30 Years Later: Douglas vs. Tyson
By: Sean Crose
It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that Tyson-Douglas, perhaps the greatest upset in the history of organized sports, went down thirty years ago on this date. If we were to go back thirty years beyond the Tyson-Douglas fight, Muhammad Ali – then Cassius Clay – wouldn’t have even turned pro yet. It really has been a long time, so long that it’s difficult to imagine today’s young boxing fans grasping what a big deal it was. Back then, in the dawn of the 1990s, an athlete could be a celebrity. Not just a famous figure in the sport’s world, but a national figure – scratch that – an INTERNATIONAL figure, one as well known as the most famous world leaders and entertainment icons. It may seem impossible to get one’s head around the fact that Tyson was as famous in his prime as Donald Trump, Barak Obama, and the Queen of England are today, but there it is. Along with basketball great Michael Jordan, Tyson transcended sports.
There was good reason for this, aside from the fact that the world wasn’t as fractious and niche centric as it is in 2020. For Tyson was terrifying. Terrifying. It’s said that Michael Spinks, his biggest, most esteemed opponent at the time, was essentially frozen stiff for the few seconds it took Tyson to mop the floor with him in their 1988 heavyweight title bout. Tyson didn’t beat opponents, he went through them. When he hit a man, it seemed like a piece of the man was being removed from his body. By 1990, Tyson was already well into showing public signs of the dysfunctional behavior he would soon become notorious for. Still, no one – no one – expected Tyson to lose a fight anytime in the near future. He was simply that dominant.
Enter one James “Buster” Douglas, a talented, if not particularly focused, heavyweight who flew to Japan to face Tyson in Tokyo with greater than 40-1 odds against him. It wasn’t that the public didn’t give Douglas much of a chance, he was given no chance at all. If the world thought of the 29–4-1 fighter at all, it was as a space filler, someone to keep the 37-0 Tyson busy until the chance to face rising heavyweight Evander Holyfield came along. Yet Douglas chose the occasion to be more focused than he ever had been. Having just lost his mother, the challenger was pouring all his energy into facing Tyson. What’s more, Tyson was having issues of his own at the time. He was dropped in training and no longer had the masterful Kevin Rooney in his corner. Looking back, it was a perfect storm.
The fact that it would be a different kind of night for undisputed heavyweight champ Tyson became evident in the first round, when Douglas put a masterful jab to work. The fighter known as Iron Mike had finally met a man he couldn’t push around. Not that it was going to be an easy night for Douglas. This was Mike Tyson, after all. Even a Tyson who wasn’t at his best was world’s better than most other fighters out there. In fact, Douglas went down in the eighth. The man got up, though, and continued to out box and beat Tyson up. Then in the tenth, the unthinkable happened: Tyson went down – and didn’t get up. There was a new heavyweight champion of the world…and the world expressed its shock.
It was the beginning of a long public slide for Tyson, both in and out of the ring. Arguments from team Tyson that Douglas had benefited from a “long count” after he had been dropped in the eighth went nowhere.
Although he regained the WBC and WBA heavyweight titles later in the 90s, Tyson was never to win another major fight. As for Douglas, he lost focus, showed up overweight for his first defense against Evander Holyfield later in 1990, and promptly got knocked out in the third. Still, there would always be his stunning win over Tyson. In a sense, Douglas would always have Tokyo.
HBO World Championship Boxing Results: Saunders Routes Lemieux, Ulysses and O’Sullivan Win
By: Eric Lunger
Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) made his third defense of his WBO middleweight belt tonight at the he Place Bell in Quebec, Canada, taking on fearsome power-puncher and former IBF World middleweight champion David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs).
Photo Credit: HBO Boxing
Saunders won the WBO strap almost two years ago to the day, nipping Andy Lee by majority decision. After lackluster performances against Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe, Jr., meeting David Lemieux on his home ground was a significant step-up in opposition for Saunders, and marked his first professional foray outside of the United Kingdom. A southpaw and counter-puncher, Saunders is notorious for his trash-talking and his willingness to try to win on points.
David Lemieux is a more fan-friendly, pressure fighter who has knockout power in both hands. The match-up, a classic southpaw boxer vs. orthodox puncher, promised an intriguing show, and betting odds were virtually even going into fight week. The British media and fans were, not uncharacteristically, favoring Saunders, while most fight critics on this continent were leaning towards Lemieux.
Saunders took the first round, boxing and moving, while Lemieux was trying to find his range, but Saunders confidence soared in the second, as the Englishman danced and landed almost at will. In the third, Lemieux gave the crowd something to cheer about, landing a few shots, but Saunders continued to outbox him. In the fourth, Saunders elicited boos from the crowd, moving around the ring, dropping his hands, not throwing punches, but he clearly won the round. The boxing lesson continued in the fifth, as Lemieux could not find Saunders, and Saunders managed the distance with ease.
The one-sided nature of the bout continued: in the seventh, Saunders caught Lemieux with a good combination, snapping the Canadian’s head back. Then came a straight left down the pipe, staggering Lemieux, as though Lemieux had never sparred against a southpaw. And in the eighth, Saunders continued to be three or four steps ahead of the home town fighter.
To put it simply, Lemieux had no answers to the puzzle in front of him. In fact, he never started to figure out Saunders, and could not cut off the ring — the only way to make progress against a fighter of Saunders talent and style.
The judges saw it 120-108, 117-11, and 118-110 for Saunders.
The featured undercard bout saw Antoine Douglas (22-1, 16 KOs) of Washington, DC, took on Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (26-2, 18 KOs) of Cork, Ireland, in a ten-round middleweight bout. The colorful O’Sullivan, 33, lost to Saunders in July of 2013. Douglas came out in the first slowly and tentatively — nervous almost– and let O’Sullivan land on him frequently, despite appearing the faster fighter with quicker feet. The second round was a brawl, with both men throwing and landing big shots. The third was similar, as Douglas stayed in front of O’Sullivan, not using his feet to outbox the Irishman.
In the middle rounds, both fighters continued to land heavy power shots upstairs, but Douglas was absorbing a number of big right hands from O’Sullivan. The end came in the seventh as O’Sullivan caught Douglas against the ropes and batter him to the canvas. A dazed Douglas beat the count, but the referee wisely called off the bout.
Earlier in the evening, undefeated Cletus “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin (21-0, 17 KOs) took on Yves Ulysse, Jr. (14-1, 9 KOs), in a ten-round super lightweight clash. With a combined seventy-two percent KO average between the two fighters, this one wasn’t likely to go the distance.
Seldin, from Long Island, NY, fought last month on the undercard of the HBO broadcast of Jacobs vs. Arias, and has built up something of a cult-following in the Metro area.
Unfortunately for the “Hammer,” Ulysse’s superior movement and hand-speed exposed Seldin as a one-dimensional slugger. In the first round Ulyssse scored his first knockdown, beating Seldin to the punch inside. In the second round, the Canadian fighter timed Seldin with a beautiful straight right, and, in the third, a combination uppercuts and hooks thrown in wicked succession dropped Seldin again. The Long Island man showed a ton of heart, especially in a brutal tenth round where he took significant punishment, but he was simply outclassed by a fast, fluid, and talented Yves Ulysse. The final scores: 99-88 across the board for Ulysse.
HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Saunders vs. Lemieux, Seldin vs. Ulysses, Douglas vs. O’Sullivan
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada will be the host site for an HBO Triple Header to take place on HBO World Championship Boxing.
The opening bout will be between Cletus “Hebrew Hammer” Seldin and Yves Ulysse, Jr. in the junior welterweight division. The second bout of the night will be between Antoine Douglas and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan in the middleweight division. The main event of the night will be between Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux for the WBO Middleweight title.
Photo Credit: Vincent Ethier/Eye of the Tiger Management
This fight card will help lend some clarity to the middleweight division behind the two current kingpins of the middleweights, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. This card will also feature Cletus Seldin, a popular Jewish fighter that HBO seems keen on featuring in the future.
The following is a preview of all three bouts.
Cletus Seldin (21-0) vs. Yves Ulysse, Jr. (14-1); Junior Welterweights
The opening bout of the night is between the Hebrew Hammer Cletus Seldin and Yves Ulysse.
Seldin is a compact power puncher who has seventeen stoppage victories on his record. He’s thirty one years old and needs to make a serious run now if he ever wants to fight for a legitimate world title.
He’ll be about the same height as Ulysse as both are 5’7”. Seldin is also the more powerful puncher of the two. Ulysse only has nine stoppage victories to his credit. However, Ulysse is two years younger than his opponent.
Both boxers have been fairly active the past two years. Ulysse fought four times in 2017 and once in 2016, while Seldin has fought twice in 2017 and twice in 2016.
Neither boxer had a notable amateur career, but Seldin appears to have had more success than Ulysse. Seldin was a Long Island Amateur Champion and lost in the finals of the New York State Golden Gloves.
Seldin has defeated the likes of Robert Ortiz, Renald Garrido, Jesus Selig, Orlando Vazquez, and Bayan Jargal.
Ulysse has defeated the likes of Ricky Sismundo and Zachary Ochoa. His lone loss was in his last fight to Steve Claggett.
Seldin fights a style that leaves him open to counters but puts on an exciting fight for his fans. Ulysse has a good record, but is the underdog going into the fight.
However, Ulysse was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and will have the support of the fans in attendance.
Antoine Douglas (22-1-1) vs. Gary O’Sullivan (26-2); WBO Inter-Continental Middleweight Title
Antoine Douglas is a good middleweight prospect who’s rise to the top was briefly derailed when he faced and lost to Avtandil Khurtsidze. He has since won three fights in a row and looks to reclaim his spot as a can’t miss prospect.
Douglas is still young and is in the middle of his prime at twenty five years old. O’Sullivan is getting near the end of his prime and is currently thirty three years old.
O’Sullivan and Douglas have similar knockout power. Douglas has stopped sixteen of his opponents and has one stoppage loss. O’Sullivan has stopped eighteen of his opponents and also has one stoppage loss.
Both boxers fought once in 2016 and three times in 2017.
Douglas has defeated the likes of Juan De Angel, Istvan Szili, and Thomas Lamanna. His lone loss was to Avtandil Khurtsidze and he drew with Micahel Soro.
O’Sullivan has defeated the likes of Nick Quigley, Melvin Betancourt, Milton Nunez, and Matthew Hall. The two times he faced good opposition, Chris Eubank Jr. and Billy Joe Saunders, he lost.
Douglas has quick hands and is willing to throw combinations and take risky exchanges. But his opponent is a veteran with knockout power.
This fight should be a tense and close fight, but it’s a fight that Douglas should be considered a close favorite.
Billy Joe Saunders (25-0) vs. David Lemieux (38-3): WBO Middleweight World Title
The main event of the evening is between Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux for the WBO Middleweight Title. The winner of this bout may set himself up for a future fight with either Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez.
Both boxers are twenty eight years old and are in the midst of their prime. Saunders will have a slight inch and a half height advantage on Lemieux, but Lemieux has thirty three stoppage victories to his credit while Saunders only has twelve stoppage victories.
This will be Saunders first fight outside of the United Kingdom, but he doesn’t seem bothered by it. He recently stated, “I’m used to fight outside the UK, I’m a traveler of the world. I don’t care if there’s a million people. It’s just me and him in that ring, end of the story. As for the rest, I don’t care.”
Saunders does have a better amateur resume than Lemieux. He is a former Commonwealth Champion and competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Lemieux was the Canadian Junior National Champion in 2006.
However, Lemieux does seem confident in his power and his ability to hurt Saunders with his power. He stated, “I’ve never said that I doubted his chin. Regardless he will hit the floor. And whether I win by knock out or go 12 rounds, it’s no matter. But I will drop him and I will hurt him”
Saunders has defeated the likes of Willie Monroe Jr., Artur Akavov, Andy Lee, Chris Eubank Jr., Gary O’Sullivan, Matthew Hall, and Jarrod Fletcher.
Saunders though has not been very active the past two years. He only fought once in 2017 and once in 2016.
It should be noted that his win against Andy Lee was a majority decision and his win against Eubank was a split decision.
Lemieux has defeated the likes of Curtis Stevens, Glen Tapia, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, Gabriel Rosado, Fernando Guerrero, Hector Camacho Jr., and Elvin Ayala. His losses were to Marco Antonio Rubio, Joachim Alcine, and Gennady Golovkin.
The biggest intangible of this fight is the fact it takes place in Quebec, Canada and Lemieux is Canadian. The fans will be backing Lemieux in this fight and that kind of support has been known to influence the judges.
Saunders two biggest victories were close decisions in the United Kingdom. It’s unlikely he’ll get a close decision in Canada.
As long as Lemieux can keep up his energy and pressure for all twelve rounds it’s a fight that he can and should win.
Omar “Super O” Douglas Robbed by Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry!
Omar “Super O” Douglas Robbed by Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry!
By: Ken Hissner
At the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA, Tuesday night “the 3 Blind Mice” in a Kings Promotion Omar “Super O” Douglas of Wilmington, DE, got robbed while Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry of the Bahamas now out of Wauchula, FL, got an “early Christmas present”. If the Boxing Director Greg Sirb doesn’t at least check judge Morgan’s 98-92 there is something rotten in Denmark! “Sirb said they are all world class judges when I questioned the scoring,” said Mr. Douglas.
In the main event super lightweight Omar “Super O” Douglas, 17-2 (12), of Wilmington, DE, was robbed when Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry, 36-7-2 (19), of the Bahamas now out of Wauchula, FL, was given the 10 round decision.
In the opening round Cherry controlled with hard rights to the head of Douglas until the latter started going to the jab and body. In the second round Douglas adjusted well in another good round of boxing. He landed several nice overhand rights to the head as Cherry would go to his own left. In the third round with Cherry chasing Douglas showed good movement landing right hands following an effective jab. Two of Philly’s top trainers “Bozy” Ennis and “The Breadman” were calling out instructions. The trainer of Douglas is Doug Pettiford.
In the fourth round Douglas was moving up and down throwing Cherry off. It’s been a very competitive fight but Cherry seems to have problems with the movement of Douglas. In the fifth round Douglas landed a power jab that snapped Cherry’s head back. This was a major test for Douglas coming off his first loss in his last fight. In the sixth round a Douglas left hook to the body drove Cherry back several steps. A solid lead right by Douglas on the chin of Cherry got his attention. At the bell a Douglas left hook to the chin almost dropped Cherry.
In the seventh round both landed left hooks at the same time. Douglas is now chasing Cherry starting to land a jab to the body and a left hook to the head driving Cherry back several steps at the bell. In the eighth round Cherry is back to chasing knowing he is behind late in the fight. Cherry landed a hard right after the bell for the second straight round without warning from referee Gary Rosato.
In the ninth round it was first Douglas then Cherry who landed hard rights to the head. Douglas continued to work the ring very well with Cherry very slow afoot. In the tenth and final round both fighters continued another round of Cherry chasing but walking into counters by Douglas. In the final 10 seconds both went all out trying to steal the round.
When it was announced judge Kevin Morgan had it 98-92 this writer agreed not even considering he had voted for Cherry while Steve Weisfeld and Ron McNair had it 96-94. This writer had Douglas the winner 98-92. This show should be under investigation by Sirb.
In the first televised bout super featherweight southpaw Frank Santos DeAlba, 22-2-2 (9), of Reading, PA, won a controversial decision over Ryan “Polish Prince” Kielczewski, 26-3 (8), of Quincy, MASS, over 8 rounds in a good match-up. Once again it took too long for the scores.
In the opening round DeAlba was the aggressor working nice behind a jab while Kielczewski was countering well at times holding his hands too low but a little faster hand speed than DeAlba. In the second round with hands low and slipping punches Kielczewski rocked DeAlba with a lead right to the chin. In the third round it turned out to be the best up to that point for DeAlba who got his shots in as much as Kielczewski. The locals are trying to urge DeAlba on but he doesn’t need it being the professional he is. In the fourth round it was DeAlba landing a good combination to the head of Kielczewski who kept it in the middle of the ring and paid the price. Halfway through the round Kielczewski was back on moving more.
In the fifth round it was back and forth with Kielczewski having a good round being the faster of the two. In the sixth round Kielczewski with hands down stands in front of DeAlba daring him to hit him on the chin while countering DeAlba. In the seventh round the action picked up even more with both exchanging punches mostly to the head. De Alba knowing he is behind coming out for the eighth and final round knew he needs it bad. Within 30 seconds both butted heads. DeAlba is swinging for the fences as Kielczweski uses the ring with an occasional counter right to the head of DeAlba. It was a big round for DeAlba.
Judge McNair had it 80-72 and must have been watching the round card girls instead of the fight. Both Weisfeld and Morgan had it 77-75. This writer also had it 77-75 but for Kielczweski. Rosata was the ref.
Super lightweight Naim “The Dream” Nelson, 13-3 (1), of Philly, lost to southpaw Tre’Sean Wiggins, 8-3 (6), of Newburgh, NY, by technical decision at 0:34 of round 5 due to an accidental head butt forcing the judges to go to the score cards.
In the opening round Nelson seemed reluctant fighting a southpaw in Wiggins who did enough to take the round. In the second round Nelson was a little busier but Wiggins jab seemed to still take the round. In the third round Nelson used a good body attack when he had Wiggins against the ropes. Otherwise Wiggins seemed to be continuing to control in the middle of the ring.
In the fourth round Nelson’s right eye started to swell from right hooks by Wiggins. Nelson kept coming forward but Wiggins countered him well causing a cut over the right eye of Nelson. In the fifth round the cut was bad enough that referee Esteves, Jr., stopped the action and brought Nelson to his corner to get checked and the ring physician stopped the fight. The cut was caused by an accidental head butt. They went to the score cards and all 3 judges had it 50-45 as did this writer.
Featherweight Stephen “Scooter” Fulton, 11-0 (5), of Philly, returned to action after 9 months winning a action packed match over southpaw Luis “Zurdo” Rosario, 8-1-1 (7), of Cidra, PR, over 8 rounds.
In the opening round Fulton showed the skills the Philly fans were used to seeing. He easily handled Rosario. His lead right hands to the mid-section were something to watch. His quickness had Rosario on the defense with hands held high. In the second round Fulton continued doing well until halfway through the round when Rosario landed his best punch of the fight landing a straight left to the head of Fulton. It didn’t take long for Fulton to be back in control though it was Rosario’s best round of the first two.
In the audience supporting Fulton were Frank Carto (whose 8-0 son Christian followed Fulton into the ring), Philly’s top trainer Bozy Ennis ( with his unbeaten son Jaron “Boots” Ennis following Fulton into the ring) and unbeaten Todd Unthankmay coming off a March 11th draw. Also former WBC 2-division champion Danny “Swift” Garcia and his father/trainer Angel were at ringside.
In the third round Rosario started getting to Fulton more though it was relatively even halfway through the round. The second half of the round was Rosario’s. In the fourth round Fulton was getting pinned on the ropes and on the defense for most of the round. Rosario was landing power punches to the head.
Fulton was able to equal the power of Rosario but had better boxing skills. Fulton hit the canvas but it was ruled a slip by referee Benjy Esteves, Jr., who called it correctly. In the sixth round Fulton returned to take control for the first time since the second round. Keeping his distance is what Fulton did with Rosario still holding his own but not good enough to take the round. In the seventh round it was all Fulton changing his style daring Rosario to hit him while countering well especially to the body hurting Rosario at one point. In the eighth and final round Fulton continued his command of the fight slipping and countering well in return.
Judge Steve Weisfeld had it 79-73, Ron McNair 78-74 and Kevin Morgan out in left field had it 80-72. This writer had it 77-75.
Super featherweight Thomas “T.J.” Velasquez, Jr., 8-0 (5), of Philly, continued his winning ways defeating Wilfredo “Fredito” Garriga, 3-6-1 (2), of Juan Diaz, PR, over 6 rounds of action. Velasquez is out of the Danny “Swift” Garcia stable.
In the opening round Velasquez used a strong right hand to the body and head of Garriga but when he missed it went right over Garriga’s head. In the second round Garriga starting out using his jab but Velasquez was right on him. His jab was more of a range finder rarely landing but his follow-up right was strong to the head and body of Garriga. In the third round the same pattern seemed to follow with Velasquez being the more offensive while Garriga had little offense.
In the fourth round Velasquez had Garriga in the corner landing a number of punches until Garriga forced a clinch. In the fifth and sixth rounds Velasquez continued forcing the action and showed some defensive skills of slipping what little punches Garriga threw.
All 3 Judges had it 58-56 while this writer had it 60-54.
Super middleweight Jimmy Kelleher, 4-0 (3), of Scranton, PA, defeated Jose Valdaramma, 5-19 (3), of Manati, PR, in a well fought 4 rounds.
In the first 2 rounds Kelleher showed some nice skills especially on the offense. In the third round Valdaramma rocked Kelleher who came back gamely. In the fourth and final round the fans were on their feet for this one as both fighters were landing bombs. Kelleher comes from a fighting family with two younger brothers in the amateurs. The fans started chanting “Jimmy, Jimmy” to the exciting young Kelleher.
Judges McNair, Somma and Friscia along with this writer had it 60-54. For some reason it took 5 minutes to add up the scores. Dali was ref.
In the opening bout middleweight Ryan Wilczak, 3-0 (2), of Scranton, PA, stopped Courtney McCleave, 2-7 (1), Concord, NC, at 3:05 of the second round. Even though the bell sounded the referee still counts.
In the opening round McCleave was the aggressor in a close round up until he was hit in the right eye and dropped. He beat the count of referee Dali but his right eye was just about closed. A half a minute later Wilczak landed a right uppercut to the midsection of McCleave knocking him down for a second time in the round. He tried but didn’t beat the count as the bell sounded ending the round.
Super middleweight Devin “The Bearded Assassin” McMaster, 1-1 (0), of Allentown, PA, was stopped by Gregory Clark, 2-1 (1), of D.C. at 1:28 of the fourth and final round.
In the opening round it was Clark with hands to his side for the most part countering with rights to the head while McMaster was the aggressor always coming forward. In the second round it was all Clark dropping McMaster with a long right to the head. He beat the count of referee Dali but continued to take too much punishment.
In the third round it was all Clark almost landing at will. McMaster showed plenty of heart but little defense. In the fourth and final round Clark landed one right hand after another to the head. He pushed McMaster into a neutral corner and landed too many punches to count when referee Dali finally stopped it. Clark did too much showboating for the locals.
Super featherweight Hector Bayanilla, 1-0-1 (1), of Allentown, PA, and Jordan “Da Kid” Peters, 1-0-1 (1), of D.C., fought a war to a majority draw.
In the opening round that had plenty of action Peters jab may have pulled it out. In the second round all hell broke loose as Bayanilla was landing one right hand after another but showed little defense as Peters did his share of landing but not enough to take the round.
In the third round Peters used an effective jab trying to keep Bayanilla at bay. Once again in turned into a war with the Bayanilla fans going wild in a close round. In the fourth and final round both fighters took turns landing haymakers. This fight will be a tough one to follow. By the last 30 seconds Peters was landing the heavier punches.
Judge Mike Somma had it 39-37 for Bayanilla while judges McNair and Weisfeld had it 38-38 as did this writer. The referee was Rosato.
Timekeeper was Fred Blumstein.
Omar Douglas & Edner Cherry at Sands Bethlehem Tuesday!
Omar Douglas & Edner Cherry at Sands Bethlehem Tuesday!
By: Ken Hissner
Kings Promotions will be promoted an event of boxing Tuesday night April 4th featuring in the main event Omar “Super O” Douglas, 17-1 (12), of Wilmington, DE, coming off his first loss to face veteran Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry, 35-7-2 (19), of the Bahamas out of Wauchula, FL, in a 10 round super featherweight match. This will be featured over FS1.
On the undercard will be Readings Frank Santos DeAlba, 21-2-2 in a major bout against Ryan “Polish Prince, 26-2 (8), of Quincy, MASS. Also featured are Naim Nelson, Stephen Fulton and Thomas “TJ” Velasquez all from Philadelphia.
Besides the before mentioned on the undercard are local Jimmy Kelleher and also Ryan Wilczak, Devin McMaster, Juan Sanchez and Hector Ayanilla.
Opening bout is 6:30pm at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA.
Ronda Rousey Returns After “Biggest Upset in Combat Sports History”? Not By a Long Way
Ronda Rousey Returns After “Biggest Upset in Combat Sports History”? Not By a Long Way
By: Matt O’Brien
Friday night sees the long-awaited comeback of“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey following her shocking defeat to Holly Holm last November, in a result infamously described by UFC commentator Joe Rogan as, “the biggest upset in combat sports history”. Prior to her defeat,Rousey had demolished a string of 12 opponentswith only one of them making it out of the first round – a devastating record by any standard, and there’s no doubt that Holm’s knockout was a truly enormous upset, with the challenger overcoming odds of up to 12-1 against her.
That being said, it takes two people to make a fight, and the bookies’ published odds are not the only ingredient that goes into a big upset – the wider context of the underdog’s role is also vital. Ronda’s record was indeed formidable, but keen observers had noted that it could be a far more difficult task than anything she had faced before, with Holm being a former world-boxing champion and arguably the first bona fide world-class striker “Rowdy” had faced off against.
So while Rogan’s assertion that it was the “biggest upset of all time” might be right as far as UFC or even MMA history goes, once we include the sweet science the scale of Ronda’s defeat falls a few rungs down the list of “greatest ever upsets”. Here are five of my favourite shocks in boxing history that eclipse Holly Holm’s upset victory over Ronda Rousey:
1. James Douglas KO10 Mike Tyson, Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, February 1990
This is the grand-daddy of upsets: not just the biggest upset in the history of boxing; not even the biggest upset in the history of combat sports. This one is arguably the biggest upset in the history of sports, period.
The reason for the scale of Douglas’ shock was twofold: firstly, “Iron” Mike was a destructive force the like of which had rarely, if ever, been witnessed before. Carrying an undefeated 37-fight record, all but four of Tyson’s victims had been knocked out, 17 of them in the first round. Tyson made a habit of making accomplished world-class boxers look like bunny rabbits caught in the headlights of a freight train. Secondly, Tyson’s awesome aura was set against Douglas’ far less-than-fearful persona. A competent yet unspectacular heavyweight, Douglas’ physique was rippled rather than ripped andhis style plodding rather than punishing.
Weeks before the contest though, Douglas’ mother had died, providing him with the kind of motivation and discipline he’d previously lacked. Meanwhile Tyson had fallen into the age-old trap of believing his own hype; his preparations consisted largely of hosting Japanese women in his hotel room and he was knocked down in sparring by Greg Page.
Even so, a listless Tyson was able to floor the challenger and almost pulled off a knockout victory in the eighth round. Douglas beat the count and continued to pummel the champion with a solid jab and powerful right hand. In the tenth, “Buster” unloaded a vicious combination punctuated by a huge right uppercut that sent Tyson sprawling. As he scrambled to put the gumshield back into his mouth, referee Octavio Meyran waved the finish and signaled the greatest upset in history, as the 42-1 outsider stunned the world.
*To his credit, Joe Rogan later admitted that this was actually a bigger upset than Rousey-Holm.
2. Evander Holyfield TKO11 Mike Tyson, WBA Heavyweight Championship, November 1996
It is a testament to Tyson’s fearsome aura and the magnetic grip he held on the public consciousness that six years after the Douglas defeat and following three years of incarceration, he was yet again considered invincible – despite Douglas’ evidence to the contrary. Tyson had demolished four challengers in just eight rounds since his release from prison, though he had yet to face anyone offeringmuch resistance. Frank Bruno looked scared stiff as he walked to the ring and Bruce Seldon put forward probably the meekest capitulation in the history of heavyweight championship boxing, surrendering in just 109 seconds. Evander Holyfield was a different proposition altogether, though few credited him with this distinction at the time.
Once again, the monumental scale of Holyfield’s upset was not just a measure of how highly Tyson was regarded – it also came from a foolish under-estimation of what “The Real Deal” had left to offer. A glut in recent performances in the ring, including a KO defeat to arch nemesis Riddick Bowe and a health scare regarding a heart condition had effectively erased memories of Holyfield’s fighting skills and warrior spirit.Many pundits argued that Holyfield was not just going to lose, but that he was in danger of being seriously injured.
The former champ opened as a 25-1 underdog, but his ironclad self-belief, granite chin and counter-punching strategy troubled “Iron” Mike from the outset. When Holyfield took Tyson’s vaunted power punches, retained his composure and kept firing back, it soon became evident that “the Baddest Man on the Planet” had no back-up plan. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but when Tyson was lifted off his feet by a left uppercut in the sixth round, far less than that were needed to describe the look on his face. Holyfield proceeded to administer a beat down until a dejected Tyson was finally rescued by referee Mitch Halpern in the eleventh round.
3. Hasim Rahman KO5 Lennox Lewis, WBC/IBF/Lineal World Heavyweight Championship, April 2001
Lennox Lewis had been knocked out before, but going into his fight with Hasim Rahman he was in the process of establishing himself as one of the most dominant heavyweight champions in history. He’d already made 12 defences over two reigns as WBC championand was making the fourth defence of the lineal and unified title he won against Evander Holyfield. He had also cut a swathe through potential heirs to the throne, blasting Michael Grant in two rounds and thoroughly outboxing dangerous New Zealander David Tua.
Unfortunately, Lewis had also spent time during preparation for his title defense schmoozing on the Hollywood film set of Ocean’s Eleven, while unheralded challenger Hasim “The Rock” Rahman grafted in the intense heat and high-altitude of a South African boxing gym.But while Rahman was a motivated and respectable contender, he’d done little in his career to indicate he posed a serious threat. Indeed, two years prior he had been brutally knocked out by Oleg Maskaev.
In the ring though, the difference in each man’s preparation showed, as a complacent Lewis blew heavily and struggled to assert himself. In the early rounds, there were warning signs that Rahman’s overhand right posed danger, but even so the end came suddenly and unexpectedly in the fifth round, as Lewis backed against the ropes and the 20-1 outsider unleashed a haymaker that landed flush on the jaw. The champion crumpled into a heap and minutes later was still in disbelief about what had occurred. To his credit, Lewis returned the favour when properly focused for the immediate rematch, knocking out Rahman in the fourth round to reclaim his title.
4. Muhammad Ali KO8 George Foreman, World Heavyweight Championship, October 1974
The 4-1 odds on Ali for this fight really don’t do justice to the monumental scale of the task he overcame on this momentous night. Foreman – much like Tyson years later – was considered to be an unstoppable force that had brutally manhandled some of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world. Joe Frazier, the undefeated heavyweight champion, conqueror of Muhammad Ali and one of the finest fighters the division had ever seen, was bounced around the ring like a rag doll and brutally stopped in two rounds.Ken Norton, a fighter who’d also taken Ali to the wire on two occasions (going 1-1 with The Greatest) was similarly dispatched by Foreman in less than 6 minutes.
In contrast, Ali was 10 years removed from his initial title-winning effort against Sonny Liston, had barely squeezed by Norton in their second fight, and looked sluggish in a dull rematch victory over Frazier.
A 32-year-old Ali offered his usual, charismatic, confident predictions before the bout, but few took him seriously, and even his own camp appeared to fear the worst. Norman Mailer described the atmosphere in Ali’s dressing room as, “like a corner in a hospital where relatives wait for word of the operation.” The dark mood failed to stop the irrepressible Ali, who boxed one of the most brilliant, bold fights ever witnessed to recapture the Heavyweight Championship and cement in his place in history with a truly unbelievable upset of epic proportions.
5. Ray Leonard W12 Marvin Hagler, WBC Middleweight Championship, April 1987
In 1982 “Sugar” Ray had retired following surgery to repair a detached retina, returning to the ring in 1984 in what should have been a routine victory over Kevin Howard, but announced his retirement again following the fight after suffering his first ever career-knockdown. Now, having only boxed once in five years, Leonard was moving up two weight classes from his favoured welterweight division to take on one of the greatest middleweight champions of all-time. It looked liked Mission Impossible on Viagra.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler hadn’t lost a boxing match since dropping a majority decision to Bobby Watts over a decade earlier, had won 13 consecutive middleweight title matches, and was ranked as the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by KOMagazine. It’s therefore a testament to Leonard’s star power that he opened only as a 4-1 underdog, and had even shortened these odds to 3-1 by the time of the fight. Among the “experts”, few gave the challenger a chance though, with 18 in a poll of 21 writers picking Hagler to prevail.
The eventual split decision in Sugar Ray’s favour is still bitterly disputed to this day. While there is a strong argument that Hagler did enough to win, there is no denying the success of Leonard’s psychological games, and the fact that he pulled one of the greatest examples of mind over matter in the history of boxing.
The fights above comprise my personal favourite selection of huge boxing upsets greater than Holm’s defeat of Ronda Rousey, though there’s arguably a host of others than should make the cut. Here’s a brief selection of the best of the rest…
Randy Turpin W15 Ray Robinson, World Middleweight Championship, July 1951
Englishman Turpin probably caught the original “Sugar” Ray at the perfect time, as he came to the end of a busy European tour. Still, defeating arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time was a stunning achievement.
Cassius Clay TKO7 Sonny Liston, World Heavyweight Championship, February 1964
On paper the 8-1 odds were even steeper than when the older version of Clay [Ali] defeated George Foreman, as the Greatest “Shook up the World” for the first time in his amazing career.
Frankie Randall W12 Julio Cesar Chavez, WBC Super Lightweight Championship, January 1994
Chavez was lucky to escape with a draw against Pernell Whitaker four months earlier, but was still officially undefeated after 90 fights, 27 of them for world titles, and he entered the fight as a massive 18-1 favourite.
Max Schmeling KO12 Joe Louis, June 1936
The young, undefeated “Brown Bomber” was widely perceived as unbeatable, but the German had studied his style and exploited his weaknesses to great effect. A more experienced Louis destroyed Schmeling in a single round in their famous rematch two years later.
Lloyd Honeyghan TKO6 Donald Curry, Undisputed Welterweight Championship, September 1986
Curry was considered one of the elite fighters in the sport and was being groomed for super-stardom, but he was struggling desperately to make the weight limit. Meanwhile Honeyghan paid short shrift to the champion’s undefeated record and bet $5,000 on himself at odds of 5-1, shocking the bookies and the boxing world in the process.
More Boxing History
PBC Card in Philadelphia had its Ups and Downs
PBC Card in Philadelphia had its Ups and Downs
By Eric Lunger
I happened to attend the Danny Garcia vs. Samuel Vargas PBC event Saturday night in Philadelphia. The experience was a pleasure all around, except, unfortunately, for the main event. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I’ll offer a few observations about watching live boxing in Philadelphia. First off, the Liacouras Center is a wonderful venue; parking, access, concessions, the arena staff – everything was top-notch. And the arena feels small and big at the same time: when seated close to the ring, the blazing lights make you feel like the ring dominates the whole building; but if you wander up to the upper decks, you can sit by yourself in the massive bank of seats looking down on the spectacle. I did so for Garcia’s ring walk, and watching his massive entourage snake its way to the ring between the crowd-control barriers was like watching an ill-intentioned dragon slither out of a burrow.
The crowd was an interesting mix of folks from almost all walks of life. I was surprised and pleased by the congenial and carnival-like atmosphere. Everyone was courteous, in a cheerful mood, and there was a sense of camaraderie in the building, like, “Hey, we’re all here for fight night!” Not the usual Philly sports crowd – I’ve been to a Flyers game where they booed the Zamboni driver. There were well-dressed folks; there were folks in jeans and sweatshirts. There were couples out for date night. It was also very much a home-town night, in so far as the promoters had a done a nice job matching local prospects against good, but not world class opponents. Omar Douglas, from Wilmington, DE, and Jarrett Hurd, from Maryland, were loudly supported by their traveling fans.
There are some interesting things about watching boxing live, as opposed to on TV. First thing I noticed was how tense the crowd was during the bouts. A boxing crowd goes from tense quiet to an explosion of sound in split-second. A good shot or big punch is immediately punctuated by a crowd reaction. But most of the time, the crowd is tensely observing the action, with occasional members yelling instructions to the fighters, which I doubt they hear. A corollary of the relative quiet is that the punches are audible. A “thudding” punch is not just a cliché – its real. Second thing I noticed was that I didn’t miss having TV commentators interpret the fight for me. I had to really focus on what was going on in the ring and I had to rely on my own interpretation of who won that round, or why so-and-so stopped using his jab, or where a certain fighter’s strength lay. It made for a much more immersive and active experience.
Watching boxing live also underscores how dangerous boxing really is, and why defensive boxing is such an art. The punches are fast, accurate, and hard. Javier Fortuna in the first round of the first televised undercard made one error, and Omar Douglas caught him with a brutal hook inside: Fortuna went down like he had been shot in the head. From then on, Fortuna fought from the outside, boxed, jabbed, moved, and never again got in range of that short hook. That bout developed, after the first round knock down, into a classic battle between a come-forward puncher (Douglas) and a dancing, southpaw boxer (Fortuna). Fortuna edged out Douglas on the cards and the crowd was not happy with the decision, though I think it was correct.
The second undercard was entertaining and compelling as well, but for other reasons. Jarrett Hurd is a talented and fundamentally trained boxer with a complete skill set. He is also a big super welterweight – keep you eye on him in the future. His opponent, a very tough and very professional Jo Jo Dan, took a lot of punishment, landed a number of his own shots, but didn’t have the power at this weight to do damage. Hurd was patient, methodical, and precise, landing increasing damaging blows through Dan’s defense. The referee called off the bout at the right time, as Dan took more damage without returning fire.
I wish I could say something positive about the main event, as I think the Garcia camp has taken enough abuse in the media, but Samuel Vargas (nothing against him personally) was a gross mismatch. The fact that he lasted seven rounds testifies to his toughness, if nothing else. Garcia blasted him at will. The partisan Garcia fans loved it, but it was lesser end to a better undercard. It was a shame because the Liacouras Center is a great venue to watch boxing, and the undercard deserved a better main event.