1. James ‘Buster’ Douglas vs. Mike Tyson
In 1990, Douglas, a 42-1 outsider motivated by the death of his mother, delivered the performance of his life in Tokyo, Japan to recover from an eighth-round knockdown and leave Tyson, deemed an invincible destroyer, searching for his mouthpiece in the 10th. As far as upsets go, nothing comes close.
2. James Braddock vs. Max Baer
Braddock, known as ‘The Cinderella Man’, was a 10-1 underdog when he faced Baer at the Madison Square Garden Bowl, the so-called ‘Graveyard of Champions’, in 1935. He entered the fight with a 50-25-7 record, yet this didn’t stop him winning a 15-round decision and claiming Baer’s heavyweight title.
3. Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis
Louis was 27-0 and on his way to becoming heavyweight champion of the world when he met the seemingly faded Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in 1936. Schmeling, however, had done his homework, spotted flaws in Louis’ style and managed to secure a memorable upset victory in the 12th round.
4. Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston
Clay, soon to become Muhammad Ali and ‘The Greatest’, was a considerable longshot when challenging the fearsome Liston in 1964. His vision was impaired at the end of the fourth round, but Clay dealt with the predicament and forced Liston to remain on his stool after six rounds.
5. Hasim Rahman vs. Lennox Lewis
Because he had committed to appearing in a remake of Oceans 11, Lewis spent as much time on film sets as he did in the gym ahead of a supposedly routine defence against Rahman in South Africa in 2001. Knocked out in round five by a thunderous right hand, it cost him dearly.
6. Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman
The 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ remains one of the most iconic sporting events in history and Ali’s performance the stuff of legend. Utilising the rope-a-dope, Ali made Foreman, the younger man and a frightening puncher, fall into his trap before stopping him in the eighth round to become world heavyweight champion.
7. George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer
Twenty years after fighting Ali in Zaire, Foreman was heavyweight champion of the world again, winning WBA and IBF titles from Michael Moorer with a stunning 10th-round knockout in 1994. He was 45 years of age and hadn’t boxed at all between ’77 and ’87.
8. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson
Before the famous ‘bite fight’, Holyfield, ear still intact, defeated Tyson with some good old fashioned inside work and resolve in 1996. Tyson, so used to being the bully, had no answer to Holyfield’s aggression and was stopped in the penultimate round, seven months before exacting revenge on Holyfield’s ear.
9. Corrie Sanders vs. Wladimir Klitschko
Klitschko’s 2003 loss to Sanders in Hannover, Germany was shocking not only because Sanders was considered past his best but because it was done and dusted inside two rounds. Southpaw Sanders, too quick and powerful, homed in on Klitschko’s chin and wouldn’t let up.
10. Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali
Though on the decline, Ali was still expected to beat Spinks, a novice of just seven pro fights, when they met for the world heavyweight title in 1978. Instead, it was Spinks who came out on top in a fight watched by 70 million people on CBS, winning a split decision after 15 rounds.