Ranking the Biggest Boxing Upsets in 2014 So Far

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

Ranking the Biggest Boxing Upsets in 2014 So Far

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    Upsets happen in boxing all the time.

    Sometimes you underestimate your foe. Other times they're just better than advertised. 

    All it takes is one punch or one bad round or losing focus for just a second.

    But sometimes, it's just your time.

    The 2014 boxing calendar, and particularly the last couple of weeks, has been chock full of surprises. Some were on boxing's biggest stages, and some were off the radar of most mainstream fans. But all five of these fights are genuine upsets.

    Some are bigger than others, yes, but they all fit the name.

    As we turn the calendar and head toward the second half of the year, these are the top five upsets for the first half of 2014.

5. Sam Soliman UD 12 Felix Sturm

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    Sam Soliman upset Felix Sturm for a shot at the IBF Middleweight Championship back in early 2013, but the result was quickly overturned when the now-40-year-old Aussie tested positive for a banned substance in his post-fight samples.

    There was a fair bit of controversy regarding the entire affair, with Soliman and his team insisting that the fighter’s B-sample—a secondary sample used to mitigate the chances of a false-positive result—be tested outside of Germany.

    Soliman’s team in fact did have the sample tested in the United States, where it came back negative, but the result was nonetheless changed to a no-contest, and his nine-month suspension by the German Boxing Federation remained in effect.

    Sturm would rebound successfully from the match, knocking out Predrag Radosevic and then stopping Darren Barker to begin his fourth reign as one of boxing’s 160-pound champions.

    With revenge on the mind of both fighters—Sturm feeling he got beaten on a less-than-level playing field and Soliman feeling he was the victim of some hocus-pocus home cooking—the two men met in a rematch this past May.

    This time Soliman, who has been a solid pro for much of his career, but has come up short in his biggest fights, left absolutely zero doubt, battering Sturm to win his first career World Championship in the closing stages of his career.

    He did everything he was advertised to do, using an awkward, tricky style, combined with good speed to frustrate Sturm and make it extremely difficult for him to land anything clean.

    Sturm seemed to land the harder punches, but they were few and far between. Unlike the first fight, where he was knocked down with a huge shot in Round 2, Soliman was never in trouble, and he left no chance for the notoriously shaky German judges to deny him his first World Championship.

    But is this really an upset? Not an earth-shattering one, no, but given Sturm’s home-field advantage, his relative youth and his desire for revenge, it’s still somewhat surprising that Soliman won in such a dominant fashion.

4. Juan Manuel Lopez KO 2 Daniel Ponce De Leon

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    Juan Manuel Lopez has been on a roller-coaster ride these last several years.

    A young, undefeated, rising star from boxing-crazed Puerto Rico, Lopez was on the fast track to boxing superstardom when he ran into grizzled veteran Orlando Salido in 2011.

    Lopez was down in Round 5 and stopped on his feet in Round 8 of an absolutely brutal, grueling affair for both men. It was the type of fight that ruins a fighter, but to his credit, Lopez rebounded quickly with a solid knockout of Mike Oliver before taking on Salido in a rematch.

    Amazingly enough, the second fight was even more brutal and hellacious than the first. Both men tasted the canvas, Round 9 was one of the most vicious you’ll ever see, and Salido once again stopped Lopez on his feet a round later.

    Most left the Puerto Rican's career for dead after that fight, and he took a couple of fights against low-level opposition before getting blown out by Mikey Garcia last June.

    It seemed like he was only delaying the inevitable when he signed on to face former featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon in a rematch this past March. Lopez had stopped Ponce De Leon in one round back in 2008, but it seemed like that fight was ages ago, and Ponce De Leon, while shopworn himself, seemed to have more left in the tank.

    And it appeared that way early in Round 2, when a series of left hooks put Lopez on the mat, badly hurt and seemingly in danger of being stopped.

    But they say that power is the last thing to go for a fighter, and Lopez showed that to Ponce De Leon with vicious emphasis. With the Mexican fighter carelessly going in for the kill, Lopez connected with a colossal counter right hand that floored him and effectively ended the night.

    Ponce De Leon, somehow, barely beat the count, but he was felled again, forcing referee Luis Pabon to intercede and stop the contest.

    In one of boxing’s ironic role reversals, Lopez, who was considered done, will continue his career, facing Francisco Vargas on the Canelo vs. Lara undercard, while Ponce De Leon, knocked out again in his next fight, has called it a career.

3. Luis Collazo KO 2 Victor Ortiz

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    Victor Ortiz was once near the top of the boxing mountain. He knocked off the previously unbeaten Andre Berto, in a war, to capture a Welterweight Championship in 2011 and parlayed that into a showdown with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather later in the year.

    That fight was quite controversial, with Ortiz sparking a less-than-ideal ending in Round 4 with a vicious intentional headbutt to Mayweather’s nose while along the ropes. The ensuing ruckus culminated with Mayweather knocking out a now-contrite Ortiz, after the latter attempted another apologetic hug with time already back in.

    Despite that, Ortiz remained a fighter in demand. He was tentatively scheduled to move up to junior middleweight for a challenge of Canelo Alvarez, but he had his jaw broken and night ended by Josesito Lopez in a 2012 upset.

    When Ortiz announced he was returning to the ring earlier this year against the durable, but largely forgotten, Luis Collazo, it seemed that he had found the perfect, if somewhat risky, comeback opponent.

    Collazo was a former welterweight champion known for his boxing ability—not his power—and he had come up short each time he stepped up in class. Seems like the perfectly managed risk for a comeback, right? Not close.

    After an aggressive first round, Ortiz came out the same way to start the second.

    And that was all she wrote.

    With Ortiz landing a right hook, Collazo countered with one of his own that landed square on the button, dropping Ortiz with his back to his opponent. He never attempted to rise and was counted out in stunning fashion, ending the fight and likely his boxing career.

2. Chris Algieri SD 12 Ruslan Provodnikov

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    Chris Algieri walked into the Barclays Center on June 14 as an opponent, given little hope by most in the boxing establishment and expected to be a few feet too deep in the pool when he challenged Ruslan Provodnikov for a junior welterweight title.

    Provodnikov, who dropped the Fight of the Year against Tim Bradley last year and then rebounded for a championship victory on the road against Mike Alvarado, was considered too strong, powerful and good for the little-known Huntington, New York, native.

    And it appeared that the script would play out exactly as expected in the early goings. Algieri was dropped twice in Round 1, had a grotesquely swollen-shut right eye and was forced to swallow the harder shots during the course of the fight.

    But Algieri also boxed beautifully. He combined speed, movement and a high level of activity to force Provodnikov into the role of the hunter, chasing but rarely catching his prey.

    Still, as the rounds went on—and Algieri’s eye progressively worsened—it seemed like we were on the verge of seeing a gallant but losing effort on the part of the underdog.

    Surviving the full 12 rounds—in itself a feat given the severity of his injury—there were some tense moments inside the Barclays Center, which was hotly pro-Algieri, before the official verdict was read.

    In the end, the Long Island native captured a split decision in a fight that could legitimately have been scored for either man.

    Whether you favored Algieri’s determination, pure boxing skill and what was clearly a landed-punches edge or Provodnikov’s obvious power advantage, there was no one right answer.

    You could have scored it for Algieri and be right. You could have scored it for Provodnikov and also have been right. It all depended on what you favored. 

    But, still, Algieri’s victory clearly rates as one of the biggest boxing upsets in the first half of 2014 and one of the more significant ones in recent memory. If he ends up using it as a stepping stone to a clash with Manny Pacquiao later in the year, it would become that much more significant.

1. Miguel Cotto TKO 10 Sergio Martinez

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    Logic seemed to dictate that if Sergio Martinez walked into Madison Square Garden somewhere near 100 percent that he would have little trouble dispatching of Miguel Cotto and retaining his middleweight title.

    It seemed that if anyone would dominate the fight, it would be Maravilla.

    Martinez, a slick, rangy southpaw boxer with good speed and power, appeared to have a style built for giving Cotto, a Puerto Rican legend who has struggled with similar opponents in the past, fits.

    So much for that.

    That logic was blown completely on its head less than three minutes into the contest.

    Cotto felled Martinez three times in a first round that set the tone for the remainder of the bout. The Argentine never recovered, and he was a sitting duck for the remainder of the fight, completely unable to get out of the range of the challenger’s big hooks.

    Every shot Cotto landed seemed to rock Martinez, who has suffered year-ending injuries to his right knee in the past two years, and, amazingly, he was never in the fight—not for one single minute.

    With the win, Cotto became the lineal and WBC middleweight champion of the world, and he made history as the first Puerto Rican fighter to capture a world title in four weight divisions.

    The accomplishment was historic, and so was the upset.

    Not many people were picking Cotto to be competitive, much less win the fight.

    Just accomplishing that much was a huge deal, but doing it in such dominant fashion was truly shocking.