Usually in the business of boxing if a fight is big enough, it’ll happen no matter what it takes to get it. That means there might be dodgy decisions, questionable call outs and some promotional finagling to make sure the big one goes off without a hitch. The only thing that can stop that momentum is a devastating loss, especially in a fight that almost everybody thought was a sure thing.
Nobody wanted to see Felix Sturm fight Bernard Hopkins, so fat Oscar De la Hoya got the win instead. Antonio Margarito probably shouldn’t have fought Paul Williams before going to Miguel Cotto, but he did anyway and was none the wiser for it.
But there are the fights that have an upset too big to ignore that the intended fight could not be made in good conscious, and with that being said here are five big fights that were killed by bigger upsets:
5. Shannon Briggs Robs George Foreman of Unification Bout with Lennox Lewis
Long before Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs became a certifiable lunatic, he was one of the top prospects in the Heavyweight division and had his very first shot at a world title against the one and only George Foreman. Foreman was 48 at the time but was three years removed from his historical title win over Michael Moorer and had otherwise remained a legitimate force in the Heavyweight division despite his advanced age.
Ahead of the bout, talks were in place for Foreman to face off against Lennox Lewis to unify the Heavyweight titles in what could have been the biggest fight the division could have with fighters not named Evander Holyfield or Mike Tyson, but it wasn’t to be.
It was no fault of Foreman’s who was simply too good for Briggs and dominated his much younger foe for the duration of their content, but the judges somehow saw it fit to award Briggs with the win and the title in what was considered to be one of the worst decisions of the decade.
It was no sweat off of Foreman’s back who retired following the fight and Briggs would take his WBO Heavyweight title and leave it at Lewis’ feet after Lewis put a shellacking on him in five rounds. While the possibility of seeing Foreman against a prime Lewis would have been a spectacular sight, chances are it the outcome would have never been in doubt and Lewis would have beaten him up something vicious.
4. Chris John Puts Marquez/Pacquiao II Back Four Years
The first, and arguably best, fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez ended in a draw and a rematch was the immediate priority for both men but it still didn’t happen for nearly four years. While it wouldn’t be wrong to assume it was Bob Arum’s fault for protecting Pacquiao, Pacquiao wasn’t a fraction of the star then as he is now and the blame for that solely rests on the shoulder of Team Marquez. Marquez along with trainer/manager Nacho Berenstein walked away from a potential career-high payday when they were not happy with anything less than 50/50 considering the draw, so while the details were being hashed out Marquez would make a mandatory defense of his title against Chris John in Indonesia.
Did I mention that John was Indonesian? Yeah, so Marquez takes a mandatory fight in his opponent’s backyard and guess what? He struggled mightily against John who ended up being a good fighter in his own right and lost a close decision ON HIS OPPONENTS HOME TURF!
Instead of potentially a million dollar payday and a shot to avenge his loss, Marquez lost his title overseas for a paltry $25k and did not see his fortunes improve until years later, and his long awaited rematch with Pacquiao finally came four years after it should have.
3. Marvin Hagler’s Leftovers Destroys Marvin Hagler’s Payday
For a period of time, it was really hard being Marvin Hagler. Nobody wanted to fight the long reigning Middleweight champion and all of his big paydays would have to be against fighters from smaller weight classes to eventually bloat up to fight him. In 1983, Hagler would have his first mega fight with Roberto Duran with the hopes that he would follow that up with yet another big fight against Wilfred Benitez.
All Benitez had to do was get past the very rough journeyman Mustafa Hamsho, the 1980s equivalent of Ricardo Mayaorga, and Benitez would have earned a shot at Hagler and a chance to be the first Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in four weight classes. Unfortunately for Benitez, the Hamsho fight came at a point of his career where his physical gifts were worn down from excessive partying and a long career, and his days were numbered against the 8/1 underdog.
Hamsho battered one of the greatest counter punchers in the history of the sport over the course of 12 rounds and was never the same again. Hamsho, who was knocked out by Hagler just a few years before got the shot instead only to be knocked out again in three rounds.
2. “The Ragamuffin Man” Derails Donald Curry
Once again on the subject of “Super Fights Marvin Hagler Never Had,” we move ahead three years later to 1986 when “The Lone Star Cobra” Donald Curry had unified the Welterweight titles and was very open to the possibility of challenging Hagler. Curry was huge for a Welterweight and the jump to 160 may not have needed to be as gradual as others, but before things got too far with Hagler, Curry needed to defend his titles against Lloyd Honeyghan.
Curry had never heard of Honeyghan and bestowed the name “Ragamuffin” to him, which Honeyghan used for the remainder of his career. A huge favorite on the books and totally dismissive of his opponent, Curry’s training camp was rife with issues and he had to practically lose the last 20 or so pounds to make weight the week of the fight. Despite the stupid name, Honeyghan was actually one hell of a fighter and he beat the absolute stuffing out of Curry and stopped him in the eighth round. The shocking upset was one of the biggest of the 80s and the defining moment of both men’s careers.
Honeyghan would have a decent run as Welterweight champion until the end of the 80s, but Curry’s career would tailspin out of control and never got the big fight he seemed poised for ahead of the shocking upset
1. Hector Camacho Foils Duran/Leonard vs. Oscar De la Hoya
Sometimes it is absolutely for the best that big fights get spoiled, especially when the outcome of said fights are a forgone conclusion and we have Hector “Macho” Camacho to thank for sparing us not one, but two executions of yesteryear’s legends.
In 1996, Camacho fought a then 44-year-old Roberto Duran in an eliminator for the right to face Oscar De la Hoya. Though Duran looked like he did enough to win, Camacho was rewarded the decision and was in line for a clash with the Golden Boy. Though it had been several years since Duran had fought for a title or even been considered a top-tier fighter, De la Hoya/Duran would have been a fight that could not be missed, much like the car crash it would have ended up being.
Not to cash out early, Camacho was handpicked by a returning Sugar Ray Leonard for a Middleweight fight one year later. Leonard was beyond shot and was no match for Camacho, even though Camacho was a blown-up Jr. Welterweight fighting at Middleweight. Shockingly enough, Leonard mentioned in his autobiography that had he won, there were already preliminary talks for him to move down to 147 for a fight with…you guessed it: Oscar De la Hoya.
Now there’s no way De la Hoya would have held his own against either men in their primes, but this was HIS prime and imagining the versions of Duran and Leonard we saw in the 90s against him would have been a slaughter of the most awful kind. Camacho thankfully ruined those plans and got his shot against De la Hoya instead, losing by lopsided decision but not receiving the beatings the two legends would have certainly got.