A last-minute penalty in football, a wild punch to the jaw in boxing, a pick-six in the NFL—it only takes one moment and one second to turn a contest on its head. And when that happens, the odds go out the window and anything can happen.
Every bettor dreams of landing a huge win by betting on a rank outsider. Such outcomes are rare, but the annals of sports betting history are littered with them. Here are some of the biggest ones.
3. Buster Douglas Beats Mike Tyson = 42/1
When James “Buster” Douglas faced Mike Tyson in 1990, no one gave him a chance. He was a stepping stone for Iron Mike. Even before the fight, the talk was about a future match-up between Tyson and Holyfield. Few considered this to be a real contest.
But Douglas had other ideas and claimed an 8th-round knockout that shook the sporting world.
One of the great things about boxing is that everyone has a puncher’s chance. It only takes one well-timed shot, and the fight can turn. But what makes this contest even more amazing is that it wasn’t just one punch—Douglas outclassed Tyson throughout.
It was a combination of Tyson being at his worst and Douglas being at his best. It was a perfect storm of form, desire, PR, momentum, and sheer determination that saw Buster Douglas complete the greatest upset in boxing history.
The odds might not seem as high compared to the other shocks on this list, but that’s pretty much as high as you can get for boxing. This was a true David vs Goliath contest that may never repeat.
2. USA Beat the Soviet Union = 1,000 to 1
The 1980 Winter Olympics ice hockey event has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time and is often referred to as the “Miracle on Ice”.
The Soviet Union was dominant in the sport at the time, having won gold in 5 of the last 6 Winter Olympic Games. Despite being the hosts, the US was the heavy underdog. After a tough first two periods in which the Soviet Union led 3-2, the US scored twice in the final period and held on for a 4-3 win.
Today, there isn’t that much of a difference between the Russian and US teams. Back then, they were poles apart. It’s akin to Qatar scraping through to the knockout round of the 2022 World Cup and then beating Brazil. And the odds reflected that, as the US were around 1,000 to 1 for the win before the start of the event.
1. Leicester City to Win the Premier League = 5,000 to 1
Halfway through the 2014/15 Premier League season, it seemed that the writing was on the wall for Leicester City. The Foxes were bottom of the table, seven points adrift, and surely heading for disaster.
But in an extremely unlikely turn of events, Leicester turned it around, winning 7 of their last 9 games. And that was just the start.
The following season, Leicester City was the rank outsider to win the Premier League and most pundits backed LCFC for relegation. Leicester took 12 points from a possible 21 in August and September and followed this with a 10-game unbeaten run.
After a loss to Liverpool on Boxing Day, the results kept coming. A team that few expected to be in the league in 2016 began the year at the top of the table.
Everyone predicted a dip in form. It seemed inevitable. But it never happened. If anything, Leicester got better, and eventually won the title.
If you had backed Leicester to win the league at the start of the season, you could have gotten odds as high as 5,000-1, and that’s only because sportsbooks didn’t go any higher.
It was a once-in-a-5,000-year outcome that deserves its place at the top of this list.