Comeback: “a return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they had formerly been successful”
7. Sugar Ray Robinson.
Sugar Ray had more than earned the accolade as the finest boxer in history pound-for pound, as a welterweight and a middleweight. But Ray wanted more. He moved up to light heavyweight and in June of 1952 challenged Joey Maxim for his world title. Robinson was way ahead on the scorecards, but going into the latter rounds of the fight – fought under a temperature of 104 degrees – Robinson hit the wall. He was suffering from heat prostration and had to quit on his stool at the end of thirteen rounds. Sugar Ray announced his retirement afterwards. It stuck for two and a half years.
But then in 1955, after a points defeat to Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Robinson recaptured his middleweight championship. With a swift two round KO over Carl “Bobo” Olsen, Sugar Ray was the king of the world once again. A fine comeback, and one that led to the fights for which Robison is possibly best known and admired today.
6. Muhammad Ali.
Ali, seemingly unbeatable in his 1960s prime, was stripped of his title and prevented from boxing for almost four long years. When he was allowed to return in 1970, Ali actually lost in his first comeback attempt to regain what he has never lost in the ring: the world heavyweight crown – Ali being quite badly beaten by Joe Frazier in the 1971 “Fight of The Century.” But The Greatest was not done and – after having to avenge the loss to Frazier as well as a shock decision loss to Ken Norton in 1973 – Ali challenged the “invincible” George Foreman in the middle of the African jungle in October of 1974.
Once again displaying his skill, guts and brains, Ali upset the odds and stunned Foreman in the eighth-round. The king had regained his crown – one that had been unjustly taken from him in the first place.
5. Roberto Duran.
Roberto Duran was humiliated in his 1980 return fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, held in New Orleans. “Hands of Stone” mumbled those infamous words “No Mas” and quit in round eight. A very uncertain future as a prize fighter awaited him as a result. It took time – nearly three years – but Roberto managed to once again ascend to the summit of world boxing. And although the memory of his shocking act continued to haunt him for quite some time afterwards, Duran went a long way towards restoring his reputation in his 1983 fight with young light middleweight ruler Davey Moore.
An underdog going in, Duran gave Moore a brutal beating over eight rounds to take his belt. In the process, Roberto had done something which had not looked at all likely immediately after his stunning fight at the Super Dome in Louisiana. Duran’s hands of stone had picked up his third world title.
4. Eder Jofre
The fine Boxer from Brazil had a simply remarkable career. He was the undefeated Bantamweight king from 1962 to ’65 and he later won both the featherweight and super featherweight championships. Jofre lost his bantamweight title to Japanese boxer Fighting Harada in May of 1965 and after losing a return bout the following year he retired. Only to come back over three years later.
Eder captured the featherweight title in 1973 by defeating Jose Legra from Cuba and then moved up a division and won the super featherweight championship, from the Mexican, Vincente Saldivar, later the same year! And all this was achieved at the advanced age of thirty-seven. The super feather weight title was never lost in the ring either – he was stripped for failure to defend. In fact, the only man to ever beat Jofre was Harada. Eder retired in 1976 with a brilliant 72 – 2 -4 record. He was never KO’d. It is actually a hard task trying to pick only one of his fistic achievements as the most impressive. The return to form he found in 1973 must rank highly, however.
3. Evander Holyfield.
“The Real Deal” was in a great deal of trouble in his 1994 fight with Michael Moorer. A tired looking Evander was out pointed over twelve rounds and lost his heavyweight title as a consequence. But the later reports of a suspected heart attack suffered by Holyfield while in the ring served to tell us all how much more serious the consequences could have been. This shocking news was actually somewhat ironic, for Evander was a fighter known for his incredible fitness. The fact that something as horrible as a heart attack could have happened to him was very depressing news. He retired from boxing shortly afterwards.
But then, two years later, “The warrior” came back and set about regaining his championship. The fact that he did so, by KO’ing massive betting favourite Mike Tyson in November 1996, is nothing short of logic defying. Many newspapers openly expressed concerns about Evander’s health when the fight was announced. But it was Mike Tyson who was to suffer. Holyfield’s great comeback was a true feel good moment from the sport of boxing.
2. Sugar Ray Leonard.
The concerns over the health of Ray Leonard were also big news when the former welterweight and light middleweight champion announced how he was going to challenge Marvellous Marvin Hagler for Marvellous’ middleweight title. It was the risk of blindness that so worried the experts and fans alike in the case of Sugar Ray. Ray had been forced to retire in 1982 due to retina trouble and now, in 1987,after a poor showing in his previous comeback effort against Kevin Howard three years previously, Ray was going in with the ferocious Hagler. Was he nuts?
Most people thought so, but Sugar Ray rolled back the years and boxed his way to a dazzling points win over the twelve rounds. It was a huge upset. And no-one was more upset that Marvin Hagler He refuses to accept the defeat to this very day, as do many of his fans. But surely no-one can deny the brilliance of Leonard’s skill and talent in coming back to face the best, some five years after his last dominating performance?
1: George Foreman
Big George ranks as high as number one, due in large part, to the age he was when he pulled off his once-in-a lifetime comeback. Foreman really had no business even fighting, the “experts” said. Not at his age. “Come on”, they argued, “the man is nearly fifty!” Yes, they had saluted George for his heroic effort against Evander Holyfield, but that was over three years ago and George had taken a lot of punishment in that fight. Worse still, he had been beaten to a bloody pulp by Alex Stewart since, and then been beaten by Tommy Morrison.
In the fight with “The Duke”, George had failed to score a single knockdown – and this against a guy who nearly everyone had sent to the canvas. Tommy’s chin was not one that would rank amongst the best in boxing, that was certain. Yet George hadn’t put a dent in him throughout twelve full rounds. Therefore, Foreman’s only chance of beating new heavyweight king Michael Moorer – by KO – looked extremely doubtful. Sure, Moorer’s chin was suspect but he was undefeated, could hit with real venom and figured to have tons of pride. Pride which he told everyone would prevent an old man like George from beating him and taking his title.
George, as he had done on a few occasions in his second career in boxing, entered the ring as an underdog. For nine and a half rounds the doubters were proved correct. Moorer really did land some hurt on old George. A particularly powerful looking uppercut blasted George’s head back in the eighth round. But Big George walked through it all. He was showing amazing heart and courage, not to mention stubbornness and a rock solid chin.
This ability to take punches and pain allowed George to pull off a victory in round ten that sent shockwaves through the crowd at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November the 5th 1994. A straight right hand collided with Moorer’s chin at about the middle portion of the round and he collapsed to the canvas. The punch, which George had somehow retrieved from his heyday, took everything out of Moorer and the count hit ten. George Foreman, as he knelt in prayer in a corner, was the new and once again HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD! It had been a staggering twenty years since he had lost the title – to the man at number six on this list. The unforgettable miracle that came true for George surpasses even his incredible return to the top of the heavyweight division.