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2001: The Year of the Upset

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Post by 88Chris05 Thu 07 Oct 2021, 1:00 pm

Hard to believe that twenty years have passed from what I think was quite a special calendar year in recent boxing history.

Has any other year produced as many notable upsets in big fights? Granted, only Rahman-Lewis II of the fights I'm talking about was a truly seismic shock. There haven't been too many bigger upsets in the history of the Heavyweight division.

But then you chuck in Barrera-Hamed, Hopkins-Trinidad and Tszyu-Judah; these were three of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated fights of 2001, and all of them produced results which, while not quite in the shock category, were all deemed surprises at the time, with three highly-rated stars losing their unbeaten records.

Interestingly, none of them seem all that surprising in retrospect and in all three cases, the fighter who won against the odds is rated higher than the guy they beat in terms of overall records and greatness these days. Is that because Barrera, Hopkins and Tszyu were previously underrated, Hamed, Trinidad and Judah were overrated, or is it a combination of both?

Would be interested to know if you guys can think of any other years with so many upsets in big-time fights - off the top of my head I'm struggling. I'm quite nostalgic for those early 2000s years I have to admit. For those old enough, did any of you pick any of those upsets in advance? Obviously I was a young'un myself back then and my opinions were not to be taken too seriously at that stage, but I did tell all my mates for months in advance that Barrera was going to beat Hamed (partly based on watching Barrera against Morales the year before, partly on a gut feeling, and partly on just wanting to go against the grain so I'd look clever if I was proved right), so naturally helped myself to a few bragging rights afterwards!
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Post by Soul Requiem Thu 07 Oct 2021, 3:10 pm

I'd still call Barrera beating Hamed a shock, despite the general consensus being to the contrary in hindsight. Everything that night aligned; Barrera's career best performance, Hamed not training properly, the choice of referee. Go back just six months and I tend to believe Hamed wins if not comfortably but without controversy. I don't rate Barrera all that highly in truth, aside Hamed and Morales his resume is weak.

Tzuyu and Hopkins winning were shocks at the time but in hindsight look so obvious. A lot of that comes down to Judah and Trinidad being stars, the TV companies wanted them to win. B Hop was never an exciting fighter but going into that fight he'd beaten some decent middleweights quite easily while Trinidad needed that shameful gift against Oscar.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Thu 07 Oct 2021, 3:12 pm

1986 is the year that comes to my mind..

Thomas was considered number 1 Heavy after he best Weaver and Witherspoon...Think Ko had him in the top 10 P4P...Journeyman Berbick upset him.

Number 1 p4p Curry upset by Honeyghan..

Bramble regarded as the best lightweight upset by Rosario...

Mcguigan the new hero of Boxing beaten by the unheralded Cruz..

Shuler v Hearns a pickem fight... over in 50 seconds..

Duane Thomas a massive underdog beat a popular Post Hagler Mugabi.. Who only had to turn up to win...

Bonecrusher was a huge underdog against Witherspoon who had already outclassed him..

Think Pops Johnson lost to the unknown Leslie Stewart.

That's all before we look below 126.

Interesting thread Chris....2001 was a good year..

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Post by 88Chris05 Thu 07 Oct 2021, 4:27 pm

Yeah that's a great call on 1986, Truss. Some real surprises there for sure, might just edge out 2001 in that regard although I think Pops lost to Stewart the following year (I'm a big Pops fan!).

Interesting fighter, was Stewart. Like a carbon copy of Larry Holmes in terms of his stance and posture, but with the added bonus of being incredibly quick with his hands....But unfortunately matched with a chin made of the finest porcelain. If Virgil Hill is making you break dance with a short punch like that, you know your chin ain't up to much. Was on top against Moorer before his whiskers got properly checked, too.

Soul, interesting comment re: Barrera's resume outside of Morales and Naz. I agree there's a lot of decent / pretty good names on there and not all that many really good ones but that's pretty much par for the course for a fighter of Barrera's consensus rank (a great, just not amongst the greatest). As it is going 3-1 against Morales and Hamed and ending both of their unbeaten streaks is a pretty good indicator of his level. If he's overrated I don't think it's by much albeit I probably don't rate him quite as highly as I used to myself.

That said, I find myself rating Hamed lower and lower with the passing of time. I used to subscribe to the idea that he was a big underachiever, which is the conventional wisdom. I can definitely still see why people would say that. But I think an argument could be made that he possibly overachieved given the fact that he never really built on his fundamentals and diced with possible defeat now and then even in his prime years (Kelley fight and that awful performance against Medina where he looked very poor technically but got away with it due to his power and Medina getting heady).

Looking back I don't think anyone should be surprised that Barrera beat him. I don't think the pair of them were ever at their absolute best at the same time. Hamed was probably at his best 1995-1997 while Barrera's best form and wins came 2000-2002. Had they fought 1995-1997, during the time when Barrera was a bit more gung-ho and had those setbacks against Jones and a struggle with McKinney, Hamed would have had a good chance. But I think Barrera at his best would beat Hamed at his best more often than not.

But let me stress, British boxing was lucky to have Hamed during those years, and he was a very good fighter. Just not convinced he was ever a potential legend as others claim. Just didn't face or beat enough genuinely top-drawer opponents though he beat a lot of ones just below that level.
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Post by Soul Requiem Thu 07 Oct 2021, 7:34 pm

Has made me revisit some Hamed fights and the most notable thing I noticed was; McCrory, Darke and Watt, a real step up on the myopic tripe sky have nowadays.

The thing is Barrera at his absolute best needed the final two to beat the worst of Hamed, it's wrongly portrayed as a one sided beatdown with one guy being exposed, it was even after eight rounds!

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Post by 88Chris05 Fri 08 Oct 2021, 11:35 am

Yeah the commentary was a level above back then, can't argue with that Soul. Gave credit where it was due but also weren't afraid to criticise or break from the popular narratives. Concentrated on the fight and didn't make everything a soppy X-Factor audition like Adam Smith.

The Barrera fight wasn't a beatdown, agree there, but at the same time I do think Hamed got a bit of a humbling and it wasn't close at all. He was well beaten and a little outclassed at times. He won some rounds for sure, but no really big ones and I'm struggling to think of too many punches of any consequence he landed.

Barrera's point deduction makes it look a bit more respectable but even Manny Steward said he could only give Naz two rounds, three at the maximum which seems about right. I guess you can always quibble precise scorecards but ultimately Barrera was relatively dominant and I don't think anyone could argue that it was anything other than a very clear win. Barrera just controlled the action and Naz couldn't get him brawling or find a way to adapt.

Not sure if the McCullough fight was one you revisited but if we're talking about perceptions of a fight changing over time, that's one to consider. These past couple of years I've actually heard people saying they scored that fight for McCullough and that Naz got a bit of a gift, or that at the very least it was very close and that McCullough had 'figured out' Hamed by the end etc. Couldn't believe what I was hearing / reading so had to revisit it myself.

I haven't changed my mind at all. McCullough won three rounds at best. Guess it's just further proof of how polarising a figure Naz is. Hard to find a middle ground with some fans either way when they rate him.
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Post by Soul Requiem Sat 09 Oct 2021, 3:42 pm

It was a humbling because it was Hamed rather than being a dominant performance in my opinion. With better discipline and conditioning he could have won down the stretch. I just ultimately think Hamed was a better featherweight than Barrera could ever dream of being. I have him top ten at the weight all time, above say Pedrosa.

I haven't got to the McCullough fight yet, going through them in order, up to the Johnson fight so far. I remember Strongback believing Hamed lost that fight but I always laughed when he said it, from memory quite one sided. Hamed being a power puncher meant some assumed he'd performed badly if he went the distance. He's the reason I fell in love with boxing.

As for shocks from this century

Quintana bt Williams
Mosley bt Margarito
Hopkins bt Pavlik (could include Martinez too)

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Post by 88Chris05 Sat 09 Oct 2021, 5:17 pm

Yeah I'm not sure Strongback was ever the fairest or most balanced critic when it came to Hamed, Soul! I don't know, you should stick your thoughts on the McCullough fight on here when you've got round to watching it but I genuinely never knew there was such an undercurrent of thought which suggested that McCullough got a raw deal or pushed Hamed all the way. He earned a bit of a moral victory as he ate up every big power shot Hamed banged on his jaw and forced Naz to back off and keep away at times, but there was only one guy landing shots throughout.

Yeah I have to admit I was picking Pavlik over Hopkins back in 2008 which in hindsight is an abysmal piece of judgement. Hopkins specialised in neutralising big, front foot heavy fighters who loaded up on power shots, so to that end Pavlik was tailor made for him even at 43. I guess knockouts make us fans overlook a multitude of sins in a fighter's game and we should have known that the things which cost Hopkins the Cazlaghe fight were never likely to be an issue against Pavlik.

Speaking of Mosley and upsets, the Forrest losses back in 2002 were shockers, especially the first, and they still look a little hard to explain these days. Forrest gets talked up a lot but I really don't think he was any great shakes. He lost to lesser fighters than Mosley and in ways which Mosley, in theory, should have been able to replicate (spooked and overpowered by Mayorga and he needed a gift against a shot Quartey, too).

Yet watching those two fights it's hard to see Mosley ever beating Forrest despite him being easily the better and more successful all-round fighter. The old 'styles make fights' or 'some guys have just got another guy's number' lines have seldom appeared so true.

To this day I don't know how Mosley went the distance in that first fight. Forrest absolutely leathered him.
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Post by Soul Requiem Sat 09 Oct 2021, 5:47 pm

Forrest outside of those two Mosley fights was just a solid contender who could beat some decent but not world class fighters. His jab won those fights and he then worked his right hand off of that later on; it was the Mosley way though, superb one fight and then average the next. For whatever reason he performed better against better opposition, whether it was complacency I don't really know but the reach combined with the jab makes sense I suppose. Wright, Forrest and Mayweather were all able to keep him on the outside, skipping 140lbs was also a mistake in my opinion.

Baldomir beating Judah is another odd one, to this day I don't know what the Argentine could actually do, didn't have any power, didn't use his size particularly well, no great punch variation and couldn't pressure that well. A case of Zab just not doing anything.

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Post by 88Chris05 Sat 09 Oct 2021, 6:20 pm

Yeah I've always thought that Mosley would have knocked ten bells out of Tszyu if he'd have stopped off at 140 around the turn of the century, Soul. But I guess the money at Welter was too good to miss considering Mosley had a hard time finding any big names or competition to really extend him at Lightweight. It was a pretty fallow division while he was there. Oscar was still the cash cow and their fight could be sold on the back of their amateur rivalry.

I've never seen the Baldomir-Judah fight, but have seen enough of Baldomir elsewhere to know that he was bang average and as forgettable as they come as you allude to. Mayweather-Judah was already signed before Zab fought Baldomir, so I guess Judah might have overlooked him and had one eye on his date with Floyd.

That said, Judah was always a bit of a con man at the highest level for me, so maybe Baldomir beating him shouldn't be all that much of a shock. I had an old, soon-to-be-retired Pineda beating a pretty much prime Judah on my scorecard, and I'm not the only one by any means. Zab got away with one that night and to be honest he got a lot of benefit of the doubt throughout his career because there never seemed to be a shortage of people ready to believe in him, even when he repeatedly failed at the highest level. Guy was a serial excuse maker and so were his devoted fans.
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Post by Soul Requiem Sat 09 Oct 2021, 7:25 pm

I can't disagree with any of that Chris, Tszyu is one of those who you feel made the most of the money men not being all that concerned with facing him, his better wins were against over the hill opponents. De La Hoya and Mosley both beat him with ease, that being said the referee screwed him against Hatton, a stronger ref and he wins.

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