Usyk vs. Dubois and 5 Biggest Heavyweight Upsets Ever



Usyk vs. Dubois and 5 Biggest Heavyweight Upsets Ever

Usyk vs Dubois is nearly upon us. Daniel Dubois takes on unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk on August 26 in Wroclaw, Poland. If the UK heavyweight defeats the Ukrainian great he will make a case for being included on the list of boxing’s biggest upsets.

Upsets happen all the time in sports, right?

Or are they not that frequent, so that when one does happen it is that much more memorable?


This coming Saturday, August 26, we have a heavyweight contest which could gain historic status if the perceived underdog can pull off a shock win.

Daniel Dubois (19-1, 18KOs) will not be favoured by many experts to snatch the WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring titles from the majestic Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) in Usyk vs. Dubois.

Usyk vs Dubois, Saturday, August 26, 2023

Usyk vs Dubois, Saturday, August 26, 2023. Dubois win would be fairly massive upset

Dubois' quest for title glory will take place at the 45,000 capacity Stadion Wroclaw in Wroclaw, Poland.

Although not Usyk's homeland, Wroclaw's large Ukrainian population will be out in force to see their champion perform at the weekend. Dubois won't have many friends in the arena come Usyk vs. Dubois main event time.

Five Historic Heavyweight Upsets As We Await Usyk vs Dubois

With Saturday's fight featuring a strong favourite who looks levels above the underdog, it seems like a good time to remember that this sport, and especially the heavyweight division, has a history of throwing up surprising results.

The best way to do this is to present a few heavyweight bouts from the past that shocked the world.

It's why the fights take place in the ring and aren't decided by the consensus of opinions presented by the media and fans.

Here are five snapshots from boxing history. Five times the formbook was ripped up and underdogs experienced their moment of heavyweight glory.

Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, November 9, 1996, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Billed as “Finally” as the world had waited a while for the two supreme American heavyweights to do battle.

They were due to meet in 1990, but a huge upset, which also appears on this list, derailed that plan.

Another potential bout in 1991/1992 was thwarted when Mike Tyson was sent to prison.

Post prison Tyson returned to boxing in 1995 and rattled off four victories, capturing two world titles in the process.

Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield

Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield

During this period of time Holyfield had lost two of the four bouts he contested and was considered over the hill by many experts.

With Tyson looking back to his best there were genuine concerns for Holyfield’s safety ahead of the fight.

The former undisputed cruiserweight champion was not intimidated by Tyson’s aura and, after weathering an early storm from Mike, proceeded to inflict a heavy beating on the oddsmakers' favourite.

Holyfield finished the job in the 11th round. Tyson was on the brink of being knocked out when referee Mitch Halpern called a halt to the affair.

Holyfield had sprung a major surprise, we can ponder as we count down to Usyk vs Dubois.

Michael Moorer vs. George Foreman, November 5, 1994, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

45-year-old Foreman was bidding to win back the heavyweight crown he had lost 20 years earlier to Muhammad Ali.

Standing in his way was undefeated southpaw Michael Moorer – a fighter 19 years Foreman’s junior.

Things weren’t going too well for Big George as Moorer was running away with things on the scorecards. His movement and speed was too much for the slower Foreman.

But it only takes one punch…….

And it arrived in the 10th round. Foreman set up his power shot by throwing a jab which created the opening for him to detonate his right hand on the defending champion’s chin. Moorer stood no chance of beating the count. Foreman had become the oldest heavyweight champion in history.

When asked if the fight was fixed, Foreman famously quipped, “Sure it was fixed, I fixed it with my right hand!”

Sonny Liston vs. Cassius Clay, February 25, 1964, Convention Center, Miami Beach

Still known to the world as Cassius Clay, the man who would go on to become a global icon as Muhammad Ali really set the ball rolling on his road to superstardom with this upset victory over then heavyweight champion Liston.

In what was his 20th professional outing, Clay, 22 years-old on fight night, was regarded as someone whose boxing ability couldn’t match the talk that came out of his mouth.

Clay v Liston 1

Never will be another like Clay, a wondrous product of tumultuous times in a transitioning nation

Liston, it was thought, would destroy the smart talking young upstart. Those in the know back then saw Clay as a 7/1 underdog.

This wouldn’t be the case as the intimidating champion – 35-1, 25KOs going in – couldn’t handle Clay’s quick combinations and electric movement.

After being outclassed for five of the six completed rounds, Liston didn’t get off his stool to begin the seventh session.

The talkative young boxer from Louisville had backed up his words. Afterwards Clay famously declared he had “shocked the world.” He had. He moved to 20-0 and was now the heavyweight champion of the world. Take heed, Dubois, as we count down to Usyk vs Dubois.

Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman, April 22, 2001, Carnival City, Brakpan, South Africa

The heavyweight circus moved to South Africa for this clash between unified champion Lewis of Great Britain and 34-2 challenger Rahman from the USA.

Lewis was on a 14-fight unbeaten run and Rahman was expected to be a straightforward title defence.

Things went wrong for Lewis though as poor preparation – not arriving in South Africa for the altitude fight until 12 days before the encounter; Rahman had arrived in March, and filming scenes for the upcoming Ocean’s Eleven movie during his training camp – caught up to the defending champion.

Lewis v Rahman 1 poster

Down goes Lewis, down goes Lewis! Next time, put the underdog on the poster, fools!

20/1 underdog Rahman landed a big right hand on a tiring Lewis towards the end of round five and the champion could not beat the count.

Lewis had been dethroned in what was essentially a stay busy fight ahead of a possible bout with Mike Tyson the following year. Although his championship reign would be short, on that South African morning Hasim Rahman had created his own piece of heavyweight history. Daniel Dubois, that's a script possibility in Usyk vs Dubois.

Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas, February 11, 1990, Tokyo Dome, Tokyo

Tyson’s second professional fight in Japan was supposed to be a demolition job. The 37-0, 33KOs undisputed heavyweight champion was seen as unbeatable at that moment in time.

Instead, what transpired was a result that sent shockwaves around the world. Everyone who was alive at the time remembers where they were when they heard Mike Tyson had lost to Buster Douglas.

For his part, Douglas was the Ring Magazine’s 7th ranked heavyweight and his ledger of 29-4-1, 19KOs, was used as evidence for him being no match for “Iron” Mike.

Most experts, such as HBO’s Larry Merchant expected Tyson to produce “another 90 second demolition.” Merchant also described Douglas as “just another frozen tuna from Tokyo’s fish market,” in his lead-in to the fight.

Tyson vs. Holyfield for a record amount of money was already signed to take place once Tyson returned from Japan.

On that February day, the frozen tuna wrecked that plan.

Douglas fought the bout of his life. Perhaps inspired by the recent passing of his mother, and helped by Tyson’s seemingly poor conditioning and preparation, Douglas settled into the contest well.

He was having the better of things and Tyson’s frustration was growing. Douglas did have to get off the canvas in round eight following a Tyson uppercut, but managed to recover and regain control of the fight admirably.

Apparently a 44/1 shot at the betting windows, Douglas ended all hopes of Tyson turning the contest around by standing up to his ninth round attacks and almost stopping an exhausted soon to be former champion before the bell rang.

Tyson vs Douglas poster

Thought that was Jorge Luis Gonzalez on the poster!

The stoppage arrived in the next round. Tyson had sustained a beating during the fight, and with his vision impaired due to both eyes being badly swollen he needed a miracle. Miracles occur even less than upsets do and Douglas put Tyson onto the canvas following a four punch combination.

The world gasped collectively as Tyson had never been on the floor before. The seemingly unbeatable champion couldn’t beat the count and was counted out. Douglas, the monster outsider, had pulled off what is regarded by many as the biggest boxing upset of all time.

Oleksandr Usyk vs. Daniel Dubois – Could We See An Upset?

After that stroll through some of the biggest heavyweight upsets of all time, the focus returns to the championship fight ahead of us.

Is it possible for Daniel Dubois to take his place alongside Buster Douglas and the others from boxing’s list of shock winners?

The answer is yes it is possible, but highly unlikely. Perhaps giving Dubois a 10% chance of victory would be logical.

We know that he has youth on his side – 25-years old to Usyk at 36 – and will be the taller and heavier hitting man in the ring at the weekend.

But that is where any advantages end for Dubois.

Daniel Dubois a big underdog versus Oleksandr Usyk

Daniel Dubois a big underdog versus Oleksandr Usyk, but hey, one never knows, until the fat lady sings

Unlike Mike Tyson in Tokyo, or Lennox Lewis in South Africa, Usyk will be well prepared to defend his unified heavyweight crown.

The unbeaten southpaw is chasing a showdown with Tyson Fury and is focused on doing everything he can to make that happen.

Once things settle down the rhythm of the dance between the two should be dictated by Usyk. His incredible footwork and fast in and out movements will be too much for Dubois, who is perhaps half a step slow for this level of opponent.

Of course Dubois and new trainer Don Charles will have worked hard to come up with a plan to nullify Usyk’s assets.

It has to be about putting pressure on Usyk somehow so that the champion might feel the power of Dubois. The challenger can’t go pressing recklessly – the amount of counter shots he’d have to eat would see his challenge over quickly.

Instead a patient approach will be required. Educated pressure behind his jab needs to be applied. It will be mentally difficult for Dubois too as the likelihood is Usyk will win round after round after round on the scorecards. Dubois will need to remain calm and bide his time, like George Foreman did against Michael Moorer. (EDITOR NOTE: They make movies about ones like George Foreman.)

But fixing Usyk with one right hand might be beyond Dubois though. It might be beyond any current heavyweight.

Yes, upsets do occur. Sadly for Daniel Dubois and his fans, the perception here is that Stadion Wroclaw in Poland won’t be the site of a new addition to the upset list tomorrow.

Expect Oleksandr Usyk to put on a dominating clinic and to close the show around the 10th round with Dubois absorbing too much punishment. The Englishman will hopefully learn from sharing the ring with a modern era great and return all the better for it.

Oleksandr Usyk vs. Daniel Dubois screens on ESPN+ in America and TNT Sports Box Office for £19.95 in the UK and Ireland. Fight time is expected around 5pm EST/10pm BST.

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.