When Michael Buffer declared Timothy Bradley the victor "aaaand NEW WBO welterweight champion" in his bout against Manny Pacquiao, one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing was confirmed.
Tim Bradley’s victory over Manny Pacquiao was not emphatic, nor was it convincing, deserved or even the right decision by the judges, but it will be remembered as a win that changed the dynamics of boxing.
Boxing has a glorious history of underdogs beating champions with an aura of invincibility around them in the ring. Cassius Clay did it against Sonny Liston in 1964, Randy Turpin against Sugar Ray Robinson back in ’51, and Frankie Randall against Julio Cesar Chavez in the '90s.
Tim Bradley’s victory over Manny Pacquiao seems like an opportune moment to explore the 10 most shocking upsets in boxing history.
Naturally, all lists are subjective, so readers are encouraged to have their say on any ominous exclusions or share memories of great events gone by.
June 9, 2012
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas
It was supposed to be a routine victory for WBO welterweight world champion Manny Pacquiao, but a controversial split decision was ruled in favour of 28-year-old Timothy Bradley.
Bradley was expected to be a tough test for "Pacman," but it was expected to be one that the Filipino would pass as he prepared for another fight with Juan Manuel Marquez or the megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Filipino congressman landed more punches than his undefeated rival, but showed evidence of fatigue in the closing three rounds. Despite an unconvincing finish, the boxing community had little doubt the victory would be awarded to Pacquiao.
A series of tweets from boxer Amir Khan encapsulated the mood of the boxing world at the time. Via the Daily Mail: "What a robbery. Bradley did not win this fight. The crowd are booing while he's being interviewed."
"What a joke we had Manny winning by 5 round," he added.
February 11, 1990
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Tyson entered the fight with a myriad of controversy surrounding him. Marriage and lifestyle choices in conjunction with a series of poor management and training problems suggested that "Iron Mike" was starting to rust.
But no one expected the result that followed.
Tyson was knocked out in the 10th round, his semi-conscious state personifying the shock that resonated throughout the world.
February 25, 1964
Miami Beach, Florida
The 8-to-1 odds against Cassius Clay reveal the length at which his talents were underrated. Dubbed the Louisville Lip, no one gave the poetic 22-year-old a chance against a world champion who seemed invincible.
Ali won by TKO in the seventh round.
The fight is recognised as the beginning of a golden era in the heavyweight division.
July 10, 1951
Earls Court Arena, London, England
Sugar Ray Robinson went into this fight with a 128-1-2 record and had been unbeaten for 88 professional bouts.
Jake LaMotta, nicknamed the "Raging Bull" was the only previous man to defeat Sugar Ray, and that was eight years prior to this fight.
Randy Turpin was considered to be one of the leading names of his time, but Robinson’s place in boxing immortality had already been sealed. It was not supposed to be a challenge for Sugar Ray, but Turpin had not read the script.
The fight went the distance, with the Brit winning on points. A rematch took place in New York with Robinson winning by TKO in the 10th round.
October 11, 2001
Carnival City Casino, Brakpan, South Africa
The world went flat for Lennox Lewis after the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world was knocked out by 20-1 outsider Hasim Rahman.
Despite being comprehensively beaten by his opponent, it was complacency that contributed most to the British boxer’s shock defeat. Instead of preparing for the fight, Lewis had been on a movie set for Ocean's Eleven and only arrived in South Africa 13 days before the fight.
Such a short period of time left him with few opportunities to acclimate to his South African surroundings.
Lewis was knocked out in the fifth round—a resounding defeat which no one in the boxing community expected. Rahim was a such an underdog that HBO did not sign a deal with "The Rock" in the event of him winning.
March 8, 2003
Preussag Arena, Hanover, Germany
Corrie Sanders was working as a golf pro in his native South Africa prior to being summoned for a bout with Wladimir Klitschko.
Twenty-six at the time, the Ukrainian boxer had already defended the WBO heavyweight championship belt five times. Corrie Sanders was supposed to be little more than an opponent for Wladimir to keep fresh ahead of bigger challenges.
But it did not go according to plan.
Despite everything being against Sanders on paper, he spanked Klitschko and handed him a Round 2 knockout.
Skip to 4:20 in the video. If you have not already seen it, you will not believe it the first time around.
June 19, 1936
Yankee Stadium, New York
Max Schmeling thanked his countrymen and Adolf Hitler following a shock victory over international sensation Joe Louis.
Schmeling, a German national, and Louis, an African-American, became a proxy battlefield between democracy and fascism. This time, fascism won.
The fight was scheduled for 15 rounds, but Schmeling knocked out the Brown Bomber in the 12th. The German was already far ahead of Louis on the judges’ scorecards, but a killer punch confirmed his American rival’s defeat.
Rocky Marciano is the only other person to knock out Joe Louis, and that was 15 years later.
March 22, 1935
Madison Square Garden, New York
James J. Braddock’s career is so exceptional that a film has been made of it.
"The Cinderella Man" had fallen into an abyss of failure after becoming a light heavyweight contender. A cataclysmic drop of fortune following indications of early promise saw the Irish-American lose 21 of 30 bouts before resurrecting a declining career.
A series of unlikely wins teed up a fight for the heavyweight championship against Max Baer.
Baer was so confident of his chances that he hardly trained for the bout. Braddock, on the other hand, warmed up with a rigorous training regime.
Said Braddock in the leadup to the bout:
I'm training for a fight. Not a boxing contest or a clownin' contest or a dance. Whether it goes 1 round or 3 rounds or 10 rounds, it will be a fight and a fight all the way. When you've been through what I've had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet. He might come at me with a cannon and a blackjack and he would still be a picnic compared to what I've had to face.
His preparations paid off. He knocked Baer to the floor in the eighth before winning by unanimous decision.
October 22, 1994
Ballys Park Hotel, Atlantic City
The bout was largely uncelebrated in the buildup; Darryl Pinckney was seen as little more than a tune-up for Junior Jones.
Jones was attempting to rebuild his career after losing his title in Las Vegas earlier in the year. With a record of 18-18-2, Pinckney was not expected to trouble Jones.
Pinckney’s victory over Jones, though, was so emphatic that he nearly knocked his opponent’s head off. The underdog won by 10th round TKO.
January 29, 1994
MGM Grand, Las Vegas
The bout against Frankie Randall was the 91st of Chavez’s career, and undefeated up to that point.
The Mexican light welterweight world champion had not even been knocked down before, but both of those streaks were about to change against an undaunting opponent.
Randall was a 15-to-1 underdog who had been a hot property in the lightweight division nearly a decade earlier. He was not expected to be a challenge Chavez.
Chavez started the fight slowly, which allowed Randall to pile on early pressure. By the time Round 10 came along, the American fighter remained in the lead, though Chavez was starting to find his range. In the next round, however, the Mexican tasted the canvas for the first time.
Randall went on to win by split decision. Chavez appealed the result and won an eventual rematch.