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The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire
November 17, 2001
Rahman-Lewis I: It Was A Big Upset, But Not the Biggest
By Adam Pollack

After Hasim Rahman knocked out Lennox Lewis in the 5th round, HBO commentators compared it to Clay-Liston, Ali-Foreman, Tyson-Douglas, and Baer-Braddock. Which one of these upsets really was the biggest?

5. Muhammad Ali KO8 George Foreman 1974

Not really that huge when you consider that Ali was a former dominant heavyweight champion who had beaten most every top contender, and was coming off 12 round decisions over Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in rematches. However, he had lost to both Frazier and Norton and Foreman had knocked each of them out in 2 rounds, and Ali had shown signs of aging against Norton.

However, Foreman was a Sonny Liston type fighter and Ali had proven he could beat that type of boxer. Also, Foreman knocked boxers out quickly and like Liston, wasn't used to going rounds. Ali had never been stopped and had taken Frazier's best over 15 rounds. The men Foreman knocked out weren't defensive specialists that Ali had proven to be.

Foreman last went 10 rounds in 1971, three years previously. Since then, the only time he went past 2 rounds was the 4th round KO of Luis Pires in 1971. Foreman had three years of not going past 2 rounds. Since winning the title in January 1973 with a 2 round KO over Frazier, Foreman had only gone 1 round with Joe Roman and 2 with Norton. This was not a man used to going more than a couple of rounds.

Conversely, Ali had taken the best Frazier had to offer over 27 rounds, and had gone a great number of rounds since then with top contenders such as Ellis, Mathis, Chuvalo, Quarry, Patterson, Foster, Bugner, Norton, and Frazier.

4. Cassius Clay TKO7 Sonny Liston 1964

Liston last went 10 rounds in 1960, with Eddie Machen, four years before meeting Clay. Since then, he only had a KO3 Howard King and KO1 Albert Westphal in 1961, a KO1 Floyd Patterson in 1962, and another KO1 of Patterson in 1963. Liston had been inactive, and had fought a paltry number of rounds and fights in the last three years.

None of Liston's opponents had the footwork and headmovement of a Cassius Clay. Patterson was essentially a large light heavyweight with little footwork and had been dropped in almost every championship fight he had during his reign. However, Liston was a huge man with devastating power. Clay was an undefeated gold medalist who had beaten some top contenders such as Alonzo Johnson, Alex Miteff, Sonny Banks, Archie Moore, Billy Daniels, Doug Jones, and Henry Cooper. Still, Clay had been dropped by Banks and Cooper, men who didn't hit as hard as Liston, and had struggled with Doug Jones. Clay hadn't demonstrated a huge punch and seemed too weak to withstand Liston's brand of power. However, he had lightning hand speed, excellent footwork, and managed to defeat every opponent put in front of him to that point.

3. Hasim Rahman KO5 Lennox Lewis 2001

Lewis had established himself as the undisputed heavyweight champion with his defeat(s) of Evander Holyfield. He also had recent wins over linear champion Shannon Briggs, Michael Grant, Francois Botha, and David Tua. Lewis had demonstrated some chin weakness in being knocked out by Oliver McCall in 1994, and had been hurt in bouts with Briggs and Holyfield, amongst others. However, Lewis did take it well over 10 rounds from an in shape Ray Mercer and dominated hard punching David Tua over 12 rounds.

However, Lewis was 35 years old at the time, a large 253 pounds, was fighting Rahman at altitude, and rumors had it that Lewis hadn't been training seriously.

Rahman was 28 and had spent a month in South Africa to prepare. Rahman was a top ten fighter, having a W10 Ross Puritty (who has wins over Joe Hipp and Vladimir Klitschko, and a D10 with Tommy Morrison), an impressive W10 over former WBC champion Trevor Berbick, W12 Obed Sullivan, and W12 Jesse Ferguson (who had a win over Mercer).

However, Rahman had recently been knocked out by David Tua and Oleg Maskaev, so many believed Rahman couldn't take it. However, Tua was a huge puncher (KOs over Maskaev, Izon, and Ruiz), and Rahman had won every round against Tua until being tagged in the 9th round. Rahman was also winning the Maskaev bout until being knocked out in the 8th. Maskaev had wins over Alex Stewart and Derrick Jefferson, and was leading on points until being knocked out by Tua late. Rahman had proved he could compete with top fighters and had only been stopped late in those bouts. Against Corrie Sanders, he showed heart by coming off the canvas to knock Sanders out. Sanders had a W12 Puritty and KO2 Al Cole.

2. James 'Buster' Douglas KO10 Mike Tyson 1990

Tyson was the power punching dominant machine of the late 80's, knocking out almost every top contender. He knocked out Tony Tubbs in 2 and Michael Spinks in 1 round in 1988, Frank Bruno in 5 in 1989, and Carl Williams in 1 in 1989. However, when you look at it, like Liston, he had fought twice per year in the past two years and didn't go too many rounds.

Well publicized was his break with trainer Kevin Rooney, excess weight (260 pounds) between fights, turmoil with wife Robin Givens, and his admittedly poor training habits. In fact, Tyson was knocked down in training just before the fight by sparring partner Greg Page. Regardless, because Tyson was an undefeated killer puncher facing a man who had sketchy results over his career, almost no one gave Douglas a chance.

James Douglas had been knocked out in 2 rounds in 1981 by David Bey, had an 8 round draw with Steffan Tangstad in 1982, was knocked out in 9 by Mike White in 1983, and lost a 10 round decision to Jesse Ferguson in 1985. Bey had lost to Holmes (who Tyson knocked out), Tangstad had lost to Spinks (who Tyson knocked out), and Ferguson was stopped by Tyson in 6 rounds in 1986.

However, in 1986, Douglas won a 10 round decision over former WBA champion Greg Page (the man who decked Tyson in sparring). In 1987, he was knocked out in 10 rounds by Tony Tucker in a fight for the vacant IBF title (Spinks refused to face Tucker and was stripped). Tyson then won a 12 round decision over Tucker, but struggled with him.

Douglas was leading on points in the Tucker fight and was boxing well until it appeared he ran out of gas. Subsequently, Douglas knocked out Mike Williams in 7 rounds, won a 10 round decision over former WBC champ Trevor Berbick (like Rahman)(whom Tyson stopped in 2 rounds), and won a 10 round decision over Oliver McCall. Like Tyson, McCall was an aggressive fighter with a hard punch. Douglas demonstrated good boxing skill, speed, footwork, and conditioning in that fight with McCall.

1. James Braddock W15 Max Baer 1935

In all of the above fights, at least you can say that the underdog was a top contender who had defeated some top guys. However, James Braddock's career had been spent losing to a host of top contenders and noncontenders. He had lost a 15 round decision to Tommy Loughran for the light heavyweight championship. Amongst others, Braddock lost to Maxie Rosenbloom, Ernie Schaaf, Charley Retzlaff and future light heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis in 1932. He even lost to Al Ettore via a DQ4 in 1933.

However, in 1934, Braddock avenged his loss to John Henry Lewis with a 10 round decision win. In 1935, he defeated Art Lasky via 15 round decision. Lewis was a little known light heavy at the time and Lasky had not established himself as a top heavyweight contender. Apparently, those two wins set up the title shot against Baer, but neither win was really sufficient to make Braddock an even arguable legitimate contender for the title, given his lack of wins over any top heavyweights, and his numerous losses.

On the other hand, Max Baer had brutally knocked out former champion Max Schmeling in 10 rounds, and had won the title by knocking out Primo Carnera, dropping him 11 times in 11 rounds. Baer's recent performances indicated he would easily handle the undeserving Braddock. The only thing that indicated Baer might lose is that he was known for poor training habits, and early in his career had inconsistent results against top contenders.
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