On the 50th anniversary of Clay v Liston, here are 10 of the biggest shocks in the history of sport 9 years ago

On the 50th anniversary of Clay v Liston, here are 10 of the biggest shocks in the history of sport

It's fifty years today since Cassius Clay announced himself to the world by beating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. With that in mind, we look at ten of sport's biggest shocks...

Without any further ado...


Cassius Clay v Sonny Liston

The shock that inspired this article, given the fact that it took place 50 years ago today, saw the then 22-year-old Cassius Clay take on heavyweight champion Sonny Liston and win in Miami Beach.

Clay had the mouth but none of the expectation, as pundits predicted his downfall at the hands of the champion and ex-convict, who had spent two years in jail for robbery and had known mob associations.



Former promoter Bob Arum told the Telegraph recently: “People thought Cassius Clay was a joke, a loud-mouth kid who needed a come-uppance. Then he became, right after that fight, a sinister guy when he announced that he was a Muslim and had joined the Nation of Islam. What was disdain for him then turned to hate.

"But Muhammad Ali changed the world, changed how people thought. He made fun of racism, changed perception and for me that was one of his greatest accomplishments. There's nobody that even remotely compares. I really sensed that from the beginning.

“He was beautiful as a person, he was one of the most handsome people you could ever see and there was an aura about him that transcended any type of normal humanity."

1982 All-Ireland Final Offaly v Kerry


Arguably the most famous All-Ireland football final in history saw Offaly halt Kerry’s bid to win five titles in a row with the final kick of the game.

Kerry were leading 0-17 to 0-15 heading into the final minutes when a high ball towards the box was caught by Seamus Darby, who turned a struck his shot past Kerry goalkeeper Charlie Nelligan.

USA v England in the 1950 World Cup


The United States may have steadily crept up the FIFA rankings to become a semi-respected international side in the last 20 years, but in 1950 it was a different story.

The Americans had been outscored 45-2 in their previous seven international matches but somehow pulled a 1-0 win out of the bag on the biggest stage of them all.

Joe Gaetjens scored the only goal of the game against Walter Winterbottom’s side, which included the likes of Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright and Tom Finney, who passed away recently.

Ireland beat England in the 2011 World Cup

Kevin O’Brien. Fastest ever World Cup century off just 50 balls. A victory in the most improbable of circumstances.


Sensational stuff in Bangalore.


Dennis Taylor beating Steve Davis

The 1985 World Snooker final was meant to be something of a walkover for the then 27-year-old Davis against a man who hadn’t made the final in six years, and whose only win had come in the 1984 Rothmans Grand Prix.

The 36-year-old Taylor looked to be down and out several times during the game, trailing 0-8 after the first session, then 7-9 and 15-17.

He eventually got it to 17-17 in front of a TV audience of 18 million. Davis was 62-44 up in the final frame with all the reds and the yellow potted. Long story short, it came down to a black ball finish for the first time in a world final and, well, check this out...

Sutton beating Coventry in the FA Cup

While such a result would cause little more than a ripple nowadays, back in January 1989 Coventry were a successful top flight team in the old First Division – and had won the FA Cup two years previously – while non-league Sutton United were in the old Vauxhall Conference.

This was back in the days when the romance of the FA Cup was more than just a soundbite for BT Sport to try and get more subscribers, and winning the Cup was on a par with the league while English clubs were banned from European competition.

Sutton took the lead through captain Tony Rains, but when David Phillips equalised it seemed like it was all over for the minnows. Not so, as Matthew Hanlan’s improbable winner sent The Us – who now play in the Conference South – into dreamland.

Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson

One of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing, Tyson went into this fight in Tokyo as the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Douglas, on the other, had just lost his mother 23 days before the fight; his partner was suffering with a serious kidney ailment; and he himself had contracted the flu the day before the fight.

None of that mattered, however, as Tyson weathered under the Douglas onslaught and the jig was up in the tenth round after a combination that left the defeated champion reeling.

An emotional Douglas was asked after the fight how he could have won.

"Because of my mother...God bless her heart,” came the response.


Munster beating the All Blacks

Much like when U2 played in Mother Redcaps, hundreds of thousands of people claim to have been at Thomond Park on Hallowe’en, 1978 as Tom Kiernan’s Munster side became the only Irish side in history to beat New Zealand (a record that still stands).

The All Blacks would finish their tour of the Northern Hemisphere otherwise unbeaten, but suffered a 12-0 defeat thanks to a try from Christy Cantillon, and a conversion and two drop goals from Tony Ward.

New Zealand wing Stu Wilson said afterwards, “We were lucky to get nil.”

Shane Lowry winning the Irish Open

The second surprise Offaly winner on this list, Shane Lowry (whose dad played on that 1982 team, coincidentally) was still an amateur when he took victory at the Irish Open golf tournament in 2009. Lowry led from the second round onwards and beat England’s Robert Rock on the third hole of a sudden death play-off. Lowry, then just 22, became only the third amateur to win on the European Tour after Danny Lee and Pablo Martin.

James Braddock beats Max Baer

If you haven’t seen ‘Cinderella Man,’ you probably should, as Russell Crowe plays a journeyman boxer who somehow manages to get a shot at the heavyweight title.

That man was James Braddock, who came from poverty to beat Max Baer despite being a 10-1 underdog.