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Boxing Betting Review: The Upsets of 2016

Tom Craze is back to take a look at some of the big upsets we saw in 2016.

Harry How/Getty Images

Few would argue that 2016 was, overall, a vintage year for boxing.

There's one thing, though, that even a seemingly-endless stream of meticulously-engineered processions, cynical showcase fights and best laid plans can never truly avoid: the upset. After all, there's little that satisfies more than seeing a mollycoddled A-side flattened by someone brought in to make up the numbers - unless, of course, you had money on it actually happening.

Now that the dust has settled on 2016 - and before the schedule for 2017 clicks into gear this weekend, beginning with an excellent unification at super-middleweight - let's take a look at some of the biggest upsets of the past 12 months by the numbers (with thanks to the excellent @Fight_Ghost on Twitter for the full list) from the results that raised a few eyebrows to the seismic shocks that tore betting slips around the world into little pieces.

Whatever the year, those compiling their end-of-year awards lists prior to the traditional boxing jamboree from Japan on New Year's Eve do so at their own risk. With three separate cards taking place across the country - each with world title bouts headlining - so it proved again.

Jonathan Guzman, the IBF titleholder at 122lb going into the evening, did so with a perfect 22-0 (22 KOs) record and a fearsome reputation, having dismantled Shingo Wake - again on the road in Japan - for the vacant belt back in July. At around a -1900 (1/19) favourite with some firms, it's fair to say he wasn't expected to have too many problems with Yukinori Oguni (+1000, 10/1). Although technically the home fighter, Oguni was taking a huge step up in class, having fought and beaten not one, but two, debutants in his last seven fights prior, and otherwise mixing with the type of dubious opposition that you'd expect an unheralded super-bantamweight who'd never fought outside Japan to be mixing with.

Oguni, though, hadn't read the script. Punctuated by multiple knockdowns, the unfancied Japanese put on a stirring performance en route to three 115-112 scorecards, securing one of the most significant shocks of the year in the process.

Indeed, the 122lb division had quite the shake-up in 2016, with super-bantam providing not only one of the year's biggest upsets, but also one of its best feel-good stories - and again Japan took centre stage. Veteran Hozumi Hasegawa (+700) went to war with WBC titlist Hugo Ruiz in September in what was easily one of the better action fights of 2016, eventually forcing the Mexican to retire on his stool after the ninth. In doing so, Hasegawa became a three-weight world champion and duly retired three months later, riding off into the sunset just weeks before his 36th birthday.

The shocks generated by both Hasegawa and Oguni, however, pale in comparison with the year's real big guns. Statistically speaking, one of the year's biggest upsets - if not the biggest upset - was manufactured in the humble surroundings of Philadephia's 2300 Arena, as Jerry Odom, a heavy-handed super-middleweight from Maryland - who ruffled some feathers himself as a +300 underdog with a win against Julius Jackson a few months earlier - was stopped after five rounds. The opponent? One Taneal Goyco (then 8-9-1), a 35-year-old with just three KO wins to his name, who was available to back pre-fight at a garguantan +4000 (40/1). Nice work if you can get it.

Not far behind Goyco's upsets, though, was a shocker witnessed by an altogether more considerable audience. Get-well fights for big name fighters masquerading as main events are nothing new. A big name fighter losing in their televised main event to an actual cab driver is a rare occurrence indeed, and for that reason, David Peralta - who came into a fight against Robert Guerrero as an outrageous +3000 (30/1) outsider while fresh off a decision win against a 22-25-3 Guillermo de Jesus Paz - should be saluted. Incredibly, the chief support on the very same PBC on Spike card that night (August 27) produced an upset so sizeable it lands just outside the top 20 of 2016. Freddy Hernandez's (+550, 11/2) toppling of a gnarled Alfredo Angulo who'd lost three of his previous five, and two of those by stoppage, was - at least in hindsight - perhaps one of the more logical upsets of the year, to the delight of oxymoron fans everywhere.

Indeed, the surprises came thick and fast on PBC cards throughout the year. One of the leading candidates for Upset of the Year came in June, with construction worker Joe Smith Jr (+1500, 15/1) and his first-round stunner over a previously on-form Andrzej Fonfara - and all on network television to boot. If there were a man who defined the year in upsets, it'd be Smith Jr, and though his peculiar knockout win against Bernard Hopkins in December (off PBC, and this time on HBO) wasn't, at +250 (5/2), anywhere near the top of the biggest prices we saw in 2016, it did provide one of the year's lasting images.

Back with the PBC, Carl Frampton's (+300, 3/1) decision win against Leo Santa Cruz, in perhaps the highest-profile bout on this list, vindicated those who believed the odds were wrong from the off. In the build-up to the opening bell, it was Santa Cruz attracting all the money, which left Frampton backers with a decision to make: stick to their guns or top up again at the now-lopsided quotes. It remains this writer's favourite bet of 2016, and was a victory that underlined Frampton's claim to Fighter of the Year accolades.

Under the same banner, Felix Diaz (+400, 4/1 general) halted Sammy Vasquez's 21-fight unbeaten streak, while Thomas Williams Jr (+300, 3/1) shellacked Edwin Rodriguez inside two rounds in a light-heavyweight slugfest. In September, Jose Cayetano (+300, 3/1) outpointed Alexis Santiago before stepping in at short notice to be stopped by Scott Quigg up at 126. Sharing the honours for the biggest PBC upset of 2016, though, is veteran heavyweight Joey Abell (+1500, 15/1), perhaps best known for being hammered by all three of Tyson Fury, Kubrat Pulev, and Chris Arreola. That experience at a higher level, however, seemed to benefit Abell against the heavily-fancied - and unbeaten - John Wesley Nofire, despite the fact Abell came into the contest having lost three of his last five. Undeterred, Abell made a mockery of the prices, bludgeoning Nofire to earn a three-round, three-knockdown stoppage.

Toward the end of year, it felt like there was a glut of upsets, with either house fighters, prospects, or downright heavy favourites being turned over week in, week out. With just three stoppages from his 16 wins, few predicted Craig Cunningham (+1000, 10/1) would cause too many problems for Olympic bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo when the two met in late October. Cunningham, of course, had other plans, dropping the jolly early and battering him until an eventual corner stoppage inside eight rounds. The weekend prior, both Renold Quinlan (+500, 5/1) and Christian Hammer (+750, 15/2) pulled off shocks over Daniel Geale and Erkan Teper respectively. Curiously, both men, as some kind of reward, will both fight next against British opposition on the same bill on February 4, with Quinlan meeting Chris Eubank Jr and Hammer squaring off with David Price, the latter himself no stranger to upset defeats.

The quintessential boxing upset, though, is the first-round knockout. While the classic one-round stoppage, particularly by the underdog, might often prove little in the long run about the class of either man, there are few more dramatic sights than an early curtain call brought about by a bolt from the blue.

Still, you don't need to tell that to Irishman JJ McDonagh (+1000, 10/1), who derailed hot Matchroom prospect Jake Ball (then 7-0, with 6 KOs) in around 90 seconds, knocking his man down twice back in November. One week later, Julius Indongo (+1000, 10/1), a southpaw who'd never fought outside his native Namibia, travelled to Russia and appeared unconvinced about his chances of winning on the scorecards against home favourite Eduard Troyanovsky. After just 40 seconds, Indongo took advantage of some lazy-looking pressure from the Russian, reset, and blasted the unbeaten 36-year-old with a massive overhand left that dropped Troyanovsky like a stone. It was, without doubt, one of the best knockouts of the year, and propelled the previously-unknown ‘Blue Machine' right into the mix at light-welterweight.

Honourable mentions:
Andrew Hernandez (+2800) UD10 Arif Magomedov
Giorgi Beroshvili (+2500) TKO3 Tamas Kovacs
Byron Rojas (+22000 UD12 Hekkie Budler
Devaun Lee (+1200) SD10 Chris Galeano
John Molina Jr (+1000) UD12 Ruslan Provodnikov
Serhiy Demchenko (+1000) TKO10 Mirco Ricci
Mark John Yap (+725) TKO5 Takahiro Yamamoto
Jason Sosa (+700) TKO11 Javier Fortuna
Cesar Juarez (+675) KO8 Albert Pagara
Jerwin Ancajas (+650) UD12 McJoe Arroyo
Jezreel Corrales (+600) KO2 Takashi Uchiyama
Ronny Mittag (+550) SD10 Conrad Cummings
DeMarcus Corley (+400) TKO4 Osama Hadifi
Giovanni De Carolis (+450) TKO11 Vincent Feigenbutz
Lucas Browne (+300) TKO10 Ruslan Chagaev
Frank Buglioni (+350) (TKO12) Hosea Burton

Follow Tom Craze on Twitter @Box_Bet

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