Top-10 Biggest Upsets In Sports History

Top-10 Biggest Upsets In Sports History
Buster Douglas' (left) legendary defeat over Mike Tyson (right) in 1990. (Credit: Tony Triolo | HBO)

What is the biggest upset in sports?

There has been a miraculous turn of events that are responsible for some of the unexpected upsets in sports history. From underdogs overpowering sports powerhouse to losing sides snatching victory within seconds of ending gameplay. These ‘David defeating Goliath’ kind of miracles are rare features in the sports world that don’t occur every day. SportyTell has taken a walk down memory lane to list the top-10 biggest upsets in sports history.

The 10 Biggest Upsets in Sports History

10. Duke shocking victory over UNLV

Year: 1990, Sport: Basketball

30 years ago, an unforgettable feat was pulled by the Dukes in the world of basketball at the Hoosier Dome. It was just a regular Saturday night of basketball like every other night. Nevertheless, fans had no idea of the surprise ahead. The Blue Devil underdogs were up against an unbeaten UNLV who were defending champions with 45 games winning streak. On paper, they stood no chance.

The depressing fact to note before the start of that game was the fact that UNLV had destroyed the dukes in a 103–73 scoreline the previous season and that was no confidence booster for the dukes. However, despite the odds, the dukes had their revenge as they punished UNLV to a 79–77 scoreline victory and ended their winning streak. That defeat made the history books as one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

9. Villanova defeating Georgetown to national title victory

Year: 1985, Sport: Basketball

Villanova was the lowest-seeded in the basketball national title race. They put on an impressive performance and had jaw-dropping surviving through single-elimination rounds to get to the final where they were up against Georgetown. The wild card team entered the game as an underdog but changed the fate of expectation as they played a near-perfect game to defeat Georgetown by 66–64 becoming the lowest-seeded team to win the national title and recording one of the astounding biggest upsets in sports history.

8. Jack Flecks defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole

Year: 1955, Sport: Golf

Ben Hogan was the Tiger Woods of the 1950 golfing era, respected and feared amongst opponents. His name strikes panic in the hearts of his opponents than the swings of his golf stick. But Hogan was humbled by an unknown Jack Flecks in the 1955 US Open, ending Hogan’s fifth US Open title chase in an 18 hole playoff win. Hogan never won a fifth US Open title throughout the rest of his career.

7. Liverpool astonishing comeback victory over Barcelona

Year: 2019, Sport: Football (Soccer)

May 7, 2019, is a date the soccer world will live to retell for generations to come. A despondent broken Liverpool who had suffered a gruesome 3 nill loss to soccer powerhouse, Barcelona, in the first leg of the UEFA champions league competition, needed more than just a win to make it through to the final round of the competition.

More blows to the Liverpool camp was the fact that three major goal-scoring players couldn’t feature in that match due to injuries, sub-team had to be fielded. A changed of events left Lionel Messi and company in bewilderment of a whopping 4–nill loss to the ‘Men in Red.’ That was one of the memorable and biggest upsets recorded in sports history. From the scratch of hope to the uncovering of a remarkable victory.

6. UMBC surprising victory over UVA

Year: 2018, Sport: Basketball

A history which occurred twenty years earlier in the women basketball world repeated itself for the first time in men basketball in 2018. 16 seeded team UMBC, pulled a magnificent shocker in a 74-54 game victory over the first-seeded UVA. The game had been a tie at the half, but players like Jarius Lyles seem to live for moments like this as he scored the break-off lead which led to the 20 points wide-margin victory. No. 16 UMBC defeating No. 1 Virginia was recorded in history books as one of the biggest upsets in the sport.

5. New York Giants Super Bowl XLII win over New England Patriots

Year: 2008, Sport: American Football

One of the notable biggest upsets in sports history happened in the National Football League’s Super Bowl XLII in 2008. Underdog New York Giants were up against 12-point favourites, the New England Patriots. They were the likely winner as they were one of the strongest team at the time and in the best form. They had just completed a perfect regular season, the last of such feat being in 1972 by the Miami Dolphins.

However, the Giants stunned the Patriots in a 17–14 victory, becoming the first NFC wild card team to win a super bowl title. That game became the most-watched Super Bowl game with 97.5 million views as at the time.

4. Miracle on Ice

Year: 1980, Sport: Ice Hockey

This was one of the strangest and perhaps the most famous upsets in sports history. A team made up of non-professionals but just college students, the US National Hockey Team, faced the professional star-studded Soviet in the 1980 Olympics which took place in Lake Placid. It was as though a sheep standing in a battle against a ferocious lion.

Prior to that match, they had been whip in a 10-3 margin loss in an exhibition match against this very Soviet team. Though the Soviet team dominated the gameplay, the US made effective use of counter attacks opportunities. The underdogs shocked the world pulling a 4-3 victory. That game inspired a feature film on the winning US team.

3. Leicester City Premier League glory

Year: 2016, Sport: Football (Soccer)

One of the most-watched soccer leagues in the world, the English Premier League met the unexpected in the 2015/2016 season. An unknown Leicester City with 132 years title drought and a 5,000–1 odds shot at winning the title snuck into the league from relegation, outdid top clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool to become the EPL titleholders. Their Premier League victory happened to be the football team’s first top-level championship.

2. Roger Federer’s fall against Juan Martin del Potro

Year: 2009, Sport: Tennis

One of the most decorated players in the tennis world and prominent contender of the greatest tennis player of all-time with multiple trophies and awards to his name, as well as countless records that might never be broken in times to come hit the wrong end in a surprise defeat at the 2009 US Open final. Recall that at the time, Federer was a five-time defending champion.

Juan Martin del Potro, the man responsible for Federer’s Fall, stun the entire tennis world forcing Federer to a fifth set and overpowering him in a 6–2 win in the fifth. That happened to be Juan Martin’s only major title in his career but it was an intense match worthy of remembrance. Roger Federer’s loss to Juan Martin del Potro recorded one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

1. Buster Douglas’ dominating victory over Mike Tyson

Year: 1990, Sport: Boxing

It was the year 1990, in Tokyo Dome where Mike Tyson–Buster Douglas fight recorded the biggest upset in sports history. Mike Tyson had walked into that fight as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, a god in the ring. Whereas, his counterpart Buster Douglas, got into the ring, a 42-1 underdog contrast to Tyson. Only a single betting company had posted odds options for a bet with Douglas.

Prior to the fight, Douglas was not in his best self emotionally as he had lost his mother 23 days to the fight, the mother of his son was battling with kidney ailments and he had contacted a flu disease a day to the fight. Still, Douglas didn’t let all this weigh him down. Right from the onset of the fight, it was obvious Douglas was ready to die in the ring or victory. He was fearless and brutal in delivering punches at the slightest opportunity he saw, never holding back.

What fans and media anticipated would be a 90 seconds stroll in the park for Tyson, lasted a stunning 10 rounds with Douglas defeating Tyson by knockout.


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