There is so much build-up to any boxing match – the menacing threats, media hype and cash thrown around in anticipation of the big knockout. That’s why any upset in the four-sided ring always resonates so extensively. Here are a few of the most notable boxing upsets.
7 of the Best Boxing Upsets
‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson was considered an expert opponent in the art of boxing and, by the time he stepped into the ring, he had only lost one fight in 130 with a 90-fight unbeaten streak. Randy Turpin was an underdog with 5-1 odds but he went in and managed to topple the king through his incredible physical strength.
With hindsight, anyone betting against Cassius Clay – eventually Muhammad Ali – in the 60s would have been considered crazy, but this was the fight that propelled the heavyweight champion into the greatest era of boxing. Clay was going up against the ‘invincible’ Liston at 8-1 odds, with many believing Clay would be quickly disposed of and that, in fact, the odds were too generous for Clay. But Clay believed in himself, stating he would knock out Liston in seven rounds. Although Liston couldn’t touch Clay initially, he made serious contact in the fourth round, temporarily blinding Clay who would have quit then had trainer, Angelo Dundee, not pushed him on. Between rounds six and seven Liston complained of a shoulder problem and Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world.
Fast-forward a decade and enter the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ as Muhammad Ali takes on the favourite, George Foreman in then-Zaire. Ali really connected with Africa and he was certainly the preferred crowd choice but his chances didn’t look good. Ali barely managed to beat Joe Frazier, a man Foreman had knocked out in two. Assessing the ring, Ali realised he couldn’t perform his usual run-around because of the softness underfloor, so he opted for a ‘rope-a-dope’, letting Foreman hit him for seven rounds, exhausting him and then landing him with the perfect combination. Once again, Ali was the heavyweight champion of the world.
At whopping 42-1 odds, only the casino would take bets for the match between ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas. Tyson wasn’t taking the match seriously and Douglas had lost his mom less than a month before the fight, a grief he used to focus on beating Tyson. Douglas dominated the fight from round one, giving Tyson a swollen eye in the fifth round. Tyson did rally, however, knocking Douglas down by the eighth but, by the tenth, it was all over and Douglas was the world heavyweight champion.
For the ‘Thunder in Africa’, hosted by South Africa, Lewis went in favoured with 20-1 odds over Hasim Rahman. Although Lewis dominated initially, Rahman became the aggressor by round four, throwing 60 punches to Lewis’ 33. In the fifth round, Lewis was looking to land the knockout blow but Rahman was managing to deflect and, with 46 seconds remaining in the round, Rahman regained control. Lewis momentarily dropped his gloves, and Rahman landed a strong right that dropped Lewis to the mat, affording Rahman the chance to take the heavyweight champion title.
This boxing upset is made all the more upsetting following Sanders’ untimely death during an armed robbery at a restaurant in South Africa. Klitschko was anticipated to walk all over Sanders in what was termed a ‘stay-busy’ fight as Sanders was currently in retirement, working as a golf pro in South Africa. Looking out of shape and unlikely to last too long, the 20-1 underdog went in and toppled the king in the second round with a knockout.
For the fight, the upcoming Pacquiao had to jump from lightweight to welterweight in order to take on Oscar De La Hoya in ‘the Dream Match’. But, from round one, Pacquiao knew that he had this one, and for eight rounds he smacked ‘the Golden Boy’ around and off into retirement.