It's fair to say that 2014 was the year of the upset with a huge number of upsets taking place all over the place. Whilst it maybe lacked in terms of title changing upsets, with a relatively low number of those, there was a lot of shockers in the sport among contenders and hopefuls.
Due to the sheer number of upsets in 2014 there are some that don't seem to get mentioned on any list of biggest shocks of the year. Today we look at one of those that really was a massive surprise, even if it didn't get much attention at all outside of the Philippines. This was one where going in the bout was seen as nothing more than a easy confidence builder for a former world champion, who was expected to get back into the title mix. Instead it turned out to be a massive, and bloody, shocker.
Ellias Nggenggo (8-7-3, 2) Vs Merlito Sabillo (23-1-1, 12)
In March 2013 Merlito Sabillo, known as the "Tiger", travelled to Colombia and stopped Luis de la Rose to win the "interim" WBO Minimumweight title, before being upgraded to full champion soon afterwards and he ended the year with two defenses of the title to his name. By the end of the year he was in the Ring Magazine top 10, and had shown himself to be a solid fighter. Sadly though he had lost the WBO title in early 2014 when he ran into the then unheralded Francisco Rodriguez Jr, and was smashed in 10 rounds by the talented Mexican.
In Sabillo's first bout after the loss to Rodriguez Jr the Filipino moved up in weight and took on Indonesian journeyman Ellias Nggenggo. Sporting a record of 8-7-3 (2) Nggenggo was given no chance against Sabillo, and was expected to just take the former champion some rounds.
Although not a great fighter Nggenggo had proven his toughness and had recently gone the distance with Ryuji Hara and Paipharob Kokietgym, losing pretty much every round against the two contenders.
On paper this had UD8 Sabillo written all over it going in to the bout. The champion was going to get some rounds, rebuild his confidence and begin a second charge to a world title fight. That however didn't happen. In fact it never even came close to happening.
Sabillo looked confident at the start of the bout, he looked in good shape, despite moving up in weight, and crisp. Nggenggo on the other hand looked crude, wild and rugged, like many of the Indonesian journeymen of the time. There was a lack of skills behind Nggenggo's offensive, with hayemakers being the preferred to jabs from the Indonesian.
The first round went as expected, as with Sabillo in almost complete control, landing bombs at the end of the round. Having found his range in the opening round Sabillo turned up the heat in round 2, taking some shots in return but easily out landing Nggenggo, who looked clumsy, slow and defensive poor. It looked like a mismatch, despite Nggenggo having some success until the final seconds of round 2, when Nggenggo began to have his first sustained success.
It was suddenly becoming clear that Nggenggo wasn't there to make up the numbers, despite the fact that Sabillo was a former champion and in round 3 Nggenggo began to actually out box Sabillo, who was coming forward but having limited success. By the end of the round Sabillo was being chin-checked by the Indonesian, who had been landing some really good counters. It seemed Sabillo was winning, but having a much, much tougher time of things than anyone had anticipated.
Although Nggenggo was exceeding expectations he was still almost certainly behind as we entered round 4.
Early in round 4 Sabillo was left with a nasty cut on his right eye. The cut had come from a punch, and immediately the referee took Sabillo to the ringside doctor to take a look. Sabillo, knowing the cut was a bad one, stepped up his aggression, knowing he had very limited time to stop Nggenggo if he was going to win.
The Filipino crowd were getting behind their man as he went looking for a finish. Despite the effort the cut wasn't going away, and in fact was just worsening. The local favourite was taken to the doctor for the second time, with around 1 minute of the round left, with blood smearing down his face. This time doctor had no option but to wave off the contest.
The crowd, who just seconds earlier were cheering on their man, were left silent.
On replays it was clear it was clear the cut had been caused by a left hand from Nggenggo, that had sliced the face of Sabillo.
Sadly for Nggenggo he would only score one more win, a decision at home over Jack Amisa, before losing 7 in a row. As for Sabillo his career never really recovered and he was never again in the mix for a world title, losing 6 of his next 10.
This was a massive shock and ended Sabillo's hopes of returning to the world level, and yet rarely gets a mention. A genuinely forgotten upset, from a crazy, crazy year of professional boxing.
For today's upset we travel all the way to Puebla in Mexico for a truly surprising result between someone who doesn't spoke about much at all any more and a man who later went on to fight for a world title. The bout was a WBC "Youth" title bout at Super Featherweight, despite the fact the challenger was 30 year old, and saw a really unexpected outcome.
December 10th 2011
Centro de Expositores, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
Kyohei Tamakoshi (27-7-6, 10) Vs Dante Jardon (19-1, 17)
If we mention the name Kyohei Tamakoshi we expect some pretty blank looks from boxing fans. Japanese fans are likely to recognise the name, but those outside of Japan are unlikely to know anything about him. Well other than the fans who saw this bout. He had made his professional in 1999 and had had mixed success on the Japanese domestic scene. He had a few notable domestic wins, such as a victory over Nobuto Ikehara, but had failed to secure wins in bouts for Japanese and OPBF titles, including a loss to Mikihito Seto for the "interim" Japanese Super Bantamweight title just 8 months earlier.
Aged 30 by the time he had this fight Tamakoshi was seen as little more than a battle tested veteran. He had 40 bouts to his name and had carved his career at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, where he had failed to win any of his title bouts. Although he was no world beater he had proven to be tough, and hadn't been stopped since his 4th professional bout, when he was blasted out by Hideki Yokuda. Despite having 40 bouts to his name he had never previous fought outside of Japan before travelling off to Mexico to take on Dante "Crazy" Jardon.
The then 23 year old Jardon was a rising Mexican star. He was the then WBC Youth Super Featherweight champion who had won 18 in a row, following a loss in his second professional bout. He had a staggering 85% KO rate and had beaten the likes of Rene Gonzalez, and Ricky Sismundo and was very much a man tipped for the top. He was aggressive, destructive, heavy handed, exciting and rampaging through regional competition. His previous 4 bouts had lasted a total of 13 rounds and only 2 of his opponents had lasted more than 5 rounds, with only Rene Gonzalez managing to last the distance with him.
On paper this was just the next step forward for Jardon and he had all the advantages a fighter could want. He was the younger man, the man in great form, the naturally bigger man, the bigger puncher and the man at home, in a really small ring suited to his style. He seemed to have the deck well and truly stacked in his favour.
From the off Jardon took center ring, he was aggressive, coming forward and pressuring Tamakoshi. The Japanese fighter looked focused but was on the back foot and struggling to get any respect from Jardon who looked the boss through the first round, as many had expected. He didn't manage to land too many power shots, but he looked dangerous and like he'd take Tamakoshi out if one of his big over hand right's landed clean.
Tamakoshi, to his credit, used his experience to neutralise much of the pressure from Jardon, but didn't land much of note himself, paying more focus on not getting hurt than attacking Jardon in the first round.
In the second round we saw a bit more ambition from Tamakoshi, but he was made to pay and Jardon landed some solid bombs on the visitor when Tamakoshi opened up. It seemed we were beginning to see the start of the end as Jardon was finding some very clean head shots on Tamakoshi. Although Tamakoshi had proven his toughness during his career it was still assumed that his toughness wouldn't carry up Super Featherweight, against a puncher like Jardon.
Things all changed with about 10 seconds of round 2 left. Things changed in a moment as Tamakoshi landed a long straight right hand out of the blue that dropped Jardon to the seat of his pants. There was only seconds of the round left when Jardon hit the canvas, and he managed to beat the count, getting a minute to recover. Had the shot landed only moments earlier there's a good chance Tamakoshi would have jumped on him and closed the show there and then.
Heading into round 3 the big question was whether Jardon had had enough time to clear his head and recover. He started the round aggressively and looked fine but about 35 seconds into the round Tamakoshi landed another huge over hand right which which shook Jardon, who dropped moments later. Again Jardon got up, but this time Tamakoshi had more than 2 minutes to close the show.
The visitor smelled blood and went hunting, landing another right and dropped Jardon for a third time. To his credit there was no quit in Jardon, who again got to his feet. He was however up on instinct, rather than awareness and was dropped again. This time the referee had seen enough and waved off the contest.
Although not remembered much now a days this was a massive upset for Tamakoshi, who few gave any sort of a chance to. Sadly he failed to really build on it, and when he returned to Japan he ended up picking up 3 rather low key wins whilst getting used to fighting at Super Featherweight. In the years that followed he would have 3 Japanese title bouts at 130lbs, and lose all 3.
Despite the set back Jardon bounced back, and just over 2 years later he challenged the then WBC world champion Takashi Miura, losing in 9 rounds to "Bomber Left". From there on his career never really recovered and although he remained in the title mix for a while he wouldn't get a second shot at the top.
When we think about great upsets we tend to think of the big shocks and some times over-look how great the bouts themselves are. Today we get to show an amazing upset, that came in a sensational bout way back in 1997. The bout was among the very best bouts of the year, and is something every fight fan should have seen by now. But if you haven't, then there really is no better time than now!
November 22nd 1997
Osaka-Jo Hall, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Sirimongkol Singwancha (16-0, 6) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (14-4-1, 11)
Today's upset is a bout that really deserves to be mentioned at one of the best of 1997, and one of the best to ever give us an upset.
In one corner was unbeaten Thai Sirimongkol Singwanchan, the then WBC Bantamweight champion who was just 20 years old but looked like he was going to be one of the major faces of Thai of boxing. He had debuted in 1994 and had won the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title in 1996 before being upgraded in 1997 when Wayne McCullough left the division. He had made 3 defenses of the title, including one against veteran Victor Rabanales. He looked like a long term champion in the making, he was young, talented, tough and skilled, with under-rated power that he was still developing.
In the early 1990's the enigmatic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was among the most popular Japanese fighters out there. He was charismatic, unique, a huge fan favourite, but also a fighter who often relied on his chin rather than his skills. As a result he took a lot of punishment very early in his career and his eyes were damaged by the wars that he was involved in. By 1997 he was widely regarded as being a done fighter, battled against the likes of Victor Rabanales, Yasuei Yakushiji and Daniel Zaragoza had taken their toll on him. He was "only" 27, but an old 27 who hadn't scored a win of note in well over 4 years and had had to comeback from a detached retina.
Before the bout Tatsuyoshi seemed to suggest that if he lost he had no where left to go in the sport, and would retire. He was the under-dog. He was at home, but was up against a fighter who looked like an emerging star.
Early on the bout had gone the way many had expected. The unbeaten Thai looked confident, calm, quick and accurate, he fought behind his jab and repeatedly tagged Tatsuyoshi up top through the first rounds. The Japanese local had moments, but was putting in a lot more effort than the Thai champion, who looked very composed and comfortable despite the crowd being well behind Tatsuyoshi.
The first few rounds saw Tatsuyoshi working hard too close the distance, but struggling with the jab and intelligent boxing of the Thai, who limited Tatsuyoshi's success to just a shot or two at a time. It was smart work from the young champion, who was trying to take the fight out of Tatsuyoshi, pick his moments and neutralise the fans. Tatsuyoshi however wasn't having it, and kept coming forward.
In round 4 and 5 we finally saw Tatsuyoshi get up close and force a higher tempo whilst the Thai began to look like some one who had struggled to make weight, or maybe over-looked his Japanese foe. Those rounds saw the bout turn in favour of Tatsuyoshi and the excitement level grew, the belief that we were seeing one great final performance from the popular "Joe of Naniwa".
It seemed like Tatsuyoshi was going to break the unbeaten Thai champion. That we were going to see the the damaged and battle worn warrior claim a remarkable win.
Then Tatsuyoshi began to look like he was feeling the pace. His effort and drive through the 4th and 5th round came at a cost whilst Sirimongkol appeared to be getting a chance to recover. Things were heading back to the way people had expected.
Tatsuyoshi however wasn't willing to give up his dream of continuing, of proving he wasn't shot. That he wasn't done, and some how, despite being hurt early in the round, he pulled out a thunderbolt, landing a brutal body shot that sent the Thai on to the canvas. Sirimongkol beat the count but couldn't survive the follow up attack, which forced the referee to step ip.
The man most thought was shot, was damaged goods and heading to retirement had pulled it out. He had put in one of the best performances of his career, dug deep and repaid the fans who shown him so much love.
Surprisingly Tatsuyoshi would then make two subsequent defenses of the title, before losing the belt in 1998 to Veeraphol Sahaprom, who went on to have the type of reign some had expected of Sirimongkol.
As for Sirimongkol he would bounce back well, and move up through the weights, claiming the WBC Super Featherweight title in 2002 and was still fighting more than 20 years after this loss, having a rather amazing career. The loss was a big set back, but was certainly not the end for the Thai.
We talk about the commentators curse, or the commentator giving a fighter the proverbial "kiss of death" and today we have a great example of that from 1983. In fact for today's "What a Shock" we have a great example of a huge upset, and for another week we have that upset coming via the hands of an unfancied Filipino in what likely goes down as one of the biggest upsets by a Filipino in Europe. Ever.
September 27th 1983
Wembley Arena, Wembley, London, United Kingdom
Frank Cedeno (30-6-3, 13) vs Charlie Magri (28-2, 21)
We mentioned the commentators curse and that's because of how the commentator began for the bout here. Working for British TB the commentator, explained that last time out "when Magri won the title in March he was the underdog, but he's not the under-dog tonight against Cedeno."
In March 1983 Charlie Magri won the WBC Flyweight title by stopping defending champion Eleoncio Mercedes, on cuts. The win had been a huge one for the popular Englishman who had been stopped in 2 of his 6 previous bouts, and had allowed him to call himself a world champion. Prior to winning the world title "Champagne Charlie" had held the EBU title and proven himself as an exciting, power punching Flyweight who came to fight and fight hard. Defensively he was very flawed, but his offense was his best form of defense.
He was now making his first defense around 6 months after winning the title. He was, as the commentator suggested, the clear favourite. This was expected to be an easy first defense against a challenger who seemed to pose little threat to the Englishman.
In Frank Cedeno we had a Filipino challenger who had scored just 13 stoppages in 39 bouts. Coming in to the bout he had won 4 in a row, but had gone 1-2-1 in the 4 fights prior to that run, and his best wins were all at domestic level. There was no hidden gem win on his record with the biggest name on his record being the then on the slide Montsayarm Haw Mahachai, who his 3 subsequent bouts before retiring. Not only was Cedeno a light punching challenger, but he was also fighting outside Asia for the first time in his career.
There was literally nothing for Magri and his team to fear....right? Well that's what we all assumed.
From the off Magri pressed forward and had the crowd roaring their support early in the opening round. Magri, the aggressor, seemed to take the opening round and landed some heavy leather on the Filipino who looked in trouble part way through the opening round. Cedeno seemed to be forced to fight fire with fire in an effort to just get Magri to give him some respect.
Despite being backed up and hammered through much of the opening Cedeno did land some good shots when he fired back. He did the same early in round 2 but as the round went on Cedeno's work rate dropped off and he took to the ropes, trying to soak up the pressure of the Englishman. It was a risky tactic but one which was done with the intention of taking the steam out of Magri.
In round 3 we began to see Cedeno come alive again, and Magri responded, in what was a fantastic round of back and forth action. The power and aggression of Magri up against the skills and toughness of Cedeno, with the challenger building in confidence. Magri tried to take the confidence away from the Filipino with some huge body shots, but Cedeno weathered the storm whilst firing back.
In round 4 the pace dropped off, which was understandable given the insane tempo of the opening round. The slower pace suited Cedeno who began to create space and land some huge shots at range. Magri, although still unloading with huge shots, was beginning to look a lot less active than he had earlier and he was beginning to feel the shots from Cedeno a lot more than he had in the first 3.
In the fifth we saw Magri slowing more. His lack of defense was now becoming a major issue, as his offense had began to slow as well. He wasn't able to sustain anything for more than a few seconds whilst Cedeno picked some great shots, with both hands. By now it was starting to look like Magri was doubting himself as both men were digging deep. The action wasn't none stop, but it was back and forth, and momentum swung one way then the other, with both looking spent and in trouble.
Heading into round 6 it was clear both men had taken a lot out of each other, and themselves. The crowd were getting behind their man with a huge "Charlie" chant, but it wasn't enough to stir their man into a second wind. He looked spent and mid way through the round he was rocked. A follow up dropped the champion, who managed to recover to his feet, before going down again. Once more Magri's heart got him up but he was done and soon afterwards he was down again, with the referee finally waving off the bout.
The upset was huge, with Cedeno dethroning the highly fancied British champion. Sadly for Cedeno his reign was a short one, and he was stopped in 2 rounds by Koji Kobayashi in his first defense. Cedeno would bounce back from the loss to Kobayashi, but lose in 1987 to Gilberto Roman, before going 2-2 in his last 4 and retiring in the late in 1980's.
In 1985 Magri would get a chance to recapture the title, but was stopped in 4 rounds by Sot Chitalada and ended his career in 1986, with a loss to Duke McKenzie.
Although not too well remembered now a days, this bout was a genuine thriller and it may well have ruined both men. Thankfully for Cedeno he took the win, scored a huge upset, and had a career defining victory that saw him become one of the very few Filipino's to be crowned a world champion on UK soil.
Today we continue with a run of upsets by Filipino fighters, though we leave Manny Pacquiao alone and look at another Filipino in an upset. This win was less high profile than some of the others we'll feature here, but did come in a world title eliminator and is a relatively recent one, coming back in 2014. It also came on a US TV broadcast with the opinion leading into the bout being that the previously unbeaten prospect was heading towards a world title fight.
July 2nd 2014
Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut, USA
Michael Farenas (38-4-4-1, 30) Vs Mark Davis (18-0, 5)
When we look back over some upsets we can be a little surprised to even find out they were upsets, but in the summer of 2014 that's exactly what we saw when experienced Filipino Michael Farenas took on unbeaten American Mark Davis.
Heading into the bout the 30 year old Filipino, known as "Hammer Fist", had been seen as old, shot and beyond his best. He was well respected by those who knew the sport and had fought all over the place, though had done so with mixed success. During his first 47 bouts the most notable results on his record was a technical draw in a world title bout against Takashi Uchiyama and a loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa.
In terms of his biggest wins they had Farenas had beaten veteran Hector Velazquez and taken a split decision over Fernando Beltran. He was however viewed as just a tough, slow, clumsy fighter who could be out boxed and out sped.
The then 27 year old Mark "Too Sharp" Davis was being eyed up as a future star. He had had over 200 amateur bouts and was a genuinely celebrated US amateur. It was assumed his amateur skills would take him to the top of the sport. He had the athletic ability, the boxing brain and the skills to do great things in the ring, and if matched well he was going to be a major player at 130 for the coming years.
Coming in to the bout Davis was ranked higher than Farenas with the IBF. It was unclear what Davis had done to earn such a high ranking but it was clear that someone saw something big in him and he was now stepping up big time thanks to promoted 50 Cent.
Although he was stepping up Davis was the betting favourite, priced at around 1/2 to win, and this was supposed to be his break out win.
Despite being the favourite Davis was under pressure from the off with Farenas pressing the action from the very start. After about a minute Davis was cut around the eye, from a punch, and from there on Farenas had a target for his southpaw left hands.
Davis, knowing he had to turn things around quickly, tried to use his speed and skills, using the ring to create distance. Sadly for Davis however he had nothing to get Farenas's respect. Instead the unfancied Filipino just kept the pressure coming, pressing forward round after round and landing numerous huge left hands.
By round 5 Davis' speed was going, his confidence was crumbling, his skills weren't enough and he simply couldn't do anything to stop Farenas, wh dominated the round. In fact if anything what Davis was doing was making it easy for Farenas, standing in front of the stronger Filipino, who made the most of Davis's poor tactical decisions. Davis not only tried to fight with Farenas, but also stood still too much and was being broken and battered.
Farenas, although never a good technical fighter, was simply too strong, too big, too experienced, too heavy handed and ferocious for Davis, who was spoken to by the doctor after round 6. The bout probably could have been stopped there and then but Davis was allowed to come out for round 7, being given the opportunity to have one more round.
Impressive from Davis he actually had a very decent 7th round. It wasn't a round that saw him shake Farenas or anything, but was a round that saw him doing better than he had in the previous few. He did enough to be allowed out for round 8.
Despite making his way through round 7 with no major issues that luck and fortune ran out in round 8, when Farenas rocked him to his core with about 50 seconds of the round gone. A follow sent Davis stumbling and Steve Smoger finally came in and stopped Davis.
Sadly for Davis his career never recovered and this was the end for him. His once promising career was over.
For Farenas there wasn't a world title fight fight to follow this. Instead he was put in another eliminator which he lost against Jose Pedraza. That set back didn't end Farenas' career but did end his hopes of competing at the top of the sport again, and he would only fight 3 more times afterwards, picking up 3 low key wins.
On reflection this wasn't a huge upset, but certainly was an upset in regards to the pre-fight odds. Farenas was seen as a live under-dog, but exceeded tat expectation and ended up pummelling the pre-fight favourite in what would be his final notable win.
Recently in this series we looked at Manny Pacquiao winning his first world title, with his shock win, at the age of 19, against Chatchai Sasakul. That win is one that often goes over-looked when people look over his career despite it being a massive upset against the WBC and Linear Flyweight champion. That however wasn't the only upset scored by "Pacman" and today we look at another upset win by the Filipino icon.
June 23rd 2001
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (32-2, 23) vs Lehlo Ledwaba (33-1-1, 22)
At the time Pacquiao was 22 years old, he boasted an impressive looking 32-2 (23) record but he had mostly fought at Flyweight, where he had claimed the OPBF and WBC titles. He had moved up to Super Bantamweight after struggles to fight at 112lbs got too much, and lead to him being stripped of the WBC Flyweight title in 1999 and he had failed to secure another world title bout after that.
Although well regarded in Asia Pacquiao wasn't known at all outside of Asia and his title reign at Flyweight had been a short one, consisting of just a single defense. Outside of his short world title reign, several weight classes below, there was little to suggest he was a world class fighter, or would become one.
What many don't realise is that Pacquiao wasn't the original opponent for the bout. That was supposed to be Enrique Sanchez, a Mexican who had been injured in training and Pacquiao took the bout on 2 weeks notice. This had given him almost no time to prepare for the bout, tough he had fought just 2 months earlier against Wethya Sakmuangklang, aka Foijan Prawet. In fact this bout, with Ledwaba, was Pacquiao's third fight in 4 months, his first outside of Asia and, as mentioned, a bout he took on 2 weeks notice.
Whilst Pacquiao was an unknown outside of Asia Lehlo Ledwaba was the IBF Super Bantamweight champion. He was from South Africa and had began to get the attention of HBO, who were very impressed by him. He had won the title with a win at home against John Michael Johnson before going on the road to defend it in the US and the UK. By the time he was facing Pacquiao he had defended the belt 5 times and shown himself to be a very talented fighter, who had stopped 4 of his 5 challengers. He had looked like a brilliant boxer, with an excellent jab, some really sharp movements and a good boxing brain. He knew how to control the ring, and how to box smartly, something that was expected to help him get a read on his unknown challenger.
We mentioned that Enrique Sanchez was originally lined up as the opponent for Ledwaba. Whilst Pacquiao hadn't been training Ledwaba was training to face a southpaw, like Pacquiao. Notably however Sanchez and Pacquiao were very different types of southpaws, and in fact Pacquiao wasn't like the footage that was available on him, of which there wasn't a lot like their is now. One thing we often forget is that youtube has made access to footage a lot easier, but that wasn't around in 2001.
Interestingly this was also Ledwaba's third fight 2001, he had also fought 2 months earlier, beating Carlos Contreras, and had also fought in February, stopping Arnel Barotillo.
Before the opening bell Ledwaba had been priced as a clear favourite. He was a known quantity, a talented fighter and some bookies actually refused to take bets on the bout, seeing it as a foregone conclusion for the South African, who seemed to be heading towards greatness.
From the off the two men both looked to quickly feel out what the other man had in their locker. After only a few seconds however Pacquiao found his groove and he looked crisper, sharper and faster than the champion. To his credit Ledwaba looked relaxed and tried to keep control of the center of the ring, landing some solid straight shots. Despite Ledwaba having some nice moments he was being tagged frequently by the Filipino, who had bloodied the champion's nose and looked dominant as we went to the bell.
After winning the first round Pacquiao managed to dominate the second round, dropping the South African champion. Ledwaba, despite being the champion, was put into survival mode about a minute into the round. The champion tried to do what he could to get Pacquiao's respect, landing a good body shot, but couldn't slow the Filipino for long and Pacquiao would regain control before the round was over.
Mentally and physically Ledwaba was being beaten up. His best shots were only having a momentary effect, and he was being punished soon afterwards. By round 3 Ledwaba was in a hole and he knew it. He did well early in the round, creating space and keeping Pacquiao away early on. Pacquiao however turned it on midway through the round and quickly took the play away from the champion with heavy hurtful blows that again saw him take the round. By the end of the round Ledwaba was a bloodied mess.
Round by round Ledwaba was getting beaten up. He looked a done fighter at the end of round 5 and as we went into round 6 the champion was looking like he needed something big to happen to keep his reign alive. Sadly for him something big did happen though not in the way he would have wanted.
Around 30 seconds into the round Ledwaba was dropped from a left hand by the Filipino. On the restart he was still hurt and another left dropped him. The referee didn't even think about letting Ledwaba got to his feet, instead halting the bout.
Pacquiao had been given a chance to shine and had taken it, beating up the champion to announce himself as a heavy handed, fan friendly fighter.
From this win Pacquiao built and built, and became the global boxing star that fans know and love. He would use this to launch his career in the US and quickly became one of the faces of boxing, scoring big wins over the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barerra, OScar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto among others.
Sadly for Ledwaba he never really recovered from this loss, fighting on until 2006 but going 3-4 before retiring following a stoppage loss to Maxwell Awuku.
When we look over the history of a fighter it can be hard to imagine them being an under-dog in some fights. Today we however we look at the first in a number of big upsets scored by one of Asia's greatest ever fighters. It was a win that sent ripples through the lower weights, and the Asian scene, and began the ascent of a true being star.
December 4th 1998
Tonsuk College Ground, Phuttamonthon, Thailand
Manny Pacquiao (23-1, 14) Vs Chatchai Sasakul (32-1-1, 23)
In December 1998 Manny Pacquiao was a relative unknown in the boxing world outside of Asia. Even there he was only really known as an Oriental level fighter who had won the OPBF Flyweight title in 1997 and defended it once. Whilst his OPBF title win had been a good one, stopping long term champion Chokchai Chockvivat, he was still only a teenager and had done little other than stop Chokchai.
The man Pacquiao was up against was 28 year old Thai Chatchai Sasakul. The once beaten Sasakul had avenged his sole loss, he was in prime, at home in Thailand and the WBC and Linear Flyweight champion.
The Thai had beaten the man who had beaten the man who had beaten the man. The line to Sasakul had dated back more than 20 years, from the brilliant Miguel Canto.
The sole loss on Sasakul's 34 fight record had been a close decision loss to Arbachakov in 1995. Just over 2 years later Sasakul avenged that loss, in Japan, by beating Arbachakov and sending the Russian great into retirement. The only other mark on his record was a technical draw in 1996.
Since winning the title Sasakul had defended the belt twice, against Korean challengers, and was expected to be too good for the 19 year old Pacquiao, who was fighting away from the Philippines for just the second time in his career.
Early on Sasakul did indeed look too good for the Filipino teenager. The skills, footwork and movement of Sasakul was too much for the crude, straight line offense of Pacquiao. The Filipino was all too happy to trudge forward, following Sasakul around the round, whilst the Thai moved smartly, landed single shots and retreated.
Round after round the Thai just looked so much smart against the aggressive, but technically flawed, Filipino. Pacquiao had energy, and no one could fault his will and desire, but he didn't seem to have the skills to cut the ring off, or the boxing IQ to land his left hand. His lead hand essentially looked useless, jabbing at the air with no real conviction. Even when Pacquiao did have success, something he had a little bit of in round 4, he couldn't close the distance quick enough to follow up before Sasakul was out of range.
Through 7 rounds it seemed like the champion was on route to a clear decision against the hungry and powerful teenager. There was plenty to like about Pacquiao's effort, but it seemed like he was simply too raw, too crude, too young, at this point to claim a world title. He looked like he was showing enough raw ability to become a champion, down the line, but like this wasn't going to be that night for him. He was proving to be tough and a real trier but a technically limited trier.
Then we got into round 8 and Sasakul's good work early on, establishing a lead was all deleted in an instant.
Early in round 8 Pacquiao began to find the target and Sasakul began to hold his feet just a touch more. The pressure from Pacquiao was likely to blame, but the movement of the Thai was slowing, it stopped him from escaping at will, and made him fight back more. This was giving the taller, longer Pacquiao more chances to land. With just over 30 seconds of the round left Pacquiao landed a left that seemed to hurt Sasakul, who stumbled. This time the Thai wasn't able to get away, backing on to the ropes as Pacquiao pressed forward. Only seconds later Pacquiao landed a dynamite left hand that dropped Sasakul face first. The champion tried to beat the count but struggled, falling again as he ended up being counted out.
The win netted Pacquiao the first of his many world titles and at the age of 19 he had ripped up the pre-fight forecasts.
Of course during his career Pacquiao would make a career out of scoring upsets, recording notable future upsets over Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera and Oscar De La Hoyam but they are all for another day.
As for Sasakul he was never really the same after this loss. He would go 31-2 after the bout, but had to wait almost a decade for another world title fight, losing that to Cristian Mijares. By that point he was well past his best.
It's fair to say that female boxing has gained a lot of traction in the last few years thanks to the likes of Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Mikaela mayer, Nicola Adams, Delfine Persoon and one or two other ladies who have managed to land big fights on British and US TV. Previously the big female boxing hotspots were Asia, with Japan and South Korea, and Latin America, with Mexico and Argentina leading the way.
The main European interest was Germany, which has sadly faded away drastically as female boxing has began to rise.
In 2013 female boxing got one of it's biggest upsets ever, as one of the sports biggest names was taken out. Inside a round!
April 27th 2013
Arena Mexico, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Riyo Togo (9-4-1, 8) Vs Mariana Juarez (36-6-3, 16) I
We suspect most with a passing interest in female boxing have heard of Mariana Juarez. She is a star in Mexico, a massive boxing name in the country and one of the few true female boxing stars from before the current rise of the sport. Back in 2013 she was working her way towards a WBC Super Flyweight world title bout. Although not the best fighter out there she was a very good fighter, with superstar looks, incredible natural charisma and a body that could turn heads.
Had she chose to model Juarez could likely have made it pretty far, just off her looks. She however chose to box and following some early struggles, losing 2 of her first 3 bouts, had proved to be very successful in the sport. She had real success at Flyweight, winning the WBC Female Flyweight title before moving up in weight with the aim being to add the WVC Super Flyweight title to her collection.
Togo on the other hand was a part time fight who was also reportedly a truck driver. She had done little in the sport other than lose in a Bantamweight world title bout to Yaneth Perez and win the OPBF female Bantamweight title, which at the time had next to no real standing in the sport. Like Juarez she had struggled early on, going 4-2-1 in her first 7 bouts. Despite the set backs she had proven to be a puncher, and was regarded as a very dangerous fighter early on, with 6 wins in the first 3 rounds.
On paper this was supposed to be little more than a stepping stone for Juarez. She was meant to take the next step towards another world title. She was supposed to be the Mexican face of the sport. Sadly for her no one told Togo.
The bout started with the two women boxing, but within seconds the bout had quickly become a brawl with both women letting shots go. Less than a minute into round Juarez seemed to be hurt, but instead of holding and clearing her head she swung and tried to force Togo to back off. From there on we ended up seeing some small breaks, as Juarez found some space to work, but she couldn't get Togo's respect. Instead Togo was trying to walk through Juarez's shots.
With 15 seconds of the round left the two began to trade again and a quick right-left, both on the chin, dropped Juarez. To her credit she got to her feet, but she wasn't looking the most stable. With just seconds left the referee waved off the bout, giving us one of the biggest upsets ever seen in female boxing.
Sadly for Togo a rematch a few months later saw Juarez take a decision, and this win was later clouded over by a glove tampering incident before their rematch, leading some to suggest that Togo had used tampered gloves here. Strangely, given the tempering of the gloves ahead of the rematch, there was seemingly no punishment give to Togo or her team.
When we typically do these "What a Shock" articles we look at upsets scored by Asian fighters. Today we flip that on it's head and look at a big betting upset in 2018 against an Asian fighter. On paper the bout is perhaps not remembered as much of an upset but in regards to the betting this was a genuine surprise and one that sent the loser in to retirement.
August 17th 2018
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4-2, 24) Vs Greg Vendetti (19-2-1, 12)
We're going to begin this by saying that the bookies can get it wrong, really wrong. That appears to have been the case in August 2018 when Japanese veteran Yoshihiro Kamegai was priced as 2/9 favourite with the UK bookies to beat American Greg "The Villain" Vendetti, who was a 3/1 under-dog.
Of course of the two fighters Kamegai is the more well known, even in the US. He is well known as a fan favourite due to his thrilling action bouts and his wars. His fights against the likes of Robert Guerrero, Jesus Soto Karass and Miguel Cotto were were all enjoyable fights that saw Kamegai take significant punishment but never stop coming forward and never stop trying to fight. His limitations were always clear, and he had slow clumsy footwork, awkward technique, open defense, but he more than made up for that with his incredible chin, work rate and will to win.
By August 2018 Kamegai had been out of the ring for a year, following injuries, but was still expected to have too much in the tank for the somewhat unknown Greg Vendetti.
Whilst Kamegai had been mixing in and around world level for a while Vendetti was mostly beating fighters with losing records. His most notable wins were against Ayi Bruce and a razor thin win over Khiary Gray, both in 2017. He had done nothing of note, and looked like a fighter who would look nice on Kamegai's record, with there being much substance behind it.
Sadly for Kamegai no one told him that Vendetti didn't want to play the part of the easy comeback opponent. Instead Vendetti wanted saw Kamegai as a chance to build his own name. This was a huge step up for Vendetti, his first bout on TV, and his first bout in front of a major market.
From the opening round both men looked hungry but it didn't take long for the extra speed and youth of Vendetti to shine through. He seemed much quicker than the 3 year old Kamegai, who marched forward but struggled to land much of value. Up close Vendetti wasn't just landing good shots, but also also tying up Kamegai, smothering the Japanese veteran and preventing Kamegai from letting his hands fly with much consistency.
Round by round Vendetti would out work Kamegai in the pocket, landing not just a significantly higher number than the Japanese fighter, but also landing the shots cleaner in what was a brilliant little inside war. It seemed like Kamegai was the heavier hitter, but struggled to get his shots go at the same volume as Vendetti.
Sadly for Kamegai as the rounds went on he began to look his age. The energy we had seen him show against the likes of Jesus Soto Karass just wasn't there. A hard career, injuries and being 35 years old had began to catch up with him. He was never looking hurt, it would likely have taken Vendetti a baseball bat to have hurt Kamegai, but he was looking like a man on the slide, despite a solid round 4. It was a case that he simply couldn't keep it up as he had earlier in his career.
The phone booth action was great for fans of hard hitting wars, but by the end of the 10th round there was only one winner. Kamegai had had moments, he had had some good rounds, but they were only short lived success, and there really was no way the judges could give the bout to the pre-fight favourite. Instead the judges got it right, scoring the bout 97-93 and 98-92, twice, to Vendetti, who made the most of his big opportunity.
Kamegai wouldn't fight after this, retiring in November 2018 and explaining that he wasn't the fighter he had once been. As for Vendetti he would lose to Michel Soro less than 4 months after this win, but did rediscover his form after that and, at the time of writing, he is still an active fighter. Sadly though the win over Kamegai is his biggest win, by some distance.
The last couple of "What a Shock" articles both focused on Japanese fighters travelling to pick up the upsets, ripping up the scripts and shocking the local fans. This time around we get the chance to focus on a fighter from the Philippines, the country that we suspect gets more upsets by their fighters than any other country. For this fight we roll the clock back just a few years and relive one of the most surprising upsets of 2015.
May 16th 2015
Auditorio Miguel Barragan, San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosí, Mexico
Eden Sonsona (33-6-2, 11) Vs Adrian Estrella (22-0, 20)
Filipino Southpaw Eden Sonsona is not someone we suspect many will be too familiar with, unless a Filipino reading this. The surname might be familiar, with Eden being the cousin of the enigmatic Marvin Sonsona, but Eden probably not so familiar, despite being a professional for well over a decade.
Sonsona turned professional in 2004 and had success on the domestic stage, winning the GAB Super Flyweight and Bantamweight titles. Outside of the Philippines however he struggled to make an impact, losing to the likes of Kohei Kono, Silence Mabuza, Pungluang Sor Singyu and Jonathan Oquendo. His form outside of the Philippines was poor, despite a couple of wins in the US. He wasn't a bad fighter, but he was also not a particularly good one either, and by 2015 he had moved from Flyweight up to Super Featherweight, a weight that didn't seem likely to be a good one for him.
In May 2015 Estrella travelled to San Luis Potosi to take on unbeaten Mexican Adrian "Diamante" Estrella. At this point Estrella was 22-0 (20), he was being matched towards a title fight and had beaten the likes of Dante Jardon and Celestino Caballero. He was holding a number of WBC regional titles and was expected to continue his charge towards a world title by winning the WBC International Silver title here against Sonsona.
Estrella was a good boxer puncher, a strong fighter who was creating buzz. He was unbeaten, at home, 24 years old and the natural Super Featherweight. At the time he was likely being viewed as another potential Mexican to take on the then WBC world champion Takashi Miura, who was getting a reputation as a Mexi-killer.
Given how stacked things were in favour of the naturally bigger, stronger, more powerful, younger, unbeaten local it seemed like this was going to be a foregone conclusion. Estrella was going to win. He was going to win early, make a statement, and move to within touching distance of a world title fight.
Well that was what we all thought.
Just seconds into the bout Estrella touched down, it was ruled a push, rightfully, but it was clear that Sonsona was feeling something and he through the first round throwing hayemakers. He caught Estrella once or twice with wild left hands but Estrella stood up to them. It was clear that Sonsona had come into the bout with the mindset "to win, I need to stop him". Despite landing some huge single shots Sonsona was out worked and Estrella had more than enough good moments himself to secure the round, even wobbling Sonsona at one point. This was a surprisingly great opening round, despite the somewhat wild offensive work of Sonsona.
Roudn 2 started much like round 1 had been, with both men looking to land something big. Sadly for Estrella he was caught, big time, by a counter right hook up top from Sonsona. Estrella tried to beat the count, and got to his feet before stumbling to the corner and forcing the referee to stop the bout. He was up but out of it was he sat in his corner.
With Sonsona celebrating the Mexican TV cameras kept zooming in on Jhonny Gonzalez, sat ringside, who looked in pure shock at the way his countryman had just been stopped.
The victory for Sonsona should have put him in line for a big fight. He had just beaten one of the rising Super Featherweight stars of Mexico. Instead he spent more than 18 months out of the ring and picked up just 2 wins before his career began to capitulate and he went on a losing run which included two decision losses to veteran Jamie Barcelona.
Whilst Sonsona failed to build on this Estrella never rebuilt his career. He scored 6 wins, the most notable of which was a close decision over a then 41 year old DeMarcus Corley before losing 4 of 5 bouts and essentially seeing his career fall apart. As we write this he is still an active fighter, but his career is certainly falling a long way short the expectations he had on his shoulders coming into this bout.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).