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Home Boxing BIGGEST HEAVYWEIGHT UPSETS – WHY?
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BIGGEST HEAVYWEIGHT UPSETS – WHY?

tyson-vs-douglasToday, I am looking at the three biggest upsets in heavyweight title fight history, and why they happened.  I will also examine why they were such big upsets to begin with.  History has a way of making us forget the element of surprise, as it stood at the time of these shocking events.

Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson
A 42-1 underdog shocks the boxing world, pulling off the biggest upset in boxing history.
Why the odds were so wide – It was Tyson!  He was the most famous athlete in the world at that time, a KO machine, who barely needed to break a sweat to defeat most contenders in a soft heavyweight division.  Douglas also had a tendency to display weaknesses in the chin, stamina, and heart departments.  He was also not a big puncher.  His size and impressive boxing ability were his only allies, and Tyson had vanquished far greater challengers.


Why it happened – Douglas used his past defeats, as well as recent personal tragedies (his mother’s death, and son’s mother’s illness) as motivation to stand up to Tyson.  He also overcame his stamina and heart issues, which left only his chin.  Tyson was smothered on so many occasions, he could rarely find it.  Also, Tyson turned out to be the classic bully… whose heart was drained by his opponent’s lack of fear.  When “Iron Mike” could not intimidate, he became the follower.  It also didn’t help that Tyson’s corner was run by inexperienced Don King yes-men, who were completely unprepared to give Tyson decent advice.  Instead they tried to stop his swelling eye with a condom filled with ice water, and continuously implored him to "get inside and work".  Tyson stayed in the fight only to find his puncher’s chance… when even that big shot did not end the fight, he succumbed quickly thereafter.

James J. Braddock W15 Max Baer

A 10-1 underdog, expected to be flattened, outboxes the feared, powerful champion.
Why the odds were so wide – Braddock may have been on a hot streak, and had never been knocked out, but Baer was considered an unmoveable force.  Braddock was merely a light heavyweight who had exposed some over-rated contenders, to earn an unlikely shot.  Baer’s fists had claimed the lives of two men, and the scalps of many others, and it was thought that Braddock’s style lended him to suffer potentially serious damage.
Why it happened – The Braddock they were expecting to lose was one with no answer for Baer’s big right hand.  The Baer people expected to win was one who would try to finish an opponent. Neither occurrence took place.  Baer wasn’t interested in fighting with any other style than to land one big right hand.  He did not even fight with urgency, once it was established that plan would not work.  Braddock’s chin was good enough to hold up to one big shot at a time, and his defense good enough to avoid most of them.  Braddock’s non-existent left hand as a light-heavy had been re-born as a snapping jab.  This was something Baer did not likely train for, if he trained at all.

Cassius Clay TKO 7 Sonny Liston
A former light heavyweight gold-medalist who bragged and talked his way to a title shot, stuns the boxing world by dominating the mighty Sonny Liston.
Why the odds were so wide - Liston had flattened previous champ Floyd Patterson twice in under a round.  With a top-shelf killer instinct, fists that measured 15 inches around, a brutal left hook, and the ability go the distance when necessary, he was considered unbeatable.  Clay had also struggled against ordinary Doug Jones, and was dropped by Henry Cooper.  If Jones was able to keep even with Clay, and Cooper was able to drop him, what would happen when Liston caught him?!
Why it happened – Liston never caught him.  He couldn’t.  The chances Clay took against Cooper and Jones were not there, since he took this challenge more seriously.  He’d also grown into a full heavyweight, and it turned out he has a great chin.  The quick snapping shots of Cooper were the kinds that bothered him… not the heavy thud of a telegraphed Liston bomb.  Also, Liston could have been in his mid 30’s by this time, was largely inactive, and did not have the energy or desire to try and catch Clay for very long.  Once Liston blinded Clay with an illegal substance in round four, he poured what little he had into a fifth round attack.  When Clay did not go down, or even get hurt, Liston had no interest in fighting on  

Chris Strait
www.convictedartist.com

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