Buster Douglas-like upsets in sports are rare. It takes a world class, future hall-of-fame juggernaut losing in a ‘tune-up’ fight to provide sport with a name now synonymous with underdog sporting triumph.
But Douglas is an anomaly. Boxing in particular, has a dearth of shocking upsets at elite level. Unlike any other sport, there is no league or tour scheduling fixtures. Fighters/promoters often select their opponents. History has educated the matchmaker. Prized assets are protected. No opponents or circumstance is unaccounted for.
2016 offered further evidence to this theory. There were only three upsets of +600 or more at world level. But if we examine ALL of the fights for which bookmakers took action, although we don’t find any 42/1 Buster Douglas level upsets, we soon find enough to warrant our attention.
Ranked according to implied probabilty – derived from best odds available at bookmakers – the following list is the ten largest upsets of 2016.
So lets follow the money…or lack of it.
10. (11.6% chance of upset) Renold Quinlan (10-1) KO2 Daniel Geale (31-4)
Former unified Middleweight champion, Daniel Geale was 16 months removed from being starved then battered by Miguel Cotto. Such was that miserable experience, Geale indulged his appetite and moved up 8lbs to face fellow countryman Renold Quinlan.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. An eleven fight novice with a loss at domestic level was supposed to ease the transition to Super Middleweight.
Quinlan dominated for 5 minutes. Flooring Geale in the second round with a left-right combination and forcing the referee to halt the action, leaving Geale questioning whether the holiday and desserts were all worth it.
9. (10.6% chance of upset) Jason Sosa (18-1-4) TKO11 Javier Fortuna (29-0-1)
As 2016 ends, Jason Sosa has firmly established himself as one of the best 130lbers in the world. But when it began, he was just ‘that geezer who got a lucky draw’ against Nicholas Walters.
His opponent,Javier Fortuna, was contrastingly being picked as the future king at Super Featherweight.
Through nine rounds, experts and bookies seemed to be vindicated. Fortuna had won 8/9 rounds and had dropped Sosa in the fifth. But in Round 10, with Fortuna flagging and Sosa stalking, an inside left hook turned the fight on its head. Fortuna made it through the round but was hurt in the eleventh off an overhand right and then dropped off a left hook. Fortuna rose from the canvas but staggered across the ring forcing the referee’s hand.
8.(9.1% chance of upset) Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1) UD 12 Jonathan Guzman (22-0)
It took 365 days but the final day of the year delivered the eighth biggest upset of 2016.
Oguni was up against it when faced with reigning champ Guzman – a stellar amateur and technically sound pro – but home-turf would always help in a close decision fight.
7. (9.1% chance of an upset) Julius Indongo (20-0) KO1 Eduard Troyanovsky (25-0)
It was one of the most shocking images of 2016. Little known Namibian fighter, Julius Indongo traveled to the most unforgiving boxing territory, Russia, and cold-cocked its rising star Eduard Troyanovsky.
In an environment in recent years where you either share the ring or a pee-cup with PEDs, Indongo was given little to no chance.
One left cross later and he’s fielding offers from all corners of the globe.
6. (8.3% chance of an upset) Berlin Abreu (13-1) SD10 David Peralta (26-2-1)
Fresh off his monumental upset victory (also appearing on this list) of Robert Guerrero promoters were looking to build the ‘boxing cabbie’ David Peralta.
So much so, Peralta had quit his day-time job to focus solely on boxing.
Perhaps, he should have kept his options open.
In an action-packed fight with many momentum swings, his opponent Berlin Abreu seemed stronger and fitter, grabbing a razor thin split decision.
5. (6.7% chance of upset) Joe Smith (21-1) KO1 Andrezj Fonfara (28-3)
From one part-timer to another. Joe Smith was working shifts at the construction yard whilst preparing for his encounter with Andrezj Fonfara.
Add that to his seemingly piffling previous wins, the hostile Polish crowd and Smith was installed as a +1480 underdog.
In a frenetic opening round the marauding and powerful Smith landed an overhand right that anaesthetised Fonfara.
It wouldn’t be the last time the boxing-builder would overturn the odds – and our projections. He was a 2-1 underdog vs the great Bernard Hopkins a few weeks ago. Knocking him out of the ring in the process.
4. (5.7% chance of upset) David Peralta (25-2-1) SD12 Robert Guerrero (33-4-1)
Peralta makes his second appearance on the list. Brought in as an appetizer for Robert Guerrero’s next attempt at world level, no-one – Al Haymon included – gave him a hope.
Guerrero started sprightly, winning the first four rounds. But, Peralta – who had never completed 12 rounds before – seemed fresher and sharper in the second half of the fight.
It what was a tight affair, decided by two rounds or less, the upset is made all the more startling by the judges awarding the visitor and hand-picked opponent the victory on the scorecards.
3. (5.5% chance of upset) Taneal Goyco (8-9-1) RTD5 Jerry Odom (14-2-1)
It may have been a battle of, *Conor Mcgregor voice*, ‘who the f*** is this guy?’, but Taneal Goyco’s 5th round stoppage of Jerry Odom is the third biggest upset of the year according to bookmakers.
Goyco owing to his 8-9-1 record is the very definition of a journeyman. He was supposed to be another notch on rising prospect Jerry Odom.
But behind closed doors Goyco was honing his skills as sparring partner for the legendary Bernard Hopkins final fight.
It paid dividends.
Indulging Odom in a shootout, Goyco hurt the Washington man on multiple occasions forcing him to take a knee and then finally his corner to say ‘no mas’.
2. (5.5% chance of an upset) Byron Rojas (16-2-3) UD 12 Hekkie Budler (29-1)
Sky Sports boxing had proclaimed Budler as ‘greatest smallest man in boxing.’ While they had an argument that Budler was the best strawweight in the world, the hyperbole inferred greatness beyond the division.
Putting the shameless Sky Sports hyperbole aside, this was a staggering upset.And arguably – being a world title fight – the most notable upset of the year.
Rojas had never fought outside of his home country of Nicaragua. He’d never fought 12 rounds. He’d failed to win in over a quarter of his previous fights at a much lower level.
Despite all of this he took the title from the home-fighter on work-rate and sheer desire. Budler troubled by cuts couldn’t match the ferocity of the Nicaraguan.
1. (5.3% chance of upset) Andrew Hernandez (11-4-1)UD10 Afif Magomedov (18-0)
In an ongoing theme, the No.1 upset of the year is of the classic journeyman-over-prospect variety.
Although one-punch-first-round-knockouts by underdogs provide the most startling of images, they can be an illusion. Had the fight played out over twelve rounds skill and conditioning often tells.
So for Andrew Hernandez to shut-0ut hyped prospect Afif Magomedov over ten rounds, as an 18/1 underdog, we gasp.
Hernandez out-boxed and out-foxed Magomedov. Turning the odds on their head, the full-time landscaper won at a canter, even dropping and almost finishing Magomedov in the tenth.