The Upset of the Year is an interesting award, as the biggest shocks are rarely had at the top of the sport, and the results that immediately spring to mind, whilst surprises, are rarely the biggest upsets. What we mean by that is the bouts that go against the odds and stick out in our memory are upsets, but often it's less high profile bouts that are the biggest betting surprises. And we think the biggest upset, by definition, should be the upset that is most surprising to the bookies.
One thing 2021 had a lot of was betting upsets, right across the world and all over the weight classes. We saw Can Xu suffer a shock loss to Leigh Wood at Featherweight, Tursynbay Kulakhmet come up short against Juan Carlos Abreu at 154lbs, Mahammadrasul Majidov suffer a shocking KO1 loss to Andrey Fedosov and of course Kenshiro Teraji have his reign at 108lbs ended by Masamichi Yabuki.
The biggest shock however wasn't any of those bouts. Instead it was an under-card bout on June 27th that saw Filipino journeyman All Rivera defeat the then unbeaten Omar Juarez, via a majority decision.
Rivera had once promised a lot, his 2016 win over Shinya Iwabuchi showed what he could do, but since then he has struggled to keep any form and was 5-3 in his previous 8 with a notable KO1 loss to Malik Hawkins and a wide decision loss to Rances Barthelmy just 5 months earlier. In fact Rivera had scored just a single win in since the start of 2019, and that was against the very poor Rodel Wencelsao.
Juarez on the other hand was 11-0 and showing what he could do at a decent level. He looked like a future contender and started as an almost unbackable favourite whilst seeking his 5th win in 12 months. He was such a betting favourite that Rivera was a +1500 under-dog.
Despite the odds Rivera put in a brilliant performance, ripping up the odds, dropping Juarez en route to a majority decision, that really should have been a clear unanimous decision win.
Given our criteria of betting upsets, this was the second biggest upset world wide this year, and is a shocker that many never saw coming, and never saw happen. This was a monster upset and something we see far too often when Filipino fighters travel.
It’s fair to say that 2020 was a year of surprises, both in terms of boxing and life in general, afterall did anyone predict a pandemic heading into the year? For us the surprises came regularly through the year, and came at every in the sport. From domestic level, with prospects being shocked, national titles changing hands even world level shocks.
Due to the sheer number of upsets we had in Asian Boxing in 2020 it’s genuinely been hard to pick one as the upset of the year. Do we go with the biggest in terms of the betting? Do we go with the result that was the biggest surprise to us or do we try to find some middle line?
Rather than trying to define an upset we’ve come up with a compromise and we will be having joint winners here, with one for the biggest betting upset that we saw, and one for the biggest surprise result that we saw. That surprise result really was one out of the blue, that we certainly didn’t expect.
The betting upset of the year came on November 27th in Thailand as unheralded Thai Panya Pradabsri, also known as Petchmanee CP Freshmart, took on countryman Wanheng Menayothin, the long running WBC Minimumweight champion.
The bookies opened this one with Wanheng almost an unbackable favourite, with the champion opening at 1/10 with STSbet and later being 1/12 with several UK bookies. He was seen as being well on the way to his 55th straight and his 13th title defense before the two men stepped foot in the ring. Panya on the other hand opened at 6/1 to score the upset.
By fight time money had poured on the challenger, who had been backed into around 3/1, and he would then go on to take a very close and hard fought decision over Wanheng, leading to some nice wins for bettors.
Panya’s upset win was the biggest with widely available odds, however there was one bigger upset in Asia, and that was Daishi Nagata’s shock win over Koki Inoue in July. Nagata entered that bout an 8/1 under-dog against Inoue, before forcing a stoppage win. Sadly only STS had odds on this one, and it really wasn’t one that most could bet on, but was, admittedly, a massive surprise result
Other similar upsets scored by Asian fighters include:
Masayoshi Nakatani upsetting Felix Verdajo - With Nakatani starting as a 6/1 under-dog
Akui Furutani upsetting Takayuki Okumoto - With Furatani a 9/2 under-dog
Mike Plania upsetting Joshua Greer Jr - With Plania a 4/1 under-dog
Kenichi Horikawa upsetting Daiki Tomita - With Horikawa a 7/2 under-dog
Upset scored against an Asian fighter by a non-Asian:
Carlos Gongora upsetting Ali Akhmedov - With Gongora starting as a 7/1 under-dog
With just a single win in a decade the 36 year old Yuichi Ideta wasn’t even expected to put up much of a fight on December 27th when he battled former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada. Ideta had fallen from 12-0 (7) to 13-15-1 (7) and had lost 11 in a row and had been stopped 5 times during his career. Whilst some of those losses weren’t embarrassing ones, such as losses to Keita Obara and Nobuyuki Shindo, he had lost to some very limited fighters, like Ryota Itoyama, Quaye Peter and Ryuji Ikeda.
Amazingly with the deck stacked against him, and no one really giving him a chance Ideta out worked, out fought, outmuscled and out landed Yada to take home the decision win.
This genuinely was the biggest shock to us for the entire year, and was the first decision loss for Yada since 2014, in what was his 6th bout.
Similar upsets to this one include:
Juan Carlos Raygosa defeating Dauren Yeleussinov
Adrian Lerasan beating Tanes Ongjunta
Jeny Boy Boca beating Sarawut Thawornkham
Ryosuke Nishida beating Shohei Omori
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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