All-Time 10 Biggest Heavyweight Boxing Upsets in HistoryStories
Not all people like boxing, but we can all agree on one thing – this is an exciting sport. In one moment, boxers are on their feet exchanging punches or avoiding the opponent, and in the blink of an eye, one of them can go down. It often takes just one well-timed punch to finish a boxing match. This is especially true when it comes to heavyweight games where boxing fights can expect real hype.
Most of these events are won by the favorites, but it is not unusual to witness boxing upsets. After all, that’s what makes this sport great. As for the heavyweight matches, many athletes don’t last until the end of the last round. They end in K.O.s.
Some of the biggest boxing upsets have been witnessed in the heavyweight class as a result. We have seen many unlikely winners in the last few decades, and you can rest assured that these things will happen again in the future. That’s why it’s not wise to rely on the odds that favor just one of the athletes. In this article, we have prepared a list of all-time 10 biggest boxing upsets in the heavyweight class. We hope you will enjoy it!
1. Sonny Liston vs. Cassius Clay (1964)
Before he took his new name Muhammad Ali, he was known as Cassius Clay. Back in those times, he was a promising talented boxer. Still, many other athletes with better scores like Sonny Liston, for example. In 1964, Liston met Clay, and the public was expecting an easy win for the experienced athlete.
His record was speaking for itself. For example, Sonny has defeated Floyd Patterson, another boxing legend, without any hassles before this match. However, it was Clay’s night. He shined and showed the world how fast, clever, and confident he was. In the eighth round, he caused one of the biggest boxing upsets in the heavyweight class and in the boxing sport in general. That night, the experts saw the rise of a big star.
2. Wladimir Klitschko vs Corrie Sanders (2003)
The Klitschko brothers have left an unerasable mark to the heavyweight class, and this is especially true for Vitali. Of course, Wladimir was a tough boxer in the early 2000s too. However, they too had some bad days, and one of them occurred in 2003 when Wladimir Klitschko faced Corrie Sanders. The latter was a relatively anonymous boxer from South Africa.
It’s good to know that Klitschko has not lost a single match before facing Sanders. Yet, this specific match lasted just two rounds. Even though he was in the final years of his career, Sanders (37 years old at the time) used his explosive power and incredible speed to throw all the right punches to Wladimir’s body and head. It was definitely one of the boxing upsets that will be remembered for years.
3. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield (1996)
Tyson has met Holyfield a few times before 1996. Holyfield was quite successful in the 1980s but decided to take a break in the early 1990s. At the same time, Tyson was serving a prison sentence. When he got back on the heavyweight boxing scene in 1995, his manager made an effort to arrange a match against Holyfield. The negotiations resulted in success in 1996.
To be honest, Holyfield looked a little bit tired and older than Tyson before the match started, but once he was in the ring, he proved that there was still energy and strength in him. Mike was struggling to break Evander’s strategy and finally got outboxed. In the eleventh round, the referee stopped the fight declaring TKO in favor of Holyfield.
4. Max Baer vs. James J. Braddock (1935)
Only a few readers remember this match, but we are sure that most of you have heard these names. Of course, the reason why we are mentioning this event that took place over 80 years ago is the fact that it is considered one of the biggest boxing upsets in history. When Braddock met Baer, he had over 25 losses in his career. On the other hand, Baer had 68 wins and just 13 losses.
The fight took place in New York. Baer did not take this match seriously, but Braddock worked hard months before the event. In the end, Baer lost, which was a huge surprise. That made some people think that the mafia rigged the match, but there was no proof of that. After all, surprises can happen in any heavyweight boxing match, and this one was not an exception.
5. Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas (1990)
As one of the greatest heavyweight boxers, it’s not unusual that Mike Tyson is found on this list more than once. Also, it’s no surprise that he was not victorious in these matches because people always expected that he would win against any opponent. It turns out that even the most remarkable athletes can be defeated (more than once).
In 1990, Tyson met Buster Douglas. He was already an established boxer even though he was just 24 years old. On the other hand, we had Buster Douglas, a promising young athlete with a decent score. Before the match, he was in good shape, but the experts didn’t give him much chance against Iron Mike. In the end, Douglas won by knockout in round 10. The crowd at the Tokyo Dome was shocked, and so was the boxing world. This was indeed a historic match.
6. Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks (1978)
Here’s another boxer found on our list of boxing upsets twice, but unlike the first time, he lost this match. The prime days of this incredible athlete were behind him, but the fans didn’t expect him to lose to Leon Spinks.
Spinks had just eight professional matches in heavyweight class before facing Ali, and he didn’t manage to win them all. In the end, it turned out that the youth and eagerness to win were crucial in this match. This was the beginning of the end of Ali’s career and the point where he realized that he was not the same as before. By the way, did you know that Muhammad Ali is amongst the boxers that are part of the 10 most heated sports rivalries?
7. Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman (2001)
The match known as the Thunder in Africa gathered two interesting boxers in Brakpan, South Africa. Lennox Lewis decided to support Nelson Mandela as a president of this country and fight against the American boxer Rahman, an outsider with almost no chances according to the bookies.
The first three rounds brought a few fierce exchanges of punches, and we can freely say that Lewis and Rahman were equal. However, Rahman became quite aggressive in the fourth round throwing dozens of strikes to Lewis’s body and face. Lennox Lewis decided to wait for the opponent to get tired and throw the right strike at the right time. However, Rahman resisted, and in the fifth round, he knocked out Lewis. That was a shocking result because Hasim Rahman was a 20-1 underdog before the match.
8. Michael Spinks vs. Larry Holmes (1985)
Another member of the Spinks family made it to the list of the biggest boxing upsets in history. In this case, we’re talking about Michael Spinks, Leon’s brother. He fought against Larry Holmes for the International Boxing Federation title. Interestingly, Holmes had 48 wins without a loss, and he was just one victory away from the record set by Rocky Marciano.
One of the reasons for his success was the long preparations, like gaining more than 20 pounds and getting involved in an intense training program. To be honest, no one was knocked out at the end of the match that lasted 15 rounds, but the judges decided that Spinks was the better fighter that night.
9. Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua (2019)
As we said at the beginning of this article, boxing upsets are not a thing of the past. They can happen at any time. One of the “newest” upsets in sports that have impressed the world occurred in the match between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, a fight between an American and a British boxer. Andy, also known as the Destroyer, was the underdog here, given the collection of his titles, including an Olympic gold medal and two ABA titles.
These titles didn’t make Andy Ruiz Jr. forget about his skills and talent on the match night at Madison Square Garden in NYC, USA. We should mention that Joshua was scheduled to meet another boxer (Jarrell Miller), but he didn’t pass the drug tests. So, Ruiz Jr. was a replacement that night. The match was not very exciting in the first two rounds when Joshua avoided the opponent. However, he throws a few precise punches in the third round knocking down Ruiz for the first time. In the following four rounds, Ruiz Jr. took control of the match and became victorious thanks to the seventh-round technical knockout. We should mention that he became the first heavyweight champion with a Mexican heritage.
10. Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis (1936)
This match took place at the Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. Max Schmeling was a well-established German fighter who had an impressive career. By the time he met Joe Luis in 1936, he was considered a veteran.
On the other hand, we had Joe Louis, a young boxer known as the Brown Bomber. He has defeated two ex-champions before this match – Carnera and Baer. Just when everyone thought that “old” Schmeling was next on his list, he throws one of his best performances. Max dominated Louis, and by the time these two boxers entered the twelfth round, Lois had a few injuries and didn’t look good. That’s why it was no surprise when Schmeling knocked him down for good after throwing a precise strike to his jaw.