Now that 2018 is in the rear view, it’s time to roll out our annual awards. Starting off with the biggest upsets is highly appropriate since 2018 had them in abundance. As you’ll see, the UK in particular saw many of their promising young talents get derailed in dramatic fashion.
There’s normally two schools of thought when it comes to calculating this list. You could be strictly technical and go by the largest betting odds differential. Or you can decide by gauging the public shock from the outcomes regardless of the stated odds.
Here we prefer to combine aspects of both to have the best comprehensive picture. This will cause certain fights like Felix Diaz’s knockout defeat to Francisco Santana to not make the list despite +1100 odds for the latter. Diaz hadn’t fought in a year since being handed a prolonged beating from Terrence Crawford. And when you factor in Diaz being 35, the “upset” wasn’t as surprising as the bouts that made this list.
Without further adieu, BeatsBoxingMayhem presents the year’s top boxing upsets.
10. ELEIDER ALVAREZ KO7 SERGEY KOVALEV
Following his two defeats to Andre Ward, Kovalev had spent the last year rebuilding his rep with two easy knockouts of lesser competition in Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Igor Mikhalkin.
Although Alvarez had shown his pedigree in dominant wins over Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute, most (including yours truly) thought Kovalev’s jab, power, and overall countering ability would be too much for an inactive Alvarez.
The Colombian was competitive but down on all cards when he blasted Kovalev with an overhand right in round seven. Two knockdowns later we had a new WBO light-heavyweight champion. Alvarez looks to replicate this career-best victory on February 2.
9. ROB BRANT UD12 RYOTA MURATA
Remember the speculation that Gennady Golovkin was considering an ESPN deal? A big part of that was WBA middleweight title-holder Ryota Murata, whose sizable Japanese fanbase was seen as a possible lure for GGG to pick up a title and substantial international payday. Those rumors were still swirling when Murata faced off against fringe contender Rob Brant back in October.
Brant proceeded to box the undefeated Murata’s ears off and make him look like a rank amateur. Brant’s footwork and hand speed had him consistently beating Murata to the punch. The wide scores of 119-109 twice and 118-110 accurately reflected Brant’s boxing lesson and will likely occur again should the two rematch.
8. CRISTOFER ROSALES TKO9 DAIGO HIGA
When Higa missed weight by 2 pounds for his April WBC flyweight title defense against Cristofer Rosales, I was worried for the latter’s health. I took it as a sign the hard punching Higa, who was then undefeated having dispatched all 15 opponents by knockout, would be much stronger and brutalize Rosales.
Turns out I should have been fearful for Higa, who took a thorough thrashing before being stopped in the ninth round. Early on, Rosales controlled distance with the jab and peppered Higa with right crosses and uppercuts. After hurting Higa in the fifth, the punishment began in the trenches with Rosales dominating the exchanges and forcing the champion to give ground.
Higa would have both eyes swollen shut before the fight was called as hiscountrymen sat in stunned silence.
7. TONY HARRISON UD12 JERMELL CHARLO
Sometimes being the overwhelming favorite works against you. Just ask Jermell Charlo, who was co-headliner with his brother Jermall for Fox Sports’ first Premier Boxing Champions event.
Instead of another highlight-reel KO, we saw Jermell struggle to get past Harrison’s jab and miss wildly with his power shots. Many rounds were close but in the end, the judges preferred Harrison’s ring generalship and defense, giving him the nod on all scorecards (116-112, 115-113 2X, BeatsBoxingMayhem scored the bout 114-114).
It was a redemption win for Harrison, a young fighter who was once in the Charlo’s position and demoted to “opponent” status following knockout losses to Willie Nelson and Jarrett Hurd. For Jermell, it’s a disastrous setback that puts a lucrative Hurd unification on hold for the foreseeable future.
6. ANTONIO LOZADA JR. TKO10 FELIX VERDEJO
Remember the good ol’ days when Verdejo was touted as the next great Puerto Rican star? Fun times!
In his first bout in over a year, Verdejo was seeking to recapture the momentum he lost after a 2016 motorcycle accident.
Lozada’s relentless pace and persistent right hands had Verdejo fading in the second half. However, the undefeated star was still ahead on two cards headed into the 10th.
Verdejo made the fatal mistake of hanging in the pocket too long and was floored by a right hand. The fight was called moments later with Verdejo cornered and unable to defend himself.
At one time, Verdejo was the highest regarded fighter in Top Rank’s stable, ahead of even current P4P elite Vasyl Lomachenko. But the ring tells no lies and Verdejo has a long road back to contention.
5. RONNIE CLARK MD12 ZELFA BARRETT
It’s always telling to watch how a prospect reacts when facing a guy he can’t just walk through. The highly-regarded UK featherweight Zelfa Barrett didn’t fold despite being dropped heavily in the sixth from an uppercut. But he didn’t exactly figure out Ronnie Clark either, who never stopped coming and went toe to toe with Barrett in the final three rounds.
The previously 19-0 Barrett suffered his first loss and the lucky few who put money down on Clark got a +1725 return for their efforts
4. HASSAN MWAKINYO TKO2 SAM EGGINGTON
BREAKING NEWS — blocking punches with your face is a bad idea! Sam Eggington has never been known for his defensive prowess, but few if any expected him to have any problems with last minute replacement Hassan Mwakinyo, who took this fight on one week’s notice.
Going into this fight, Mwakinyo had only fought once out of Tanzania (in a losing effort) and not seen as puncher (63% KO rate). But against Eggington, he looked like the second coming of Terry Norris and nearly stopped Eggington in the first. The second round looked like a video game with Mwakinyo spamming right hands (sometimes 3-4 in a row) and turning Eggington’s head into a human speed bag.
One of the more shocking upsets of the year.
3. VIVIANE OBENAUF TKO4 NATASHA JONES
Outside of Katie Taylor, the UK boxing community looked at undefeated Natasha Jonas as the next potential star in woman’s boxing. Viviane Obenauf (12-4), although respected and scrappy, was regarded by most as a tough competitor that could give solid rounds but ultimately below the elite level. Coming in, Obenauf was eight months removed from her last bout where she retired after six rounds against four-fight prospect Chantelle Cameron.
What became clear after a few rounds is that Jonas wan’t prepared for a physical, roughhousing fight. When fighting at mid-range, Jonas looked solid. But when Obenauf took it inside, Jonas looked uncomfortable trying to exchange and couldn’t match her opponent’s work rate.
With 40 seconds left in the third, Obenauf landed a leaping right cross on a backpedaling Jonas for the first knockdown. She let out a warrior’s yell over her downed foe and scored another knockdown with a haymaker right cross as the round ended.
Round four was a complete whitewash. Jonas foolishly tried to exchange and got dropped by another right and stopped on the ropes.
As a 14/1 underdog, Obenauf secured a career-defining moment.
2. FRANCISCO PATERA SD12 LEWIS RITSON
Well-placed body shots can change your life.
Previously undefeated Lewis Ritson looked well in control during the first four rounds against journeyman Francisco Patera. The tide changed on a dime in the fifth when Patera landed a barrage of body shots that Ritson never recovered from.
Ritson’s punches now lacked the snap of Patera’s, who never stopped banging to the body and alternated between coming forward and controlling the fight off the back foot.
The opening rounds made it close, but Patera’s subsequent work was more than enough to give him the split decision win and add the first blemish to Ritson’s record.
- ROBERTO RAMIREZ TKO2 DEJAN ZLATICANIN
Part of me feels like Mikey Garcia should get some credit for this award.
At the beginning of 2017, Zlaticanin was an undefeated title-holder and viewed as arguably the most dangerous fighter at lightweight due to his bruising style. Garcia flattened him in his lightweight debut with a vicious second round knockout that kept Zlaticanin sidelined until December 2017.
Ramirez was supposed to be a tuneup fight for the former champion. Shockingly, the fight was a savage shootout from the outset with Zlaticanin getting the worst of it. In less than two completed rounds, Ramirez broke Zlaticanin’s jaw and nose in addition to dropping him twice.
With a +4500 return for betting on Ramirez, this is by far the biggest betting upset of the year. And from a talent perspective, there was nothing on either man’s record to indicate a fighter at Ramirez’s level could inflict a potentially career-ending beating on a former champion.
Thanks for reading. Check back tomorrow as our 2018 Boxing Awards continues with the Rounds of the Year.