This week, I got a message from Rory here at Bleacher Report. With Floyd Jr. coming out of retirement, could you write an article about the 10 Best Boxing Comebacks of the last 20 years?
My first thought was of course I can, that should be easy. There are so many great comebacks. There's um, ah, well, of course, hmmm. How about 25 years?
The problem with writing an article about boxing comebacks is twofold. The first problem is that most comebacks do not end happily. For every Leonard-Hagler match-up there are two or three Jeff Fenech-Azumah Nelson fights.
The second difficulty is that so few fighters actually hang up the gloves when most fans thought they did.
Just because Roberto Duran was off the radar for casual boxing fans throughout the 90's, doesn't mean that man with Manos de Piedra wasn't fighting Hector Camacho for the highly coveted NBA Super Middleweight Title at the ripe old age of 50.
For that reason, I am including comebacks by fighters most people believed were finished and done even though they had not officially retired from the sport.
So, here goes, my picks for the top 10 boxing comebacks of the past 25 years.
10. Vernon Forrest - Sergio Rios, July 16, 2005. Forrest took off two years after back-to-back defeats to Ricardo Mayorga before coming back to knock out the 18-1 Rios. He only lost one more time before his unfortunate death earlier this year.
9. James Toney - Terry Porter, March 7, 1999. Toney was an out-of-shape, distracted former great who hadn't fought for 21 months when he got back together with former trainer Freddie Roach in 1999.
The fortunes of both fighter and trainer turned around at that time culminating with Toney claiming the IBF Cruiserweight Title, moving up to knock out Evander Holyfield and being named Ring's Fighter of the Year in 2003.
8. Glen Johnson - Clinton Woods, Nov. 7, 2003. Johnson had become a professional opponent at this point in his career. Taking fights and losses all over the world, from Connecticut to Italy, Germany and Aruba. His two fights with Woods put him back on the map and reminded the boxing world of the talent and toughness of the Jamaican-born Light Heavyweight.
7. Shane Mosley - Fernando Vargas, Feb. 25, 2006. A battle of two fighters that everyone thought were already shot. Mosley used the occasion to show he still had the speed and power that he had shown earlier in his career. Since then he has accrued one loss, a close battle with Miguel Cotto, while scaring the daylights out of Floyd, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
6. Bernard Hopkins - Winky Wright, July 21, 2007. Bernard Hopkins was out for over a year and contemplating retirement when he destroyed the talented Wright and set himself up for a showdown with Joe Calzaghe.
5. Mike Tyson - Peter McNeeley, Aug. 19, 1995. Iron Mike's first fight out of the joint. It's hard to believe McNeeley was 38-1 coming into this fight. McNeeley's corner threw in the towel after Tyson floored him twice in the first round.
It wasn't much of a fight but Tyson's comeback and the continued public fascination with Iron Mike kept boxing afloat until Oscar De La Hoya became a superstar later in the decade.
4. Roberto Duran - Iran Barkley, Feb. 24, 1989. In 1988, most people assumed Roberto Duran had already retired. He fought three times that year against the formidable trio of Jeff Lanas, Ricky Stackhouse and the 9-1-1 Paul Thorne.
Then out of nowhere he rose up and beat Iran Barkley and won the the WBC Middleweight Title. His comeback was so electrifying it was named Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year.
3. Vitali Klitschko - Samuel Peter, Oct. 11, 2008. Say what you like about the Klitschkos, they are very good. Vitali came back after four years off and stopped Peter in eight rounds savage rounds. No small feat for any fighter. Anywhere, anytime.
2. George Foreman - Steve Zouski, March 9, 1987. Okay, okay. It wasn't the greatest fight. And Steve Zouski wasn't the greatest fighter of all time. But Big George was pushing 40 and had been out of the game almost 10 years when he stepped in the ring in Sacramento to fight Zouski. Four years later he fought for the title against Evander Holyfield. Then in 1994 he stunned Michael Moorer to claim a piece of the Heavyweight Title 20 years after losing it to Muhammad Ali in Zaire. The road back started here.
1. Sugar Ray Leonard - Marvin Hagler, April 6, 1987. Enough said.
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