Biggest Upsets in Boxing History: Shocking Victories That Changed the Sport

When an underdog goes up against a reigning champion in the boxing ring, the odds are often stacked against them. However, there have been instances in boxing history where the challenger has overcome all odds and shocked the world with a stunning victory. In this article, we will delve into some of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

From Buster Douglas’s stunning victory over Mike Tyson to Muhammad Ali’s legendary win over George Foreman, we will explore the most shocking upsets in sports history. Whether it was a matter of strategy, speed, skills, or simply having a better gas tank, these underdogs proved that anything is possible in the ring.

Key Takeaways

  • Boxing history is filled with shocking upsets where underdogs triumphed over reigning champions.
  • The biggest upsets in boxing history include fights such as Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman.
  • These upsets prove that anything is possible in the ring, whether it’s a matter of strategy, skill, or sheer determination.

Biggest Upsets in Boxing History

Boxing history is filled with countless upsets that have shocked fans and experts alike. Here are some of the most significant upsets that have happened in the ring:

Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson

Buster Douglas’ win over Mike Tyson is widely considered the biggest upset in the history of boxing. Douglas was a journeyman fighter who was not considered a title contender. In contrast, Tyson was a dominant force in the heavyweight division, with a perfect 37-0 record. Oddsmakers put Douglas as a 42:1 underdog before the fight. However, Douglas shocked the world by knocking out Tyson in the tenth round.

George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier

George Foreman’s defeat of the heavyweight champion Joe Frazier is another notable upset. At the time, Frazier was the favorite to win the fight. However, Foreman knocked Frazier down six times in the first two rounds, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman

Muhammad Ali’s victory over George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” is one of the most iconic moments in boxing history. Foreman was a dominant force in the heavyweight division, while Ali was considered past his prime. However, Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy exhausted Foreman, setting up a knockout in the eighth round.

James Braddock vs. Max Baer

James Braddock’s upset of Max Baer is a classic underdog story. Braddock was a 10:1 underdog against the dominant Baer, but he held his own through fifteen rounds and won a unanimous decision.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler

Sugar Ray Leonard’s victory over Marvin Hagler is considered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. Hagler had dominated the middleweight division for over a decade, while Leonard was coming out of retirement. However, Leonard took the fight to the final bell, earning a split decision victory.

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Corrie Sanders

Wladimir Klitschko’s loss to Corrie Sanders is another significant upset. Klitschko was a 20:1 favorite against the relatively unknown South African boxer. However, Sanders knocked down Klitschko three times in the first round, leading to a second-round knockout.

Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield

Mike Tyson’s loss to Evander Holyfield is one of the most famous upsets in boxing history. Holyfield was not at his prime, and many expected Tyson to win the fight easily. However, Holyfield dominated the ring and knocked out Tyson in the 11th round.

Michael Spinks vs. Larry Holmes

Michael Spinks’ victory over Larry Holmes is another significant upset. Holmes was expected to continue his 48-fight win streak against Spinks, who was smaller and lighter. However, Spinks outboxed Holmes for 15 rounds, earning a decision victory.

Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling

Joe Louis’ loss to Max Schmeling is a classic upset in the heavyweight division. Louis was expected to handle Schmeling easily, but Schmeling boxed him well for the whole fight, relying heavily on his counter right to score points.

Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman

Lennox Lewis’ loss to Hasim Rahman is the final upset on our list. Lewis was the undisputed heavyweight champion, having defeated Evander Holyfield. However, Rahman knocked down Lewis and proved the 20:1 odds wrong.

These upsets remind us that anything can happen in the ring, and that the underdog can always come out on top.


In the world of boxing, anything can happen. Upsets occur in every division, and underdogs can surprise even the most experienced fighters. While bookmakers’ odds are usually accurate, there are times when betting on the underdog can be profitable. For those looking to get into boxing, it’s important to have the right equipment. The best boxing equipment includes jump ropes, gloves, hand wraps, headgear, shoes, and groin protectors. By investing in quality equipment, fighters can protect themselves and perform at their best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Fight is Considered the Greatest Upset in Boxing History?

The fight that is considered the greatest upset in boxing history is the 1990 bout between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas. Douglas was a 42-1 underdog going into the fight and was not expected to put up much of a challenge against the then-undefeated Tyson. However, Douglas shocked the world by knocking out Tyson in the 10th round to become the new heavyweight champion of the world.

Who Were the Fighters Involved in the Most Unexpected Boxing Match Outcome?

The most unexpected boxing match outcome involved Hasim Rahman and Lennox Lewis. In 2001, Rahman was a 20-1 underdog going into his fight against Lewis. However, Rahman knocked out Lewis in the fifth round to become the new heavyweight champion of the world.

How Have Underdog Victories Shaped the History of Boxing?

Underdog victories have played a significant role in shaping the history of boxing. These victories have not only provided some of the sport’s most memorable moments but have also served as inspiration for future generations of boxers. These upsets have also reminded fans and analysts alike that anything can happen in the ring and that no fighter should ever be counted out.

What Are Some of the Most Shocking Outcomes in Recent Boxing Matches?

Some of the most shocking outcomes in recent boxing matches include Andy Ruiz Jr.’s upset victory over Anthony Joshua in 2019, which saw Ruiz become the new unified world heavyweight champion, and Teofimo Lopez’s victory over Vasyl Lomachenko in 2020, which established Lopez as one of the sport’s rising stars.

Can You List a Few Historic Boxing Matches Where the Underdog Triumphed?

Some historic boxing matches where the underdog triumphed include:

  • James “Buster” Douglas vs. Mike Tyson (1990)
  • Hasim Rahman vs. Lennox Lewis (2001)
  • Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) vs. Sonny Liston (1964)
  • Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson (1996)
  • Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis (1936)

What Factors Contribute to a Major Upset in Professional Boxing?

Several factors can contribute to a major upset in professional boxing. These include the underdog having a superior game plan, the favorite being overconfident or underestimating their opponent, the underdog having a significant physical advantage, and the favorite being past their prime or suffering from an injury. Additionally, upsets can occur due to unforeseen circumstances such as a lucky punch or a cut that forces a fighter to retire from the bout.

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