April 22: When Three Heavyweight Upsets Occurred

By James Slater - 04/22/2023 - Comments

It’s odd sometimes, how a certain date can produce some big boxing upsets. Case in point, April 22. It was on this day, in different years, indeed one of these fights taking place in a different decade, when three shockers took place in fights that contested the world heavyweight title.

Rewind to April 22, 1994, and Michael Moorer stunned the world, and made boxing history, by upsetting Evander Holyfield. This was a fight that saw former WBO light heavyweight champ Moorer become the first ever southpaw heavyweight king. Against massive favourite Holyfield – who was coming off a big win over Riddick Bowe, this victory seeing “The Real Deal” avenge his loss to Bowe, in so doing becoming a two-time heavyweight champ – Moorer tore up the script as he won a close decision.

What happened after the fight proved even more shocking. Hospitalised, Holyfield was diagnosed with a heart problem. The tabloid headlines screamed out how Evander had actually suffered a heart attack in the fight with Moorer (he had not).

It was thought by many that the world had seen the last of Holyfield in the ring. Instead, “Warrior” Holyfield was just getting going!

Holyfield would get his revenge over Moorer in 1997, this via 8th round KO.

Fast-forward to April 22 of the following year, and living legend George Foreman got a wholly unexpected battle in his fight with the unheralded Axel Schulz. Foreman, who had done the impossible the previous November, this when he KO’d Moorer to become the oldest heavyweight champion ever, picked what was looked at as a softy for his first defence as a two-time champ. But Schulz had other ideas.

The German contender busted up Foreman’s eye, he made “Big George” look older and slower than either Moorer or Holyfield (in a 1991 fight) had managed, and even Foreman’s most loyal supporters had to twist themselves in knots in order to score the 12-rounder for their hero. Schulz, a massive 9/1 underdog going in, deserved the win and everyone knew it. Instead, folk hero Foreman was charitably handed a majority decision win. So, technically, this wasn’t an upset as the betting favourite won the fight. But all of Foreman’s fans were shocked by the hammering Schulz dished out over the majority of those 12 rounds.

There never was a rematch. Foreman wanted nothing further to do with Axel.

One of the biggest upsets in boxing history took place on April 22, 2001, as defending heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis travelled to South Africa to fight 18/1 dog Hasim Rahman. With a meeting with Nelson Mandela set up for the day after the fight Lewis was sure he would win, and with Lewis arriving in South Africa just days before the fight when at least a couple of weeks were needed in order to acclimatise to the altitude, a fully prepared Rahman shook up the world.

Lewis, who had spent valuable prep time filming scenes for the movie ‘Ocean’s 11,’ before flying to South Africa, was soon out of gas in the fight, his movements laboured and his breathing heavy. Then, in round five, “Rock” Rahman lowered the boom, this in the form of a crushing right hand to the chin. Lewis had been grinning the second before the shot laid him out. It was a stunning sight to behold.

Rahman KO5 Lewis is judged by some experts as the biggest heavyweight upset bar Douglas KO Tyson.

Lennox got his revenge that November, when he iced Rahman in the fourth round.

April 22. A date that threw up three heavyweight spanners in the works, trivia fans.