When Derek Chisora climbs the ring steps to face reigning WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, there will be more than an air of expectancy in terms of the result.
Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) outpointed Chisora with room to spare in July 2011 and stopped his countryman in 10 rounds three years later. Since that time, Fury has emerged as the best heavyweight in the world by defeating Wladimir Klitschko (UD 12), Deontay Wilder (TKO 7, KO 11), and Dillian Whyte (TKO 6).
Meanwhile, Chisora has had mixed results at the world level. The fighter known as “War” has scored meaningful wins against the likes of Carlos Takam (TKO 8), Artur Szpilka (KO 2), and Kubrat Pulev (SD 12). However, he’s also suffered setbacks to Dillian Whyte (SD 12, KO 11), Agit Kabayel (MD 12), Oleksandr Usyk (UD 12), and Joseph Parker (SD 12, UD 12).
If that’s not enough, Fury holds enormous advantages in weight, height, reach and speed. Power is the one area where Chisora may have an edge although it must be said that Fury has been punching his weight in recent contests.
However, boxing history is replete with upsets and some of the most famous ones have taken place in the heavyweight division. Punching power has been known to cancel out all arrears when the big men mix it up and Chisora needs a concussive miracle to prevail here.
In an exclusive fight-week interview with The Sporting News, Fury himself outlined why Chisora could absolutely shock the world.
For my money, Buster Douglas shocking Mike Tyson in 1990 remains the greatest upset of all-time in heavyweight division. And while that would still be the case in my book if Chisora tops Fury, there's a case to be made it would be the second-greatest stunner ever. But don't just take my word for it, you be the judge.
Presented in chronological order, The Sporting News revisits a dozen occasions when a heavyweight no-hoper defied the odds.
Biggest all-time heavyweight championship upsets
James J. Braddock def. Max Baer (UD 15)
- Date: June 13, 1935
- Location: Madison Square Garden, New York
After relieving Italian behemoth Primo Carnera of the championship, one year earlier, Baer was an overwhelming favourite to retain the crown against New Jersey-born journeyman James J. Braddock. Including newspaper decisions, Braddock’s record was a modest 50-25-7 and no one viewed him as a potential champion. In a story that would later be dramatized in the Hollywood movie The Cinderella Man, Braddock overcame enormous odds to outbox Baer over 15 rounds. Two years later, future all-time great Joe Louis would stop Braddock in eight to win the title.
Cassius Clay def. Sonny Liston (TKO 7)
- Date: February 25, 1964
- Location: Miami Beach Convention Centre
Liston had been champion for 17 months but had been considered the best fighter in the world for far longer. Avoided for years by Floyd Patterson’s management, Liston made the amiable New Yorker pay with an explosive first-round knockout to claim the title and doubled down with the exact same result in their rematch. Next up for this fearsome and invincible killing machine was former Olympic champ, and 6-1 underdog, Cassius Clay. Liston swung furiously at the fleet-footed challenger but could only punch holes through the air. The 22-year-old Clay, later to become known as Muhammad Ali, outboxed Liston throughout and even survived temporary blindness when an unknown substance got in his eyes. Liston quit on his took before the seventh round and a new era was born.
Muhammad Ali def. George Foreman (KO 8)
- Date: October 30, 1974
- Location: Stade Du 20 Mai, Kinshasa, Zaire
The 25-year-old Foreman was 40-0 (37 KOs) and – like Liston – tabbed as an unbeatable world champion. At this point in his career, Ali had gone 1-1 against both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, both of whom Foreman had smashed to defeat inside two rounds. As a result, there was legitimate fear for 32-year-old Ali’s life. Bolstered by the challenge, as well as the location, Ali employed his famed rope-a-dope routine to perfection, tiring Foreman out before scoring a stunning eighth-round knockout triumph. “The Rumble in the Jungle” is perhaps the most famous fight in boxing history.
Leon Spinks def. Muhammad Ali (SD 15)
- Date: February 15, 1978
- Location: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas
At 36 years old, Ali was in obvious decline and ready to be taken. However, no one outside of Team Spinks expected a 6-0-1 novice to dethrone arguably the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. Ali gave away the early rounds with the very same rope-a-dope tactic that worked wonders against Foreman and was unable to close the scoring gap with a late rally in the championship rounds. Spinks was a worthy winner, but Ali took revenge seven months later with a unanimous decision triumph, becoming the first three-time heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Michael Spinks def. Larry Holmes (UD 15)
- Date: September 21, 1985
- Location: Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
While Holmes was 35 years old and on the decline, few expected light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks to end The Easton Assassin’s legendary 48-fight unbeaten streak. It had been over 80 years since Bob Fitzsimmons held both light heavyweight and heavyweight championships and nobody had accomplished the feat since. Billy Conn, Archie Moore, and Bob Foster had all tried and all failed. Spinks, however, boxed a brilliant tactical fight to earn himself a close decision win and a slice of boxing history. “The Jinx” also won a controversial split decision in the direct rematch.
Buster Douglas def. Mike Tyson (KO 10)
- Date: February 11, 1990
- Location: Tokyo Dome, Japan
A Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield heavyweight championship fight was already locked in for the summer of 1990. The only man who stood in the way of this super-hyped battle of unbeatens was 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas. And here we have the consensus choice for biggest upset of all time. Galvanized by his mother’s passing, just three weeks out from the fight, Douglas produced the performance of a lifetime. The challenger survived a brutal eighth-round knockdown to take Tyson out with an explosive combination in the tenth. Holyfield relieved Douglas of the title eight months later.
Oliver McCall def. Lennox Lewis (TKO 2)
- Date: September 24, 1994
- Location: Wembley Arena, London
With Mike Tyson in prison; and Evander Holyfield five months into what turned out to be a temporary retirement, Lewis was regarded by many as the best heavyweight in the world. The hard-hitting Londoner, who captured Olympic gold for Canada in 1988, had made three successful defences and was a huge favourite to demolish McCall. Lewis won the first round convincingly but was caught on the counter by a massive right hand early in the second. The stricken champ made it to his feet only for referee Jose Guadalupe Garcia to rule that he was in no position to continue. Lewis avenged his first pro defeat in February 1997 via fifth-round stoppage.
George Foreman def. Michael Moorer (KO 10)
- Date: November 5, 1994
- Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Boxing is the most unforgiving of sports and a 45-year-old George Foreman would surely receive no mercy in an unlikely attempt to regain the championship 20 years after losing it to Ali. The unbeaten Michael Moorer, 26, had dethroned Evander Holyfield less than seven months earlier and his speed and skill were beyond reproach. The champion banked round after round, his southpaw jab producing serious swelling around the eyes of his legendary foe. Suddenly, however, in Round 10, Moorer unwisely stood in front of Foreman and invited his own demise. A thumping right landed flush and the younger man went down as if he’d been shot. “It happened!”
Corrie Sanders def. Wladimir Klitschko (TKO 2)
- Date: March 8, 2003
- Location: Preussag Arena, Hannover
While Lennox Lewis was universally recognized as the true heavyweight champion of the world, unbeaten WBO titleholder Wladimir Klitschko had achieved superstar status in Europe. South African lefty Corrie Sanders was perceived as yet another walkover en route to bigger game, but that plan had to be put on hold. Sanders sensationally decked the Ukrainian champ twice in the opening round and cut him over the left eye. The stricken champ didn’t know what hit him and he was taken out early in the second after being floored twice more. A measure of revenge was achieved when older brother Vitali Klitschko hammered Sanders to defeat one year later.
Evander Holyfield def. Mike Tyson (TKO 11)
- Date: November 9, 1996
- Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
This fight was eight years in the making and it was worth the wait. A stoppage loss to Riddick Bowe, and a less than convincing win over the much smaller Bobby Czyz, persuaded the boxing world at large that the 34-year-old Holyfield was a fading force. Tyson was out of prison and had regained his aura of invincibility as well as two world titles. Holyfield, however, was not intimidated. “The Real Deal” secured his legacy and joined Muhammad Ali as a three-time heavyweight champion by thoroughly dominating Tyson en route to a memorable stoppage triumph. Seven months later, Holyfield regained the title when Tyson was disqualified for biting both of the champion’s ears.
Hasim Rahman def. Lennox Lewis (KO 5)
- Date: April 22, 2001
- Location: Carnival City, South Africa
The long-awaited Lewis-Tyson matchup was getting closer and Rahman was a relatively safe warmup option – until he wasn’t. Lewis took his eye off the ball in training, taking part in a Hollywood movie, Oceans 11, and arriving in South Africa very late. He handled Rahman early and was becoming more aggressive when a moment of carelessness cost him his championship. After being bundled into the ropes, Lewis smiled a second before being nailed by Rahman’s explosive right-hand finisher. In a direct rematch, Lewis returned the favour, one round earlier, with perhaps the finest punch he ever threw.
Andy Ruiz def. Anthony Joshua (TKO 7)
- Date: June 1, 2019
- Location: Madison Square Garden, New York
When American giant Jarrell Miller tested positive for a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn went into overdrive to locate a new opponent for Anthony Joshua’s long-awaited U.S. debut. Former world title challenger Andy Ruiz seemed the perfect fit for an AJ showcase. Joshua started well and seemed on the way to victory when he scored a heavy knockdown in Round 3. Ruiz, however, was clear-eyed and when Joshua carelessly went for the finish, he was nailed by a solid left hook and put over with the follow-up assault. AJ never recovered. The British star was dropped again in the third and put down twice more in the seventh before being stopped on his feet. In a direct rematch, Joshua scored a convincing decision win to reclaim his titles.