Tyson Fury wasn’t the first man to upset the great Wladimir Klitschko. Over a decade before clashing with Fury, Klitschko met the relatively unknown South African fighter Corrie Sanders.

Klitschko was putting his WBO heavyweight title on the line and nobody could have expected what was about to happen.

His bout with Sanders will undoubtedly go down as Klitschko’s worst performance. Despite being an overwhelming favourite with bookmakers, fans were shocked when the giant Ukrainian was knocked out in the second round and finished with a face full of bruises.

In a twist right out of Hollywood, Vladimir’s brother, Vitaly swore vengeance on Sanders. He would eventually get his revenge but Sanders always be remembered as the man who first showed that Vladimir Klitschko was vulnerable.

Start the discussion

to comment