By John J. Raspanti
There were a few more notable upsets in 2017.
After David Haye starched a fighter named Arnold Gjergjaj in the opening stanza last year, Tony Bellow, who was at ringside commentating on the fight, was hardly impressed. He challenged a bemused Haye to a fight. Many figured Bellow was crazy. Haye was too big for the former cruiserweight champion.
Not so. After Haye got off to a lead, using his jab and superior athleticism, Bellow battled back. The fight was up for grabs when Haye tore his Achilles tendon in round six. Bellow took advantage and stopped a bewildered Haye in round 11.
Many didn’t give Srisaket Sor Rungvisai much of chance when he took on pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez. Gonzalez was undefeated in 46 professional fights. There was no way the pundits thought he would lose to Sor Rungvisai.
Think again! Sor Rungvisai floored Gonzales with a body shot and captured a controversial split decision. Gonzalez demanded a rematch. Be careful what you wish for. Sor Rungvisai put him to sleep in round four.
British super middleweight champion James DeGale figured he had a soft touch in Caleb Truax. DeGale hadn’t fought in a year due to shoulder surgery. Truax had won only three of his last five contests, having been knocked out by Daniel Jacobs, and Anthony Dirrell. DeGale started the fight confidently, but by round five he was on his heels. Truax outworked him to win a unanimous decision.
These may represent the best of the year’s “stunning upsets.”
You can even make a good augment for DeGale and Truax, but not a one compares to the bout last July at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
Little known Aussie Jeff Horn, with 16 fights under his belt, was scheduled to fight eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao. Though a bit long in the tooth, Pacquiao had looked pretty good in winning recent decisions over Jessie Vargas, and Timothy Bradley.
He wasn’t the Pacquiao of old, more just an older Pacquiao, but it figured he could handle the inexperienced Horn. Pacquiao was a huge favorite on fight night. How could an ex-schoolteacher beat one of the best fighters of his generation?
From the onset, Horn looked like the hungrier fighter. He ignored a badly damaged right eye—which bled throughout the bout--to rough up Pacquiao on the inside. Pacquiao also tasted his own blood, and appeared surprised that Horn was able to take his punches. He seemed to have the edge in the middle rounds—almost stopping Horn with a barrage of heavy blows in round nine, but Horn, showing enormous heart, refused to fold. Pacquiao fought well in round 10, but Horn, fighting like a man possessed took the 12th on sheer will and effort.
All three ringside judges tabbed Horn the unanimous decision winner, while many, including this writer, had Pacquiao winning the fight by a few points.
The decision might have been debatable, but the result was shocking.
For that, Jeff Horn’s victory over Manny Pacquiao is Maxboxing’s "Upset of the Year."