Exaggeration is synonymous with sport; the good is parlayed to great, the great to remarkable, the remarkable to unbelievable and on, upwards, into the stratosphere. But one thing that can always take us by surprise is great sporting underdogs.
Whether it’s a single person or an entire team, it is these underdogs that embody the reasons why we love sport.
From 5000-1 outsiders to teenage sensations, take a look at these sporting underdogs who shocked the world.
The Premier League is a race of overstatement and hyperbole and, in 2016, Leicester deserved every superlative. The league had entered an age in which the championship was the preserve of a handful of clubs, a notion that now lies in tatters due to what transpired in the Midlands 3 years-ago.
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester were 5000-1 to win the Premier League and 3-1 to be relegated, however, he somehow convinced a group of second-class players that success was not to be admired but to be grasped.
The Foxes finished a whopping 10 points above second place Arsenal to be crowned not only Premier League champions, but also one of the biggest sporting underdogs ever.
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Unheralded, unfancied, even mocked – Andy Ruiz Jr sprung one of the biggest shocks in heavyweight championship history on Saturday night when he defeated Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden.
The unheralded 29-year-old Mexican-American boxer, a replacement opponent nonetheless, sent the undefeated Joshua to the canvas 4 times in 7 rounds before the referee stopped proceedings at the 1:27 mark. What’s more, this was no accident, no lucky one-punch knockout that can be explained away. Joshua was outboxed.
Andy Ruiz Jr may never reach these heights again; nor Anthony Joshua these lows, however, nobody can ever take away this 12-1 outsiders crown as one of boxing’s biggest sporting underdogs.
Boris Becker became Wimbledon’s youngest men’s champion in 1985, aged 17 years and seven months, and the only unseeded winner ever. Now how’s that for sporting underdogs.
The way in which this teenager won Wimbledon in 1985 endeared him to the world. The German’s exploits in SW19 made him one of England’s adopted sons – as there is something about an underdog that we cannot resist.
Becker beat his South African opponent 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 in the Wimbledon showcase.
Indeed, the youthful Becker departed the court, knees bleeding from naive leaps at the net, not knowing that he had changed tennis forever.
Minus any sourness, but, Greece were the most boring sporting underdogs ever when they won the European Championships in 2004.
An underdog story should be one of drama, intrigue and suspense. Greece’s triumph, however, is one of 0-0 draws, 1-0 wins and wanting the story to end as quick as possible.
“A tear flowed down the face of the beautiful game,” wrote one journalist when describing the final. The Guardian newspaper, however, were more scathing, accusing the Greeks of securing victory through “unscrupulous” and “negative means.”
Euro 2004 was dismissed as one of the worst tournaments of recent years, a victory for the engineers over the artists. In Greece, however, there were no such abuses being branded at their heroic sporting underdogs.
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‘Iron’ Mike entered the ring in Japan on 11 February 1990 as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. 10 rounds later, Buster Douglas – the man so unfancied that his opponent barely trained for the bout – had shocked the same world Tyson had conquered.
Such an underdog was Douglas that most bookmakers refused to take bets on the bout. Even the most punch-drunk gamblers avoided odds of 42-1.
That said, Tyson was sleepwalking into the most unpredictable defeat in history. So nonchalant was Tyson that he hardly trained for the bout, deeming Douglas “not worth sweating for.” Not only would the underdog make Tyson eat his words, but he’d also make him eat the canvas.
That said, not even Douglas predicted the most famous upset in the history of sport – and he partook in it.
So, we think these are some of the most shocking sporting underdogs ever – but do you agree? Head over to our Facebook Page and let us know in the comments below.
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