When Timothy Bradley was awarded a split decision over Manny Pacquiao, the boxing world watched in stunned disbelief.
Bad decisions are a part of boxing, but the Pacquiao-Bradley verdict defied the privileged logic of superstardom in North American sports. In a matter of instants—regardless of what the outcome should have been—Pacquiao went from (nearly) invincible to former champion.
Some would argue that the true test of champions is how they handle adversity and rise from defeat, and this adage takes on added significance in boxing. To lose a fight—especially a championship fight—is to be both metaphorically and physically vanquished.
Boxing’s most remarkable champions are often ones who defy seemingly insurmountable odds to recapture former glory.
Just think about George Foreman and his improbable run to snatch the heavyweight title from Michael Moorer in 1994. That victory did more to endear Foreman to sports fans than his frightening run through the golden age of heavyweight boxing.
In compiling this list, I tried to avoid former champions who currently hold interim titles. Boxing has an abundance of meaningless belts, and sifting through the muck of sanctioning bodies is often arduous. I also refused to acknowledge the fact that, say, Sergio Martinez was stripped of his WBC title, given that he is still The Ring and true middleweight champion.
With that said, let’s find out which former champions will reign again.