The biggest upsets in boxing history

Was Andy Ruiz Jr's win over Anthony Joshua the biggest upset in heavyweight history?

Published On Tuesday, December 17, 2019By British Boxing News

The biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history

When Mexican-American world title contender AndyRuiz Jr was announced as the replacement for the digraced drug cheat Jarrell Miller to face unbeaten unifieworld heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua just weeks before their June 1 Madison Square Garden meeting, you could feel the ripple of laughter and ridicule in every socal media post and media article you read.

However, the man with a combined record of 138-6 over amateur and pro got up from a flash knockdown in the third segment to deck the heavily favoured reigning world champion our times before having his hand raised in the seventh round.

Although AJ went back to the drawing board, changed his training and physique, and came back with the perfect ame plan to win bck his belts six months later in Diriyh, the first fight remains one of the biggest talking points of the year. It is by far the biggest upset of 2019, but where does it rank among the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing overall?


1. James "Buster" Douglas over "Iron" Mike Tyson

The year was 1990, and Mike Tyson was unlike any boxer in the history of the sport. He was a no-fear, in-your-face brawler who had easily achieved a professional record of 37-0 (with 33 knockouts). 

James Douglas was an above-average journeyman fighter who was a 42-1 underdog heading into the fight. 

Just 10 rounds later, Tyson was KO'd by a vicious uppercut followed by a wicked combination, and Douglas was crowned. Some say Tyson was never the same after losing to Douglas, but he is still considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in the history of the sport. Douglas went on to hold the title for eight months, lost the belt to Evander Holyfield and quietly faded from the sport, retiring in 1999--but not before recording the biggest upset in boxing's history. 


2. Hasim Rahman over Lennox Lewis

In 2001, Lennox Lewis had captured the imagination of an entire country. He was the first British boxer to hold the undisputed heavyweight world championship since Bob Fitzsimmons way back in 1899. 

Lewis was a technician, putting the science in "sweet science." He was sharp-punching, calculating and charismatic. He was also a 1-20 favorite over Hasim Rahman when the two went at it on Sunday, April 22, 2001. 

Rahman was considered an average fighter with a plodding style. Few gave him any real shot of hanging with Lewis, much less walking away with the belt. But that's exactly what he did, knocking Lewis out in the fifth round with a huge overhand right that seemed to catch the champ off guard. 

Lewis crumbled to the mat. Rahman recorded one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. 


3. Leon Spinks over Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali's nickname is "The Greatest" because, well, he's arguably the greatest boxer to ever enter the ring. 

During his decades-long career, he amassed a record of 56 wins, only five losses (two of which came late in his illustrious career) and had 37 knockouts. He an Olympic gold medalist as an amateur and the first professional fighter to capture the heavyweight title three times. 

There was a time when anyone betting against him had worse odds than winning the lottery

So you can imagine everyone's surprise in February 1978 when Leon Spinks, in just his eighth pro bout, beat Ali with a 15-round split-decision. The fight shocked the country. Spinks was a relative unknown. Ali was a national folk hero. The fight was broadcast on CBS, with more than 70 million people tuning in. 

And then the unimaginable happened. 


4. Andy Ruiz Jr over Anthony Joshua

As mentioned above,the unherald hero of this story was given ero chance by almost evrybody of dethroning a man many inches taller and many muscles bigger th his podgy, unathletic self.

The heavy hands, fast fists, extensive experience and urgency of the underdog surprised everybody, most of all Joshua and his team who were lost at sea against the aggressive animal.

AJ's Stateside debut ended in the eventh round after four knockdowns.


5. Evander Holyfield over "Iron" Mike Tyson

After losing his title to James "Buster" Douglas back in 1990, Mike Tyson took a four-year hiatus from boxing, spent time in prison and then embarked on a comeback tour. 

He was tearing through opponents when he showed up to fight Evander Holyfield in November 1996. Holyfield was a 10-1 underdog but came out swinging with confidence. He dropped bomb after bomb on Tyson, and eventually achieved a technical knockout in the 11th round. 

The rematch was a memorable one because it officially marked the end of the end for Tyson, who bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear and was disqualified.