Major Upsets and Winning Streaks Stopped!
By Ken Hissner: When I think of major upsets in boxing, quite a few come to mind, but none bigger than James “Buster” Douglas stopping heavyweight champion “Iron” Mike Tyson.
It was Tyson’s tenth title defense being held at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, in February of 1990, with Tyson 37-0 and 31 stoppages and the most feared fighter in the world.
Waiting for the ring announcer to introduce the fighters, Tyson, I can remember, was walking back and forth from one corner to another like a lion in a cage, though a 42-1 favorite. Douglas was 28-4-1, having won his last six fights, four by stoppage, including one decision over former champion Trevor Berbick, 35-6-1, whom Tyson stopped for the title.
Mexico’s Octavio Meyran was the referee. In the eighth round, Douglas was well ahead using an effective jab. With about fifteen seconds remaining, Tyson dropped Douglas for a 9-count. It looked like it was all over. Douglas managed to get through the round. Tyson’s left eye was closing. In the ninth round, with a minute remaining, Tyson drove Douglas into the ropes that would have been ruled a knockdown today.
In the tenth round, a minute into the tenth round, starting with a right uppercut from Douglas, dropped Tyson. He made the mistake of trying to put in his mouthpiece that had been knocked out. That would have been the referee’s job and given Tyson time to re-coup if he hadn’t tried himself. He seemed to get up at the count of nine, but the referee waved it off while grabbing Tyson stopped at 1:33 of the round.
Afterward, Douglas dedicated it to his mother, who had passed away a month before, and said he had no fear of Tyson. After nine rounds, in the end, each fighter was ahead on a scorecard, with one having it even.
It seems heavyweight upsets stand out more than anything. Going back to June of 1936 when Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis, who was 24-0 in Yankee Stadium, New York, when he was stopped by Germany’s Max “Black Uhlan of the Rhine” Schmeling, 48-7-4, knocked Louis out in the twelfth round. A year later, Louis won the world title but said he wasn’t a champ until he beat Schmeling, which was in June of 1938, which he did two years later.
In February of 1978, heavyweight champion and former Olympic champion Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali, 55-2, in his twentieth defense, took on the 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Leon Spinks, 6-0-1, at the Hilton Hotel, in Las Vegas. Spinks showed no respect for the champ, outworking him for the most part of the fight.
In the end, Spinks won a deserving split decision. Seven months later, a better-conditioned Ali reversed that loss, winning a lopsided decision.
It was June of 1959 when heavyweight champion and former Olympic Gold Medalist Floyd Patterson, 35-1, was dropped seven times in the third round by European champion Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson, 21-0, who stopped him at 2:03 of the round. It took place in Yankee Stadium, New York. It took a year before Patterson won the rematch in five rounds.
In January of 1973, heavyweight champion and Olympic Gold Medalist “Smokin” Joe Frazier, 29-0, was dropped three times in the first and second rounds by another Olympic Gold Medalist “Big” George Foreman, 37-0, when the fight was stopped at 2:26 of the round. It was at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Promoter Don King walked in the ring with Frazier and out with Foreman. As previously mentioned, Frazier also lost the rematch three years later.
In October of 1974, it was Foreman, 40-0, being upset by former champion Ali, 44-2, being stopped in the eighth round at 2:58 seconds in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire, Africa. It was the first time Ali used “the rope-a-dope,” allowing Foreman to punch himself out, having Ali on the ropes to the point of near fatigue when Ali dropped him for the count.
Others mentioned without going into as much detail in September of 1985 when heavyweight champion Larry “The Easton” Assassin” Holmes, 48-0, lost to Light Heavyweight and Olympic Gold Medalist Michael “Jinx” Spinks, 27-0, won a narrow decision over Holmes in Las Vegas. His statement afterward, “Marciano couldn’t wear my jockstrap,” referring to Marciano’s 49-0 record. In the rematch, Holmes lost a disputed split decision.
In July of 1951, the pound-for-pound greatest boxer of all-time “Sugar” Ray Robinson, 129-1-2, lost by decision to European champion Randy “The Leamington Licker” Turpin, 40-2-1. Robinson, a 4-1 favorite, had been cut over the left eyebrow in the seventh round. The bout took place in Kensington, UK. I couldn’t find the scores, but the Associated Press had Turpin ahead 9-4-2. Robinson stated afterward, “he was better than I was.” It would be just two months later, in the rematch, Robinson stopped Turpin in the tenth round at the Polo Grounds, New York.
In May of 1994, Super Lightweight champion Julio “J.C.” Cesar Chavez, Sr., 89-0-1, was defeated by a split decision to Frankie “The Surgeon” Randall, 48-2-1, in Las Vegas. Four months later, Chavez won the rematch by technical decision at 2:57 of the eighth round due to a clash of heads causing the stoppage with Chavez ahead on two of the scorecards.
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