Biggest ever underdog wins in boxing

Boxing is without a doubt one of the most popular sports in the world. Even though we don’t see it live on TV as often as football or basketball, it has a strong impact.

The Rumble in the Jungle match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in 1974, and The Thriller in Manilla between Ali and Joe Frazier III in 1975 have both remained in collective memory.

The ongoing Fury-Usyk rivalry is also widely covered by the media and gains much attention from the general public.

But what about the unexpected outcomes of boxing matches; the ones in which underdogs took the stage?


Spinks vs. Ali

The biggest sports star of the 1960s and a heavyweight world champion in several terms, Muhammad Ali was taking his career to an end in the late 1970s. However, he was still in good shape when he faced Leon Spinks in 1978.

Spinks had only seven matches on a professional level before this match. His victory over Ali after 15 rounds of hectic boxing came as a surprise; too bad for him that Ali dominantly won the rematch held a few months afterward


Holyfield vs. Tyson

By the mid-1990s, Mike Tyson got back from prison and had revived some of his media glory and ring dominance. When he met Evander Holyfield in 1996, Tyson was on a winning streak and everybody thought it was the old Iron Mike.

After the peak of his career in the early 1990s, Holyfield’s force kept gradually waning. Before the match against Tyson, he was treated as a 25/1 underdog by the bookies at the time.

Given their respective shapes, even today he probably wouldn’t get better odds under the top-rated British betting sites from here.

However, Holyfield’s defensive boxing, repetitive clinching, and patient strategizing infuriated Tyson. Eventually, Holyfield finished the match with a knockout in the 11th round. Those who put £100 on that outcome earned £2500; not a bad deal.

Tyson also lost the rematch in 1997 (the one in which he bit off a part of Holyfield’s ear).


Rahman vs. Lewis

Lennox Lewis was a bright heavyweight star in the late 1990s, unifying the WBA, IBF, and WBC titles in 1999 against Holyfield.

As an undisputed heavyweight world champion, Lewis booked a match against a heavy underdog Hasim Rahman in 2001. The latter hadn’t had any special victories before that duel, except for beating Corrie Sanders.

Still, Rahman showed an impressively aggressive attitude from the first round and stunned the surprised Lewis, only to knock him out in the fifth round.


Foreman vs. Moorer

By 1994, George Foreman was a true boxing veteran. At the age of 45, he was more focused on his cooking TV-programs than on professional boxing.

And yet, he decided to challenge Michael Moorer for the IBF and WBA titles. Moorer was the freshly crowned king of the two belts, having just defeated Holyfield. He accepted the challenge because he needed another win against a big shot, to verify his royal status.

The bookies, the sports commentators, and the viewers all considered this match a Foreman’s whim. Eventually, a whim turned into a win when Moorer was knocked out in the tenth round. At that point, Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in the world.


Douglas vs. Tyson

When Buster Douglas challenged Mike Tyson in 1990, Mike was the heavyweight world champion, with a winning streak of 37:0. He won most of those thirty-seven matches through knockouts.

Douglas was only a mid-of-the-range boxer, skills- and results-wise. With 42/1 odds, saying that his chances were slim was an understatement.
However, he showed incredible stamina and durability.

As the match was unfolding, Douglas gained more self-confidence, surviving even a knockdown in the 8th round. Finally, he knocked Tyson in the 10th round, giving birth to one of the greatest upsets in the history of professional boxing.


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