Video Archives: Top 6 Greatest Sporting Showdowns
Muhammad Ali vs Foreman (1974, Zaire)
In terms of big boxing betting upsets nothing matches Mike Tyson’s defeat at the hands of James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990. But the fight was never billed as a “showdown’, with Tyson trading at 1/40 it was a mismatch …or so we thought.
Way back in 1964 Muhammad Ali, (then called Cassius Clay), became world champion by beating Sonny Liston. On that occasion he was 7/1 underdog. Over a decade later, and with a lot of water under the bridge, he was a big outsider once more when facing the unbeaten (in 40 fights), George Foreman.
The bout, forever known as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, grossed an estimated $100 million (inflation-adjusted $500 million) in worldwide revenue and the betting consensus saw Ali go off as the 4/1 underdog.
The history books show Ali successfully employed a strategy he called ‘rope-a-dope’ which exhausted Foreman and allowed him to beat his younger rival by knockout in the 8th round.
Grundy vs Bustino (1975 Ascot)
They call the 1975 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes the ‘Race of Century’. Grundy was the winner of that year’s English and Irish Derby, Bustino had taken the previous season’s St Leger and had broken the course record when taking Epsom’s Coronation Cup at the start of the summer.
It was no two-horse race with dual King George heroine Dahlia, Irish Oaks winner Dibidale and Star Appeal, who would go on to land that year’s Arc, in the line-up. But it became a match where two pace-makers ensured this contest was run at a suicidal pace. A protracted dual eventually went down with Grundy catching Bustino close home. He stopped the clock at 2min-26.9sec obliterating the track record, a time that was not bettered in the race for 35 years and was six seconds faster than the time Dahlia recorded a year earlier.
The duel left its scars on both horses, Grundy raced just once more race finishing well beaten in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup at York (behind three rivals he trounced at Ascot). The King George was Bustino’s last race with a tendon injury flaring up during his next home gallop. He was promptly his retired to stud.
Ballyregan Bob vs Scurlogue Champ (Wembley 1985)
No greyhound race since WWII or subsequently ignited the public’s attention like December 1985’s John Power Showdown at Wembley. This was a four runner race but essentially it was a match race.
Ballyregan Bob, the 4/9 favourite, had won 19 straight races breaking eight track records. His aggregate winning distance of his last six starts was 80 lengths. His big showdown rival was Scurlogue Champ, an enigma who had broken 17 track records at 14 different tacks.
This greyhound was a crowd pleaser who would tail himself off on the first circuit of his eight-bend marathon races and storm through the field on the second circuit to win in style. Such was his unique running style and popularity connections were paid appearance money as ‘The Champ’ would put thousands on the gate.
Alas this showdown turned into a farce with the six bend journey proving too short for Scurlogue Champ and with him unsighted from the hare and even his rivals he pulled himself up on the first circuit. Ballyregan Bob duly won by almost 12 lengths and broke yet another track record. 12 runs and 49 weeks later he entered the Guineas Book of Records a record 32 race unbeaten streak at which point he was retired.
On his death, in 1994 aged 11, he was taxidermied and exhibited in the Natural History Museum at Tring along with the 30’s superstar Mick the Miller.
Crisp vs Red Rum (1973 Grand National)
Red Rum’s exploits in the Grand National cannot really be fully appreciated in this day and age because when he was winning the Aintree showpiece on three occasions (and finishing second twice), the fences were truly merciless.
In 1973 the race was a classic too with the two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner L’Escargot in the field. Crisp, an Australian super-star, who had won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival was also in the field and both carried 12 stone. 33 of the remaining 38 runners carried 10st-7lb or less with an 8-year-old Red Rum shouldering just 10st-5lb.
Crisp led the field virtually all the way in that year’s National in which he was 30 lengths clear at one point and at the last fence still 15 lengths clear of Red Rum who was in receipt of 23lbs. But Rummy made up the ground on the final stretch and hit the front a few strides from the line clocking a record time of 9min-2sec. This race is rightly considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals in history.
Zola Bud vs Mary Decker (1984 LA Olympics)
Athletics was never a mainstream betting sport but such was the showdown of the American poster-girl Mary Decker and barefoot running South African Zola Budd who had been fast tracked British citizenship allowing her to represent Great Britain in the 3000 metres at the Olympic Games, that the bookies priced this on up.
Budd’s application and arrival in the UK was controversial due to her acquiring a passport under preferential circumstances. Groups supporting the abolition of apartheid campaigned vociferously and effectively to highlight the special treatment she received; other applicants had to wait years to be granted citizenship, if at all.
Decker was the 4/5 favourite, Budd even-money and no one else seemed to matter. But Decker fell after a controversial collision with Budd mid-race. And the barefooted runner lost all fluency eventually trailing in seventh.
Maricica Puica of Romania eventually won the race at 9/1 – it was clearly missed on many that she had set the fastest time of the season. Wendy Sly, born in London, took second at odds of 100/1 for each-way players.
Frankel vs Canford Cliffs (2011 Goodwood)
The called it the ‘Dual on the Downs’, the 2011 running of the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Its billing was a result of the undefeated three-year-old Frankel meting the leading older miler Canford Cliffs.
Frankel, the 8/13 favourite in this four-runner contest had been named the Cartier Champion Two-year-old Colt of 2010 following success in the Royal Lodge Stakes and the Dewhurst. As a three-year-old he had stretched his unbeaten sequence to seven with wins taking the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, the 2000 Guineas by six lengths in breath-taking fashion and St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot.
Canford Cliffs had finished third in the previous season’s 2000 Guineas before taking five consecutive Group One races: the Irish 2000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne during his winning sequence.
In the event Frankel bounced out the stalls and made all to win with authority. He would race on for another 15 months taking six more victories retiring a 14 time raced unbeaten legend. Canford Cliff, possibly with nowhere left to go, but officially found to be lame post-race never raced again.