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Eight huge upsets in boxing history

The unexpected result of the October 23 fight in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, between the British Tyson Fury, “The Gypsy King”, heavyweight champion of the World Boxing Council and the Frenchman of Cameroonian origin Francis Ngannou, former heavyweight champion of the UFC or MMA, and debutant in professional boxing, made us remember some similar results throughout the history of boxing, a discipline that was born more than 7,000 years ago in Abyssinia, today’s Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Fury, the 1.07 to 1 favorite, heavier and slower than usual, struggled to a pyrrhic split decision victory over a presumed easy victim. It was a collective mistake. Ngannou didn’t disappoint in the 30 minutes of the fight held at the venue of the Annual Festival Season, a lavish show of various entertainments held in the main city of the Arab country. It was Fury’s 34th win in 35 fights, with 24 KO’s and a few draws. Ngannou went up with 17 wins, 12 by KO and 3 losses in UFC.

After the first two rounds of little action, in the third one Fury attacked with a couple of punches that Ngannou took without difficulty, and when he threw a right to the chest, he released a left to the ear. Fury fell on his back, with his eyes lost, he managed to get up at the count of 8 and managed to make it to the end of the round.

In the remaining 7 rounds they engaged in constant exchanges of blows without Ngannou failing to respond to the attacks, with the majority of the public in his favor and applauded when the verdict of Ed Garner, Alan Krebs and Juan Pelayo, 94-95, 95-94 and 96-93, was announced. Later Ngannou, 37, accused the beaten Fury of hitting him with an elbow, which proves the video.

Fury is scheduled to face undefeated Ukrainian WBA-WBO-IBF titleholder OIeksandr Usyk in December, but that bout is presumed to be postponed to 2024.

What happened in Riyadh aroused our curiosity and encouraged us to investigate, with the support of the Internet and The Boxing Record Book, about similar results.

The survey showed, as expected, that there are numerous unexpected results, so we have chosen only 7 of them for this article, which we offer, in no chronological order:

1) February 11, 1990. Tokyo Dome, Japan:

Mike Tyson, WBA, WBC and IBF champion, undefeated, 33 KO in 37 fights, 0 draws, 23 years old, born in 1966, the youngest in history to win the full belt at 20 years and 4 months.

In his 10th defence, against James “Buster” Douglas, 29 years old, 28-4-1. Odds are 42-1 in favor of the champion. Douglas went down in the 8th, but got up and knocked Tyson out at 1’22” of the 12th.

It is recorded and rated, without dispute, as the ultimate upset in the boxing history books, including all categories. There was never a rematch.

2) July 01, 2019, Madison Square Garden, New York:

With the odds 30-1 in favor of the English Anthony Joshua, 22-0-0 with 21 KO, 30 years old, defends the WBA-WBO-IBO-IBF belts against the Californian of Mexican origin, Andy “Destroyer” Ruiz, 30 years old, 32-1-0, 22 knockouts.

In the third round, the champion knocked down the challenger for the 8 seconds of protection, but he stood up and in turn knocked down the champion 2 times and knocked him down again, at 1 minute and 27 seconds of the 7th.

Five months later, Joshua took revenge on points and recovered the 4 belts.

3) August 2, 1980, at the Joe Louis stadium in Detroit:

Mexican puncher Jose “Pipino” Cuevas, 27-6-0, 24 KOs, WBA welterweight champion with 10 KOs in 11 defenses, faced the new and unbeaten local idol Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, 28-0-0, 26 KOs.

What happened broke the odds: the rookie Hearns overwhelmed the Aztec in the first and finished him off at 2’39 of the 2nd with a barrage of punches that he finished off with a brutal right hand to the head. Cuevas’ flame was extinguished from that moment.

Hearns, who was among the all-time greats, crowned at super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight between 1980-1991. He is in the International Boxing Hall.

4) June 19, 1936, at the now demolished Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York:

Alabama’s Joe Louis, 22, 21 KOs in 25 fights, among the top contenders for the heavyweight title, meets Germany’s Max Schmeling, 31, 33 KOs in 59 fights, 7 losses and 4 draws.

The odds are 10-1 for Louis, who was dropped in the 4th round by a right hand to the left flank. It all came to an end in round 12 when Louis went to the canvas for the second time. Referee Arthur Donovan decreed the KO at 2’29”.

The Ring named it Fight of the Year.

The rematch took place two years later in the same scenario (22/6/38). Louis was NBA champion (today WBA) and was going to his 4th defence. He knocked his opponent down for the first time with a hard upper and a right cross.

The challenger got up and Louis knocked him down three more times. The corner threw in the towel and Donovan closed the count at 1 minute and 24 seconds of the first.

Louis (Joseph Louis Barrow), called “The Detroit Bomber”, for many the best heavyweight in history, reigned for 11 years and 8 months, with 26 defences, the first mark still in force, the other shared with Cecilia Braekhus, icon of women’s boxing.

5) October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire (today Democratic Republic of Congo):

George Foreman, 25 years old, 37 KO in 40 fights, WBA-WBC heavyweight champion, defends against Muhammad Ali, 32 years old, 44-2-0 and 29 KO, disadvantaged in the predictions, seeks to regain the crown lost in 1967 for refusing to go to war.

Foreman attacked him from the start as he went to the ropes, protecting himself with gloves, arms and forearms.

In the eighth, the challenger launched a surprise offensive and knocked Foreman down with rights and lefts, the last a right to the head. Referee Zachary Clayton stopped the bout at 2’58”.

6) August 15, 2020, on a street in Tulsa, Oklahoma:

Cecilia Braekhus, born in Cartagena, Colombia, Norwegian by adoption, WBA, WBC, IBF, IBO and WBO queen, with 25 defences of the WBC welterweight title, unbeaten in 36 fights, 9 KO, 39 years old, seeks to surpass the top mark of 26 defences she has with Louis. She is called the First Lady, a legend in women’s boxing. The opponent, Jessica “Kaskilla” McCaskill, 35 years old, 8-2-0, 3 KO’s, U.S. super lightweight champion.

When the fight was over, the scorecards read 95-95, 97-93 and 97-94 for the challenger.

The result was the most unthinkable failure in the history of women’s boxing. In the rematch, on 3-13-21, at the Air American Center in Dallas, Texas, “Kaskilla” repeated, this time with more looseness: 99-90, 99-90 and 100-89.

7) 6/3/1976, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico:

Antonio Cervantes, Kid Pambelé, perhaps the greatest world champion ever in the super lightweight or junior welterweight category. 31 years old, the first Colombian world champion, with a record of 50-9-0-0, 27 KO, faced the undefeated Wilfredo Benitez, 17 years, 5 months and 23 days old, with a record of 25-0-0, 20 KO, in the 10th defense of the WBA 140 lbs. belt he had won by KO in 10 rounds against the Panamanian Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazer in October 72.

It was assumed that due to his experience, the champion, who developed a good part of his career in Venezuela, would have no problems against the youngster. However, Benitez, nicknamed “El Radar” for his technical skills, totally threw Pambele off his game with his speed and feints, coming in and out, throwing punches, while the champion could not reach him with ineffective rights and lefts.

When the fight was over there was no doubt about the result for the spectators, most of them from the patio, who cheered the challenger from the very first round. The Panamanian referee Isaac Herrera gave 148-141; the Venezuelan judge Jesus Celis, 145-147 for Pambele and the card of the Puerto Rican Roberto Ramirez, 147-142 for the challenger, unleashed a madhouse in the Hiram Bithorn.

Benitez, also called the Boxing Bible, is in the books as the youngest champion, the fifth in history and the first Latin American to be a triple world champion and the youngest in that category. To the super lightweight belt, which he defended three times and left vacant when he moved up in weight, he added the welterweight and super welterweight.

In 1996 he entered the International Hall of Fame. Pambelé is also immortal since 1998.

Addiction to narcotics disrupted the lives of both, one 78 years old today, the other 65 years old, both financially and health-wise.

Credit: WBA

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