5 of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing after Joe Joyce loss, including Buster Douglas and Andy Ruiz JR

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Zhilei Zhang boosted his title hopes with a shock victory against Joe Joyce

Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang pulled off a huge upset by beating world title contender Joe Joyce at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Zhang, who entered the fight as a 6/1 underdog with many bookmakers, dominated the encounter and produced a commanding display to force the referee to bring the contest to a halt in the sixth round. Severe swelling to the eye of Joyce told the story of the night and Zhang’s incredible punch power proved too much for Joyce in the first professional defeat of his career.

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Build up to the fight had been dominated by talk of Joyce’s next fight with either Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua and it was seen as a formality that the Juggernaut would prevail from this encounter with his unbeaten record still intact. The result completely transforms the landscape of the heavyweight division and Zhang is now bidding to become China’s first ever heavyweight champion and he has already spoken about his desire to face Fury in his next fight.

Zhang’s victory has stunned audiences around the world but what is the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing history? Here we take a look back at five of the most surprising results from the last 35 years.

What is the biggest shock in heavyweight boxing history?

  • Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr  - 1 June 2019

Andy Ruiz stunned the boxing world by beating Anthony Joshua. (Getty Images)Andy Ruiz stunned the boxing world by beating Anthony Joshua. (Getty Images)
Andy Ruiz stunned the boxing world by beating Anthony Joshua. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Anthony Joshua is one of the biggest names in boxing and he burst onto the scene with a great deal of hype after his gold medal triumph in the 2012 Olympics. Many boxing fans viewed AJ as untouchable and he became world champion just three years into his professional career after a run of 16 consecutive knockouts.

The Watford born fighter went on to unify the division by winning IBF, WBO and WBA belts after a series of title defences against the likes Alexander Povetkin, Wladimir Klitschko and Joseph Parker. Joshua was scheduled to face Jarrell Miller on 1 June 2019 in a fight which was viewed by the media as a routined title defence but Miller was banned just a month before the fight due to a failed drugs test.

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The mandatory position for the fight instead fell to a much unfancied Andy Ruiz Jr who had just a month to prepare for his first ever shot at the title. The fight at Madison Square Garden was seen as Joshua’s opportunity to showcase his skills to an American audience for the first time and Ruiz was seen as a clear outsider with odds of 10/1 heading into the fight.

Joshua began the clash in routined fashion and scored a knockdown in the third round but Ruiz turned the tables and knocked Joshua to the canvas twice in the same round. Ruiz hand speed and combinations proved formidable in the remainder of the fight and the fight was eventually stopped in the seventh round with the Mexican scoring four knockdowns during the contest.

  • David Haye vs Tony Bellew - 4 March 2017

Tony Bellew  celebrates victory over David Haye with promoter Eddie Hearn (Getty Images)Tony Bellew  celebrates victory over David Haye with promoter Eddie Hearn (Getty Images)
Tony Bellew celebrates victory over David Haye with promoter Eddie Hearn (Getty Images) | Getty Images

During the peak of his powers David Haye was viewed as one of the best fighters in the world and in 2009 he became just the second boxer in history to become a world champion at both cruiserweight and heavyweight level after Evander Holyfield. Haye lost the world title in 2011 to Wladimir Klitschko and fought just once in the next five years during a long hiatus from the sport.

Haye made his official return to the ring with comfortable knockouts against Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj and he agreed to take on Tony Bellew in a grudge match in March 2017. Bellew was a cruiserweight champion himself and he was still seen as a test but it was also his first fight at heavyweight level and it was unknown how he would cope at a higher weight level.

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Haye was viewed as a formidable knockout artist despite his hiatus from the sport and many expected him to compete for a world title for a second time. The fight proved to be a stalemate for the opening six rounds and Bellew frustrated Haye by dodging a number of his explosive punches. As the fight went on Haye sustained an injury and Bellew began to take charge of the pace and tempo of the bout which was eventually stopped by the referee in round 11.

The pair met again a year later and it proved to be a repeat with Bellew beating an injured Haye in round five.

  • Wladimir Klitschko vs Corrie Sanders - 8 March 2003

Corrie Sanders pulled of a huge upset against Wladimir Klitschko. (Getty Images)Corrie Sanders pulled of a huge upset against Wladimir Klitschko. (Getty Images)
Corrie Sanders pulled of a huge upset against Wladimir Klitschko. (Getty Images) | WireImage

Wladimir Klitschko is viewed as one of the best heavyweights of the 21st century but he has had to overcome a number of setbacks during his long illustrious career in boxing. Klitschko followed in the footsteps of his older brother Vitali by becoming a boxer - he won gold in the Olympics in 1996 and made his professional debut the same year at just 20 years of age.

Dr Steelhammer suffered just one defeat in his opening 41 fights to become the WBO champion and he was the favourite to defend his title against fellow contender Corrie Sanders. Sanders was by no means an easy opponent and he entered the fight with a record of 39 victories and just two defeats but he was still the underdog for the encounter at 37 years of age.

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The South African ultimately beat Klitschko within the first two rounds by scoring four knockdowns in quick succession. Sanders winning the fight was a surprise but the manner of the victory was one which sent shockwaves around the boxing world. The defeat proved to be a watershed moment in Klitschko’s career and he later partnered up with legendary boxing coach Emmanuel Steward who completely transformed the Ukranian’s boxing style.

  • Lennox Lewis vs Hasim Rahman - 22 April 2001

Hasim Rahman stunned boxing fans by beating Lennox Lewis. (Getty Images)Hasim Rahman stunned boxing fans by beating Lennox Lewis. (Getty Images)
Hasim Rahman stunned boxing fans by beating Lennox Lewis. (Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Lennox Lewis remains the last undisputed heavyweight champion in history and both of his two career defeats came against underdogs in the form of Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. Lewis was a force in the world of heavyweight boxing in the 1990s and he beat a number of the sport’s biggest names including Evander Holyfield, Tommy Morrison, Frank Bruno and Shannon Briggs.

He entered the 21st century as the undisputed champion of the heavyweight division with 35 victories, 1 draw and just one defeat and registered a further three victories against Michael Grant, Francis Botha and David Tua. Lewis’s meeting with Hasim Rahman in April 2001 was dubbed the Thunder in Africa and it was seen as a formality that The Lion would maintain his winning streak with bookmakers giving Rahman odds of 20/1.

Rahman entered the bout with a record of 34 victories and two defeats and he surprised audiences around the world by grasping his opportunity and defeating Lewis with a clinical knockout in the fifth round. Lewis avenged the loss a year later with a fourth round knockout and regained the heavyweight title.

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  • Mike Tyson vs Buster Douglas - 11 February 1990

Buster Douglas pulled off one of the greatest upsets in boxing history by beating Mike Tyson. (Getty Images)Buster Douglas pulled off one of the greatest upsets in boxing history by beating Mike Tyson. (Getty Images)
Buster Douglas pulled off one of the greatest upsets in boxing history by beating Mike Tyson. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Of all the upsets in this list Mike Tyson’s defeat to Buster Douglas has to rank in top spot. Few fighters in history have been as feared as Iron Mike during his peak years, he made his competitive debut at just 18 years of age and within two years he was heavyweight champion of the world, becoming the youngest boxer to ever achieve the feat.

Tyson was dubbed by the media as the Baddest Man on the Planet and he is considered to be one of the most formidable fighters to ever step into the boxing ring. Heading into the fight with Buster Douglas, Tyson had a perfect record of 37 victories with 33 of those wins coming by way of knockout. The young boxer was fresh off the back of a rapid first round knockout against Carl Williams in his last title fight just 6 months earlier.

Douglas was seen as a clear outsider when he stepped into the ring with Tyson and he had a mixed record of 29 victories, 1 draw and four defeats. The fight proved to be a close fought encounter and Douglas successfully utilised his jab and height advantage to keep Tyson at bay during difficult moments.

The clash was ultimately decided in the 10th round and Douglas won the fight by technical knockout to pull off a huge sporting upset at odds of 42/1.

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