When an unfancied (and rather rotund) Andy Ruiz Jr stopped ripped 1-25 odds-on favourite Anthony Joshua in round 7 of their World Heavyweight title bout on Saturday, it was a total shocker few pundits predicted.
But was it the most mind-blowing turnaround of all time?
It’s ‘seconds out’ for five boxing upsets that boggled bookies and shook the world.
1. Randy Turpin v Sugar Ray Robinson – 1951
Muhammad Ali was never unduly modest – but even the Louisville Lip conceded that Sugar Ray Robinson was, pound-for-pound, the greatest fighter that ever drew breath.
Blessed by balletic footwork and the balance and power to separate opponents from their senses whilst moving backwards, Robinson boasted an embarrassment of pugilistic proficiencies.
Yet on July 10th, 1951, Sugar Ray met his match in Leamington Spa’s Randy Turpin – who dethroned the G.O.A.T. with a heavy-handed display that made headlines worldwide.
2. James ‘Buster’ Douglas v Mike Tyson – 1990
Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog when he fought for the World Heavyweight title in Tokyo on 11th February 1990.
He was facing Mike Tyson, whose head movement, speed and devastating knockout combinations had most fighters psychologically beaten before the first bell rang.
But Tyson’s fearful aura was diminished by a series of tragic personal events Douglas faced in the weeks preceding the fight – resulting in him out boxing the Brooklynite before knocking him out in Round 10.
3. Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) v Sonny Liston – 1964
By 1964, Sonny Liston had dragged himself up from extreme poverty to become World Heavyweight Champion via a series of stints in jail, had only lost once in 36 bouts and was a stick-on to shut young pretender Cassius Clay’s mouth by battering him into submission.
But Clay had other ideas – he schooled Liston with lightning-quick, hurtful combinations, discombobulating him so completely that he quit on his stool at the end of Round 6. Fresh from his famous victory, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali a couple of days later – and the rest is history.
4. Kirkland Laing v Roberto Duran – 1982
Nottingham’s Kirkland Laing was a brilliant boxing technician, but a lack of discipline meant he never lived up to his true potential.
And before he faced Panamanian legend Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran in Detroit on 4th September 1982, few gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of even being competitive.
But this was one fight Laing trained like a demon for – with the result that Duran couldn’t cope with his movement, was almost kayoed by a right hand in Round 7 and lost a majority decision on the cards.
5. Lloyd Honeyghan v Donald Curry – 1986
When south London’s Lloyd Honeyghan took on Donald Curry for the World Welterweight title in Atlantic City on September 27th, 1986, Curry was 25-0 and regarded by some industry insiders as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world at the time.
But Honeyghan took no notice of the naysayers and outhustled and outmuscled the American from the start, before opening up a bad cut over Curry’s left eye which resulted in the fight being stopped at the end of Round 6 – and the rugged Raggamuffin Man bringing the title back to Blighty.
Honeyghan’s upset victory remains one of the most talked-about in fistic history, while Curry’s career declined rapidly thereafter.
These five unexpected victories prove that you should never write off an underdog completely – and perhaps consider a calculated punt on them beating the odds.