The Rundown

Five great boxing comebacks – and five that failed

The Rundown

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Hatton in training for his return

This Saturday, Ricky Hatton competes in his first competitive boxing contest in three and a half years when he steps into the ring with Vyacheslav Senchenko in Manchester.

Understandably, Hatton's decision has split opinion as to whether the 34-year-old's in-ring run will be a success or if 'The Hitman' is making a grave mistake after what happened the last time he boxed in 2009.

Looking back at the attempts of others to return to the ring, history dictates that that it could go either way with boxing having had its fair share of good and bad comebacks.

To that effect, here are five returns which worked out quite well, and five which only served to damage the boxer's legacy…

The five who pulled it off:

Sugar Ray Robinson — We start with the man regarded by many as the sport's greatest ever. Robinson initially retired on December 18, 1952, vacating the middleweight championship of the world in the process.

When a post-fight career in entertainment and real estate investments failed, he formally announced his plans to return just under two years later.

It initially looked like a bad decision: after KO'ing Joe Rindone on January 5, 1955, Sugar Ray was widely outpointed by rugged spoiler Ralph Jones a fortnight later.

But far from being deterred by the unflattering re-introduction, Robinson remained philosophical and bounced back with four wins on the spin to earn the right to challenge old nemesis Bobo Olson — whom he knocked out once more in a superb two-round display on December 9, 1955.

Robinson would eventually retire for good in 1965 as a five-time middleweight king.

George Foreman — Heavyweight Foreman made the decision to return to boxing in 1987 to raise money for a youth centre project he was planning in Texas.

When he tipped the scales at 267lbs for a bullying four-round win over Steve Zouski on March 9 of that year, few were impressed by what was dubbed "a sickening sideshow" by Newsday.

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Foreman would make more money endorsing a grill than he ever did in the ring

But after working on his size and cardio, Foreman would eventually push undisputed champion Evander Holyfield to the limit in a unanimous decision defeat in 1994 before stunning Michael Moorer with a 10th-round right to win the Lineal, WBA and IBF belts on November 5, 1994 in Las Vegas.

In his second retirement, Foreman profited greatly from his claims that his comeback was due to his healthy diet as Russell Hobbs came calling with an endorsement deal for what is now known as the George Foreman Grill.

Mark Weinman — Though far from a household name, Mark Weinman garnered the sort of mainstream media press he had never before experienced when making an in-ring return in September of this year.

What set this comeback apart was that 'The Hebrew Hammer' had last fought competitively some 21 years prior — and was now 50 years of age.

However, stamina wasn't an issue as he stopped 32-year-old Dominican Elvis Martinez early in round two, shattering all sorts of records along the way and sending a superb message to the world about the virtues of hard work, desire and lifelong fitness.

Vitali Klitschko — The towering Ukrainian of course now dominates the diminished heavyweight scene along with brother Wladimir, but in 2005 it appeared that his potential would never be fully realised.

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Vitali shows little rust in there against Peter

A failed title challenge of Lennox Lewis' numerous belts in 2003 led to Vitali bouncing back with a eighth-round stoppage of the late Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC and The Ring titles the following year.

After retaining against Danny Williams, a freak accident in training for a defence against Hasim Rahman left Dr. Ironfist with a snapped anterior cruciate ligament, leading to title relinquishment and retirement.

Granted an immediate return to mandatory status by the WBC if he were ever able to return, Vitali did just that when he regained the body's version of the title from Samuel Peter on October 11, 2008 — and he has held it ever since.

James Toney — Toney was considered old news as far back as the late 90s, until a reconciliation with trainer Freddie Roach led to a successful return against Terry Porter after almost two years away.

A 13-fight win streak began there, and encompassed an IBF cruiserweight title win against Vassilly Jirov of Kazakhstan and subsequent heavyweight stoppage of Holyfield.

World heavyweight title glory would be spoiled by a positive test for steroids after a points win over WBA title-holder John Ruiz in 2005 before he drew with WBC champion Hasim Rahman the following year.

His crossover attempts, however, were not quite as impressive: Toney was destroyed by legendary UFC competitor Randy Couture in his mixed martial arts debut in 2010, losing his contract with the fight sport giants immediately thereafter.


And now, five fighters who really shouldn't have bothered:

Muhammad Ali - The man who gives Sugar Ray Robinson his biggest challenge for the title of 'greatest ever' certainly cannot compete with him for 'greatest comeback'

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Ali in action against Holmes

Despite trimming down nicely at the age of 38 to end a two-year hiatus in 1980 against Larry Holmes, Ali's magic when the bell rung was long gone. The then-unbeaten Holmes toyed with the former top dog for 10 unsettling rounds before the towel was thrown in by Angelo Dundee.

Another fight, his last, would also end in defeat as Trevor Berbick took a unanimous decision win on December 11, 1981 in the Bahamas over an almost 40-year-old Ali.

Benny Leonard — Leonard had a true 'unstoppable aura' when he retired as lightweight champion of the world in 1924, but the stock market crash five years later precipitated a return to the ring in 1931 at welterweight.

Things were rosy for 20 fights following his seven-year absence, but the first real world-title calibre test of his second run would come against Jimmy McLarnin at Madison Square Garden on October 7, 1932.

McLarnin recovered from an early scare to batter Leonard into a referee stoppage in round six, and Leonard would never fight again.

Joe Louis — Continuing the theme of financial woes forcing boxers back into active duty, great former heavyweight Joe Louis made a relatively-quick return to the sport on September 27, 1950 against Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium.

The younger and sharper Charles outclassed a broken-down Louis over 15 rounds and although Louis would win eight fights in the aftermath, a comprehensive eighth-round stoppage at the fists of Rocky Marciano passed the torch once and for all and ended Louis' career for good.

Jim Jeffries — Former unbeaten heavyweight kingpin Jeffries returned from six years out, aged 35, when he was almost publicly pressured into accepting a fight with the confident and defiant first black heavyweight champ Jack Johnson  on July 4, 1910.

It was a mistake: Johnson was of course on a different level to the old lion, and won the fight decisively after 15 of a staggering (but back then, standard) 45-rounder.

Felix Trinidad — Trinidad entered the ill-advised comeback ranks not once, but twice.

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Trinidad is put on his knees by Jones

In fairness, his first retirement-breaker, two years after a defeat to Nacine Cherifi in 2002, started impressively when he stopped Ricardo Mayorga at MSG. But when he took the step back up to world-class contests, Winky Wright bossed him over 12 one-sided rounds in 2005 at Vegas' MGM Grand.

Three years later, Felix gave it another go, but would again be dominated over the distance, this time by Roy Jones Jnr at a 170lbs catchweight back in the Big Apple.


Two marquee names in the boxing world apparently did not take kindly to being pigeon-holed, and so ended up embarking on one of each..!

Sugar Ray Leonard — Leonard shocked Marvin Hagler — and the rest of the world — with an intense training regimen to compensate for a three-year hiatus which saw him take the 'Marvellous' one's WBC and The Ring middleweight straps.

But after stretching his 'one-off' comeback to three title defences over the next two-and-a-half years, he would lose decisively over 12 to Terry Norris in 1991.

Six years later, Leonard attempted to shake off the ring rust again aged 40 but would be demolished by Hector Camacho in round five in Atlantic City.

Larry Holmes — And Holmes would bounce back after a failed first comeback saw him obliterated by a prime Mike Tyson in January 1988 after two years away, but would enhance his reputation with a prolonged second run which began in 1991 and saw him win 19 more fights, losing three times in respectable fashion along the way to Holyfield, Brian Neilsen and Oliver McCall.


It remains to be seen where Hatton's comeback ranks among these famous cases — not just whether it works out for him or not, but also how exactly.

Will he begin with success over Senchenko only to suffer embarrassment, a la Trinidad, when he tries to re-enter the world scene? Can he do a Larry Holmes and weather setbacks to fight on for years to come? Can he rival Robinson and Foreman or is an Ali or Jeffries scenario most likely?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below…

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