The Top 5 Most Unexpected Outcomes in Boxing History

Boxing is one of the most prestigious and lucrative sports. Filled with moments of brilliance, joy, and heartbreak, there is a reason why it is a pillar of the combat sports industry. Today, we are counting down our picks for The Top 5 Most Unexpected Outcomes in Boxing History.

We all know by now that nothing is for certain in this sport. For this, we only need to look at Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk wherein the British boxer lost, despite having favorable odds. Thus, it only goes to show that sometimes the underdogs can go on to shock the world.

However, before we begin, it is important to note that our list may well end up being different from yours. As for us, we have tried to collect some of the most controversial and unexpected instances throughout the history of the sport. If you feel like your pick deserves to be on this list, be sure to leave it in the comments below. 

With all that out of the way, here are The Top 5 Most Unexpected Outcomes in Boxing History. 

#5. Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder 1 (2018)

Tyson Fury (R) lands a left hand against Deontay Wilder (L) during WBC Heavyweight Championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on December 01, 2018. (Credits: Getty Images)

Fury vs Wilder 1 was the first of what became one of the most iconic trilogies of the modern era. Whilst the Gypsy King was a big name, he was still a massive underdog coming in against the then-undefeated Wilder.  To the surprise of many, Fury gave his all and even came back from a devastating knockdown, with some feeling that he may have even won the fight.  

The fight ended with a controversial split draw (115-11 Wilder, 114-112 Fury, and 113-113), wherein the scorecard was also announced incorrectly. As such, it paved the way for the second and third fight which Fury won via 7th and 11th Round TKO, respectively. 

#4. Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson 2 (1997)

Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson fight for WBA World Heavyweight Title on June 28,1997 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight was stopped in the third round and Tyson was disqualified for biting Holyfield on both ears.

When Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson first locked horns, the bookies had the ‘Real Deal’ as a 25 to 1 underdog. Much to everyone’s surprise, the supposedly ‘washed up’ veteran dominated and stopped ‘Iron Mike’ in Round 11. To date, it remains one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. 

However, it’s actually the occurrences of the second fight that have made it onto this list. After having been humiliated in the first fight, Mike Tyson was out for blood this time around. After losing the first round and getting headbutted in the second, it was clear that Iron Mike was fed up. In a moment of madness, Mike Tyson spat out his mouthguard and bit Holyfield in the ear. Even though he got a stern warning and a 2-point deduction, Tyson went for seconds and ended up getting disqualified. Craziness redefined. 

#3. Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston 1 (1964)

Challenger Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) punches heavyweight champion Sonny Liston during their 1964 bout. (Credits: Getty Images)

In one of the most extraordinary underdog stories, a young Cassius Clay ( yet to be Ali) did the unthinkable. The young challenger ran his big mouth, saying he couldn’t be beaten and asking everyone to bet on him. For most, this was nothing short of craziness as Sonny Liston was a feared champion. However, the unthinkable did happen when young Cassius put on an absolute clinic, which saw the champ quit on the stool after six rounds. 

The unthinkable happened yet again a year later in the rematch where Ali knocked down Liston with a quick right. Whilst the referee somehow managed to calm the young champ, Ali was reportedly heard saying, “Get up and fight, nobody will believe this!”. The fight ended in the first round itself, becoming one of the most extraordinary occurrences in the history of the sport. 

#2. Leon Spinks vs Muhammad Ali ( 1978)

Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks during ring action at the Las Vegas Hilton Pavilion. (Credits: Getty Images)

Although it was clear that Ali was slowly nearing the end of his reign, nobody expected Leon Spinks to be the one to dethrone him. Having only 7 professional bouts to his name, many forgot that Spinks was also an Olympic gold medallist. Ali himself was unwilling to take the fight but eventually, all parties came to an agreement for Feb. 15, 1978. 

As the night went on, young Leon put on probably the single best performance of his entire career. At the end of a 15 round war, Leon was  the winner and the new Heavyweight Champion of the World. It was the most shocking defeat of Ali’s career and one of the most shocking defeats in the history of boxing. 

#1. Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson (1990)

WBC/WBA/IBF Heavyweight Title, James Buster Douglas in action, knocking out Mike Tyson at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, JPN 2/11/1990 . (Credits: Getty Images)

And now, for our #1 pick, the most unexpected result in the history of the sport. The then undefeated Mike Tyson was on a roll and looked untouchable as the Heavyweight champ. In addition to that, his next challenger James Buster Douglas was no big name. In fact, Douglas was a 42-to-1 underdog for what was to be an easy night out for Tyson. 

Well, little did anyone know that not only would Buster put up a hell of a fight, but also finish Tyson in Round 10. At the time the entire world had erupted as though the unthinkable had happened, because in way, it had. This upset is so legendary that it has become the standard for measuring an upset ever since. 

So these are our picks for the Top 5 Most Unexpected Outcomes in Boxing. Naturally, there are numerous other fights that could have made it onto this list very easily, however, we’ve tried to pick the most impactful ones. Are there any instances that you feel should’ve made the list? Leave them down in the comments section. 

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Sami Haider

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Sami Haider is a UFC/boxing journalist who connects combat sports to pop culture. His deep passion for the UFC started in 2018, triggered by the UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor fight. He is a passionate writer who has a profound love for the sport and the skills that are used in it. Through his work, Sami aspires to connect combat sportsmen and their enthusiastic fans.


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