In 2019 we saw one thing that was incredibly consistent, and that was the upsets. Week after week we had some form of upset, at some level. Whether it as at world level, such as when Can Xu shocked Jesus M Rojas or when Ryota Murata gained revenge over Rob Brant or when John Riel Casimero blew out Zolani Tete, to domestic and regional level fights. In fact it seemed to be a regular case of seeing a Filipino fighter, on the road, stopping some unbeaten prospect.
Fighters like Jhon Gemino, who notched 2 upsets in 2019, really left an impression on fans and his November KO over Arnold Alejandro was brutal. Likewise Jhunriel Ramonal knocking Shingo Wake out cold in their rematch, and then stopping Yusaku Kuga later in the year, or Roldan Aldea's uppercut from hell against Mikhail Alexeev
The Filipino's even seemed to be able to pick up decisions when they were much unfancied, such as Landy Cris Leon taking a split decision over Muhamad Ridhwan in March.
There was even some cases of an unbeaten Filipino being on the wrong end of an upset, as we saw in December when Jhack Tepora was stopped in a round by Oscar Escandon.
Even in cases of upsets against non-unbeaten fighters it was again the Filipino's that seemed to hit the shock more often than anyone else. This was also seen in December when Renz Rosia beat Aston Palicte, or in January when Jhon Gemino scored his first upset of the year, stopping the then 22-1 Carlos Ornelas.
Whatever was in the water in the Philippines this year seemed to give us a bizarre number of upsets!
Of course not all upsets were scored by Filipino fighters. We mentioned Can Xu and Ryota Murata earlier, and there was also In Duck Seo's massive KO win over Tysinn Best in Australia.
For us however the biggest upset was none of the above, though it did feature a Filipino scoring a big stoppage on the road. It came back in March when Lito Dante, then boasting a 15-10-4 (7) record stopped the previously 14-0 (9) Tsubasa Koura in the 12th round of their clash. Coming in Koura was unbeaten, world ranked, the OPBF champion, and a man looking like he was on the verge of a world title fight. Instead of Koura taking the next step to a world title, he was out boxed, out fought, out though and eventually stopped in the final round whilst a mile down on the cards. This was as complete a victory as Dante could have wished for. And it turned out to be even more surprising given that the then 1-0 Yudai Shigeoka would beat Dane in his very next fight.
As an aside -the excellent @Fight_Ghost has collated a record of the biggest betting upsets from the year, and for those who do like to gamble on the sport that list is well and truly worthy of a look.
Over the last few years Filipino fighter Jhon Gemino (21-12-1, 11) has built a reputation as some thing of a gate-keeper. He has notched up regular upsets, defeating the likes of JR Magboo, Toka Kahn Clary, Sho Nakazawa and Carlos Ornelas. He's not a world beater but he often lives up to his nickname of the "Disaster"
Gemino's upset minded tendencies struck again earlier today when he shocked unbeaten puncher Arnold Alejandro (11-1, 10) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
This was supposed to be the next win for Alejandro, the next step forward in his career, as he moved towards big fights. Gemino however had not read the script and dropped Alejandro in the first round with a sneaky and sharp left hook. Alejandro got back to his feet but the warning signs were there.
Alejandro recovered well from the knockdown, but there was always a sense of danger with the heavy handed Filipino never looking in much bother. Instead Gemino was happy to bide his time, and in round 5 his time came. With Alejandro getting caught by a huge right hand that dropped Alejandro hard. This time there was no getting up.
Whilst this won't go down as a KO of the year contender it was a huge KO and a big upset win for a man who has repeatedly shown himself to be a dangerman.
Whilst Gemino is beatable he is the sort of test every prospect needs to get past, and this was another big win for the Filipino.
One of the most insane things about 2018 was the number of upsets we saw, and sadly for Asian fighters they tended to be on the wrong end of the upsets. We had fighters like Daigo Higa, losing to Cristofer Rosales, Ryota Murata, losing to Rob Brant, and Yoshihiro Kamegai, losing to Greg Vendetti. We also saw some near misses, with Hiroki Okada only just edging Cristian Rafael Coria and Can Xu just taking the win over Enrique Bernache.
For us however the upset of the year was the surprising win by Filipino icon Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Bantamweight quarter-final, where he defeated Ryan Burnett.
Burnett started as a 1/7 favourite. Few gave Donaire any chance. He was 35 years old, had lost 2 of his previous 3 and was dropping from Featherweight to Bantamweight for the bout. In fact not was Donaire dropping several weight classes, but was making Bantamweight for the first time since October 2011, more than 7 years earlier!
He was expected to come up short to the unbeaten Burnett, the WBSS #1 seed. Instead of coming in looking old and drained he looked strong, and tried to walk down the smooth moving Burnett. He was surprisingly holding his own through the first 4 rounds, before the bout was halted due to a freak injury suffered by Burnett.
Whilst the result was tainted, in a big way, by the injury that didn't stop it being a massive upset, and one of the very, very few upsets we've seen in the WBSS, which had the other 3 Bantamweight see progress to the semi-finals.
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