Everyone loves a good underdog story. Films like the Mighty Ducks and Miracle on Ice were popular because they depicted the seemingly impossible, as lowly teams overcame the best of the best. In such stories the underdogs are seen as the good guys and the champions are often seen as the bad guys. This in itself tells us that the public will always root for the underdogs, because they simply don’t empathize with the better teams and they certainly don’t have any sympathy for them.
From a gambling standpoint, underdog victories are a great way of winning big money, which is why it is the dream of many gambler’s to bet big on an underdog victory, reaping awards akin to a lottery win if that victory comes good. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest underdog victories in sport, perhaps as a way of proving that such victories aren’t resigned to Hollywood scripts and that they do happen in the real world on occasion.
Mike Tyson “Busted”
Mike Tyson is one of the greatest boxers of all time. It is fair to say that he was controversial, with arrests, public order offenses and the time he dined-out on his opponent’s ear. However, he had an unbelievable right arm and could flaw any opponent that came his way, There are few examples of his like in the modern sport of boxing, although Deontay Wilder, with his power and his record, does come close.
Imagine then the shock when Tyson was finally rocked. James Douglas, a man whose nickname was Buster, fought Tyson in Tokyo in 1990. Tyson was at the prime of his career, going 37-0, with 33 knockouts. He was expected to win and he was expected to win easily, with his opponent priced at 42/1 and few bookies even taking bets on Tyson.
Things started as expected, with Tyson relatively on top. However, Douglas was getting some shots through and he didn’t look shaken. As the fight advanced further and Douglas remained standing, with Tyson looking weary, the crowd became silent, restless almost. They sensed an upset, and as many had their money on the power-punching champion, it wasn’t something they wanted to see. Tyson dropped Douglas in the 8th round and it looked like he was back, that the previous few rounds of vulnerability were behind him. However, the man they called Buster got straight back to his feet and in the 10th round, he returned the favor, sending Tyson to the canvas.
Tyson didn’t get up and Buster was crowned the victor, shocking not just the Tokyo audience, but the entire sporting world. This was a big defeat and one that began a slippery slope for the former champion of the world. As for Buster, he went on to lose to Holyfield in his very next fight, before going 8-1 in the remaining 9 fights of his career.
The Not-So-Mighty All Blacks
When it comes to rugby union, there is no stronger force than New Zealand, nicknamed The All Blacks due to the color of their strip. Here in Australia, rugby is huge and we know the power of our neighbors a little too well (even if we don’t always admit to it). For those of you who don’t know much about this sport, New Zealand are simply the best of the best, to an extent that they rarely lose. They are the Harlem Globetrotters of rugby.
Therefore, when they toured Ireland in 1978, few expected them to have issues. In fact, as with the fight discussed above, you would have struggled to even get odds on a New Zealand win, as they were so heavily favored. This was justified for much of the 18 game tour, and when they arrived in Limerick to play Munster, they were unbeaten.
That run was not to last though, as Munster weren’t going to sit back and let the might of the New Zealand national team walk all over them. Munster were up for it from the start. They took a 9-0 lead into the tunnel at half time, despite one of their players getting injured and carrying on through the pain.
This was an exhibition match, club team vs the best national team in the world, but Munster played it as if it were a cup final. They kept the All Blacks out and added to their score late on for a historic 12-0 victory that Munster and New Zealand will never forget.
Greece Euro 2004 Champions
Soccer is one of these sports where a few teams are in with a good shout. Through the last few decades, Spain, Germany and Netherlands have all been dominant in the Euro. In 1992, even Denmark were declared European champions, but as much of a shock this was, it had nothing on what happened 12 years later. Because in 2004, soccer minnows Greece wanted a piece of the action, and they got just that.
From their first win until their last, they were the outsiders. No one expected them to advance, no one expected them to win the whole thing, but they did. They played a unique and boring style of soccer, parking the bus and playing all-out defense, before sneaking on the counter and nicking a goal. It wasn’t fun and some said that it turned a lot of people off European football, but it got the job done for a Greek team that were a huge price to win the tournament prior to the first ball being kicked. They didn’t have an easy run either, as they beat the hosts Portugal, along with the Czech Republic and France on their way to a miraculous victory.
Of course, the epilogue is not a pretty one for Greece. Whilst many Greeks — and indeed many soccer fans in general— saw this as the moment that Greece announced themselves on the world stage, the first of many big wins, that was not to be the case. Just two years later they failed to qualify for the World Cup, and since then they have struggled in all major tournaments. They still play the same style of football and as a result they are still very boring to watch, but these days there is rarely a worthwhile end result.
Sunderland 1973 Cup Winners
Staying with soccer, in 1973 Sunderland were a 250-1 shot to win the English cup prior to the tournament. They weren’t even playing in the top flight and they had a difficult run of things. In the final they met a Leeds United team that was playing its best football in its history, but they beat them just like they beat everyone else, claiming a cup win and netting a huge score for anyone who cast a throwaway bet on them prior to the start of the tournament.
Brazil Thumped by Germany
In the 2014 World Cup Brazil were looking good, at least on the surface. They were lucky to get the points in a few of their group games and to beat high flying Columbia in the knockout stages. If you dug a little deeper, which many pundits did, you would have realized that they were in pieces, held together by Thiago Silva, their star defender, captain and the man who was stopping their ship from sinking.
With Silva set to miss the Semi-Final with Germany, there was a question mark over the Brazilian defense. Still, they were roughly the same price as Germany for the win and whilst many were tipping the Brazilians to fail, just as many were tipping them to use their attacking prowess to overcome any defensive failings.
No body in soccer could have predicted what happened next and whilst the winning team was not much of shock, the result they won by was, as for 90 minutes the entire sporting world held their breath in disbelief.
Germany took the lead on 11 minutes. They cut through the Brazilian defense before that and after that, but at 1-0, Brazil were still in with a shout. However, as soon as Klose scored on the 23rd minute, they fell apart. In the space of just 6 minutes, they conceded 4 goals, and with just 30 minutes played of the Semi-Final, the home nation’s World Cup was all but over.
Germany took a 5-0 lead into the tunnel at half time, and whilst Brazil came out in the second half keen to lessen the deficit and regain some self-respect, Germany only made things worse for them. By the end of the game, all of Brazil was in shock, and many fans were in tears, as Germany recorded a 7-1 victory. This was the heaviest home defeat Brazil have ever recorded, a humiliating loss that changed the world’s opinion of the former superstars of soccer. They may have led the way for a long time, with the likes of Pele and Ronaldo bringing prestige to the sport, but these days soccer has a new team of superstars and they don’t wear yellow.