What makes for an upset like Ruiz over Joshua? Let's look at the factors
Score one for the fat guys! That was an Instagram post I made Sunday morning pertaining to Andy Ruiz Jr's upset knockout of heavyweight boxing champ Anthony Joshua. I watched a replay and highlights of the fight late Saturday night/wee hours Sunday morning.This was considered the third biggest upset in boxing history behind Hasim Rahman over Lennox Lewis and Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson. We love a good upset. Especially when the guy doing the upsetting kind of looks like one of us common folk.
One look at Ruiz and I guarantee you there were guys who immediately thought "if he can be the heavyweight champ, I can probably do the same thing!" Please, don't be THAT guy. Ruiz is a professional boxer who had a 33-1 record entering into this fight with Joshua. Whether he fought and beat 33 tomato cans, broom sticks, or some version of a weak opponent in those wins, he's still a pro boxer. There are several factors that go into the anatomy of an upset in my opinion, so let's take a look at them:
Perception heading into a matchup is a huge contributing factor. In this case, people looked at Ruiz and thought he looked like a Walmart greeter, a bus driver, a taco truck owner, etc. As spectators, we often look at guys' appearances. The first guy off the bus is a real thing. When you're a physical specimen, you attract more attention. People are drawn to the physically imposing figures that look like they're chiseled from granite as opposed to the Average Joes that look more like them because the former reminds them of a superhero and the latter reminds them of themselves.
The odds-makers have a huge part in upsets. They often set the betting odds in which upsets are named by because we have no other true measuring stick to judge them. Vegas isn't stupid. They set the odds in order to drive betting so they make money. So when you see a team or player or fighter is favored, please believe it's by design and through research. Casinos and bookmakers are in business for a reason.
Previous history, or track record, is based upon the records of opponents coming into an event. Perception and odds also play a factor into this. For example, the 2003-04 Pistons finished two games better than the Lakers. The Pistons franchise had only won two NBA titles previously (back to back in the late 80s/early 90s), whereas the Lakers had 14 titles to that point and recently reeled off a three-peat a few years earlier. Given that the Lakers had Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone, it was thought they'd run away with another title. The Pistons not only won the series, they beat the vaunted Lakers 4-1.
When the perception that one team or athlete is so much better than their opponent, the odds are in their favor, and history says that team or athlete will most likely win, they can have an inflated sense of self. Taking an opponent likely or not seriously enough can lower a team or player's guard. This is a recipe for disaster. The 2001 Rams thought a backup quarterback couldn't beat "The Greatest Show on Turf." Little did we know that Super Bowl win by Tom Brady and the Patriots would give birth to a dynasty.
There are also times in which an opponent is at a decided disadvantage. In college sports, one team may have a bigger budget in order to recruit, train, house, and even feed better players. Having better coaches and accommodations will give one team or player an advantage. Maybe there's a health issue involved. UCLA women's softball player Stevie Wisz has lived with a heart condition and put off surgery until after the Women's College World Series. Whatever the disadvantages are, they can often lead one team/player to believe they'll undoubtedly win, while stacking the odds heavily against said team/player's opponent.
Upsets are what gives us hope in sports. They're the improbable wins in which fan bases place their faith until they either win, or get their hopes crushed. We all love a good upset. The NCAA basketball tournament has shown us that an upset can galvanize a group of fans and onlookers into supporting the unlikely hero. Who doesn't enjoy the underdog beating the overwhelming favorite? No one likes the favorite who always wins. Sure, a dynasty is greatness to be admired, but the one who knocks off said dynasty will be celebrated just as much if not more. Once again, here's to all my fellow fat guys out there. Let's forego the gym and healthy food in favor of tacos and television in hopes of becoming the next Andy Ruiz Jr.