Sports underdogs: 10 greatest stories of all time
Betting on sports can be a great way to earn extra income.
But, betting on an underdog in sports, and then winning, can be life-changing!
Who is the next big underdog story?
To help you decide, we’ve compiled a list of the most unexpected winners, the best upsets, and biggest shockers in sporting history. Read about the 10 greatest underdog stories of all time to see if you can identify your next big win!
1. Leicester City stun the big boys, 2016
Leicester City’s unbelievable Premier League victory showed why sport can be magical. The odds on them winning the title were 5000-1 and yet they won their one and only title in 132 years of existence.
How’d they pull it off?
The small-market club took advantage of down years for the “big” teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to become the most unlikely champions in English football.
What was even more shocking was that in the previous season, they were lucky to remain in the English Premier League, just avoiding relegation. Yet with mostly the same team (although a different manager) the relegation favorites stunned the sporting world by becoming Premier League Champions in the space of 12 months!
2. Teenage Boris Becker wins Wimbledon, 1985
In the build-up to the 1985 Wimbledon Championships, a 17-year-old German focused his preparations at Queens Club. When Boris Becker won the warm-up event, commentators declared him a ‘future Wimbledon champion’ – little did they know they’d be proven right three weeks later in the tennis tournament of the summer.
Becker was unseeded heading into the Grand Slam tournament. As an unseeded and unfancied novice, many of his early rounds were scheduled on the outside courts and he needed five sets to defeat experienced campaigners like Joakim Nystrom and Tim Mayotte. As the tournament progressed and both John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors succumbed to the big-serving South African Kevin Curren, the improbable started to look increasingly likely.
Curren was still the strong favorite when the pair met in the final, but Becker played with a swagger and confidence that defied his years. No matter what he achieved in the rest of his career, it was this most unlikely of victories that remains one of Wimbledon’s greatest stories.
3. Greece become champions of Europe, 2004
The Greek team came into the 2004 European Championships without much hope, but with plenty of enthusiasm — the nation was back in the tournament for the first time in 24 years!
That long layoff had tempered expectations, but they beat the hosts in the group stages and after reaching the knockout stages nobody expected much from them against the talented French squad they faced in the quarter-finals. But Greek striker Angelos Charisteas nailed a shocking goal in the 65th minute, and the Greeks stunned Les Bleus, 1–0.
From there, the Greeks rode the wave of that upset past the Czech Republic in the semi-finals, and then again versus host-team Portugal in the final, sealing one of the most remarkable victories in the history of European football.
4. Muhammad Ali defies his age, 1974
“The greatest” sporting fairy tale belongs to boxing and Muhammad Ali regaining the world heavyweight title in 1974. Ali had completely lost his aura of invincibility after making his comeback from a three-year exile imposed over his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War – these years should have been his prime years for competing.
On his return he lost to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, meaning nobody but Ali himself thought he could beat the fearsome George Foreman who had dismantled Norton and Frazier both inside two brutal rounds.
But Ali’s “rope-a-dope” tactics in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire saw him knock out an exhausted Foreman in the eighth round and win back the heavyweight title at the age of 32 – and subsequently sending shockwaves around the sporting world.
5. Niki Lauda comes back from near-death, 1977
Niki Lauda was no underdog.
Born into a wealthy family in Austria, at the height of his career he drove for Ferrari, the richest, most powerful team in Formula One. What makes his story so compelling is the fact that he came back from a truly horrific accident at the Nürburgring in 1976, when he became trapped in the wreckage of his car and suffered severe burns to his head.
His injuries were so bad that Lauda was read his Last Rites. Incredibly, he returned to the track just six weeks later, appearing at Monza with his burns still bandaged, and only lost the 1976 championship by a point to James Hunt after retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix due to unsafe conditions. Lauda went on to win the 1977 and 1984 titles – after his accident, nobody thought he race again – let alone could become F1 champion again.
6. Who?! John Daly wins the USPGA, 1991
Going into the 1991 USPGA Championship, John Daly was not only unknown, but he was not supposed to even play. But then Nick Price withdrew to be at the birth of his first child and so a chain of events began which led to golf’s “Rocky” moment.
Eight players on the alternates list could not get to Crooked Stick, Indianapolis to replace Price, but the ninth reserve got in his car, drove through the night and arrived there on the Thursday ready to play. Daly had never seen the course, but Price’s caddie Jeff ‘Squeaky’ Medlin was still on site and having done all the reconnaissance, agreed to work that week for Daly.
With his long blonde hair and ‘grip it and rip it’ mentality, Daly became an instant crowd favorite and with their backing went on to defy odds of 1000-1 to win the major!
7. Holly Holm defeats Ronda Rousey in UFC 193, 2015
Coming into her match against Holly Holm, “Rowdy” Rousey was at the top of her game going into her UFC bantamweight title defense. Rousey had dominated her last three fights, winning them in 34, 16, and 14 seconds, and positioning her as the heavy favorite against Holm.
But Holm dismissed all that talk, as the boxing specialist neutralized Rousey’s peerless grappling skill and knocked out the favorite with a brutal second-round kick felt “round the world.”
8. The Miracle on Ice, 1980
All sports teams and individuals boast about needing a miracle. But that is exactly what the United States men’s Olympic hockey team needed if they were to defeat the mighty Soviet hockey machine at the 1980 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey final in Lake Placid.
Team USA had been playing well during the Olympic tournament, but their team was filled with amateurs and college players. In contrast, the battle-tested Soviet Union squad boasted of some of the best hockey talent in the world. The Soviet team had dominated for years, and even the most hopeful fans wondered if the United States would even score in the game, let alone win.
Instead, Team USA pulled off an amazing upset, winning the game 4-3 and earning themselves a place in history.
9. David vs. Goliath – Detroit Pistons, 2004
The 2004 Finals was the proverbial David vs. Goliath battle.
In one corner, there were the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that was making its fourth Finals appearance in five seasons. Not only did they have Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant leading the way, they had also acquired Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the off-season.
In the other corner, there was this Pistons team that didn’t have a single superstar. However, what they did have was a team that knew how to play well together at both ends of the floor.
The teams split the first two games of the series at the Staples Center, shifting the venue to the Palace of Auburn Hills for the next three contests. Detroit pounded the Lakers by an astounding 88-68 margin in Game 3 and took the remaining two games to claim the team’s first NBA title since 1990.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates defeat New York Yankees, 1960
The New York Yankees had won 10 out of the last 12 pennants coming into the 1960 World Series, and they were strong favorites to win over the Pirates. The stats all were in favor of the Yankees by the end of the series—New York outscored Pittsburgh 55-27—but the results were not.
The Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski hit one of the most famous home runs in MLB baseball history with his bottom of the ninth, game-winning homer in Game 7 to take the championship, inspiring countless baseball dreams across America!
For punters, betting on the underdog means better odds and better payouts.
Knowing when to take a chance on an underdog is a skill that requires research and patience. It may even lead to you betting on sports you know nothing about!
Punters utilize betting bonuses, free bets and live betting (to cash out if it seems the underdog will not win) to take advantage of big wins while minimizing their risk.
There are countless other sporting underdog stories that didn’t make this list, but these examples made our list to demonstrate the big sports betting wins that punters would have made.
So, the next time you place a bet, which underdog are you going to take a chance on?