What makes boxing so exciting is of course not only the mega-fights, but even more importantly, the huge upsets. The moments when the underdog prevails against the odds… those are the fights that end up being some of the ones you remember forever.
The best laid plans and claims of any relevant sports betting guide can give you tips and pointers on how to pick winners and stay ahead. But then a perfect punch lands, or the heart and will of a fighter cannot be contained, or something tips the scales in favor of the underdog. In boxing, it’s always just a punch or moment away. Throughout the sport’s history, here are five of our favorite boxing underdog wins:
1987: Sugar Ray Leonard over Marvin Hagler
Boxing in the 80s was all about Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and a matchup between the two was considered to be a dream for fight fans. After the fight fell through a couple of times, Sugar announced he would come back for a one-fight only return to boxing against Hagle.
Despite being a heavy 4-1 favorite and the world’s most dominant middleweight boxer the previous five years, Hagler came out looking stiff and mechanical. After basically chasing Leonard, who landed some flurries of his own, around the final few rounds a controversial and surprising decision made the Middleweight title change hands in what would be Hagler’s final professional fight, and one of boxing’s most unexpected upsets.
1994: George Foreman over Michael Moorer
When George Foreman and Michael Moorer touched gloves at the MGM in Vegas on November 5, 1994, it had been nearly 20 years to the date since Foreman was last heavyweight champion of the world. Conversely, it had only been about 7 months since Michael Moorer became the first southpaw to become heavyweight champion by defeating Evander Holyfield.
After a 10-year break from the sport and then a streak of 24 straight wins, the 45-year old Foreman once again had the opportunity to reclaim the WBA, IBF and lineal titles. The money rightly favored the young, in his prime Moorer, but the crowd was behind the underdog Foreman, who waited patiently to make this move. A simple one-two combo sent Moorer down and the titles back into Foreman’s hands as the oldest-ever heavyweight champion of the sport.
1935: Jim Braddock over Max Baer
The fight featured in the 2005 hit film Cinderella Man was no less dramatic an underdog story in real life. After starting out his professional career by amassing a 28-2-4 record in just two years, James “Jim” Braddock’s fortunes turned when the stock market’s did, and after the the fall of ‘29 he’d lose most of his savings along with 16 of his next 26 fights.
On the other hand, Max Baer was the heavyweight champion of the world having won 15 straight bouts, and earlier in his career had taken an opponent’s life in the ring. So when the two met at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in June 1935, it wasn’t only the crowd that saw Braddock as a massive underdog (at 10-1): Baer himself openly admitted to barely training for the match. But after 15 rounds, it was the ‘Cinderella Man’ Braddock that was crowned champion of the world by unanimous decision in one of the sport’s most stunning upsets.
1964: Cassius Clay over Sonny Liston
Few fights have left stronger lasting impressions on the sport than Cassius Clay’s, then Muhammad Ali’s, with Sonny Liston. Heading into that first fight, many considered Liston to be one of the fiercest heavyweight fighters of all time. Meanwhile, Clay was simply a loud-mouthed 22-year old that, although he had won gold at the 1960 Olympics, was generally unliked by the media, and unproven as a professional. A 7:1 underdog, no one was giving Clay a shot: 43 of the 46 ringside sports reporters had picked Liston to win by KO.
But it was apparent that even Liston’s superhuman punch strength was no match for the speed of Clay, who dodged and dived and occasionally landed his own stinging shots. With a deep cut on one eye and a shoulder that was essentially paralyzed during the match, Liston failed to answer the bell for the 7th round, and unbelievably, the world had a new heavyweight champion.
1990: Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson
The match most people probably think of first when discussing big-time boxing upsets. Tyson came into this bout, which was supposed to be a tune up for a fight with Evander Holyfield, as such as a heavy favorite that most Vegas sportsbooks didn’t even issue odds for the fight. Understandably so considering he was the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with a strong of crushing 1st round knockout wins. The few that did list odds had Douglas, who was mourning the loss of his mother days earlier and in a battle with the flu, as a 42-1 underdog.
Tyson, who at this point in his career had had only one fight go longer than six rounds, seemed perplexed about what to do as the fight dragged on longer than anyone watching in the Tokyo Dome or on HBO had anticipated. Despite a knockdown of Douglas in the 8th and a brutal assault on the challenger in the 9th, Tyson appeared to be reeling and Douglas eventually landed a four-punch combination that put the champ on the ground for the first time in his career, a blow Tyson would be unable to get up in time from. Douglas would be unable to defend his titles in the very next match against Holyfield, but it didn’t matter: he had unbeaten the The Baddest Man on the Planet.