Fury has a huge task ahead if heavyweight history is anything to go by
The art of a heavyweight comeback
TYSON FURY will take a huge step towards regaining the world heavyweight title if he dethrones WBC champion Deontay Wilder. But the heavyweight comeback is hard to master. Generally, once the title has been lost, it’s a struggle to get it back.
James J. Corbett was the first former champion to try his luck, way back in 1900, when he was beaten by James J. Jeffries. Bob Fitzsimmons – who dethroned Corbett and then lost to Jeffries – also found regaining the championship too much of an ask. Then Jeffries himself, Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling, Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott all failed. Sixty long years after Corbett fell to Jeffries in 23 rounds, Floyd Patterson became the first two-time champion when he brilliantly reversed Ingemar Johansson’s shellacking. Muhammad Ali was the second, when he defeated George Foreman in 1974. Three years later he was the first three-time king via revenge over Leon Spinks.
The title splintered as a consequence of that bout, and eventually allowed Tim Witherspoon to add his name to the list. But anyone mentioning Witherspoon – who lost the WBC belt before winning the WBA title – alongside Patterson and Ali would, 30 or so years ago, have been labelled the 80s’ equivalent of today’s ‘casual’ fan.
Evander Holyfield, however, was worthy of joining the comeback crew when he levelled the score with Riddick Bowe in 1993. Lennox Lewis, too, when he avenged Hasim Rahman eight years later. Between those victories was George Foreman, the greatest heavyweight comeback artist in history. His win over Michael Moorer in 1994, which came 20 years after that aforementioned loss to Ali, remains a truly astonishing achievement today.
Mike Tyson’s return in 1995-1996 is often ignored, but he deserves credit for winning two sanctioning body titles following a layoff. His comeback opponents prior to taking Frank Bruno’s WBC belt – Peter Mcneeley and Buster Mathis Jnr – are comparable to Fury’s recent fodder. Vitali Klitschko is another from whom Fury can draw inspiration. His 2008 return, following four years out, took him straight to then-wbc boss, Samuel Peter, and another underrated triumph. So there is evidence and hope for Tyson Fury. Yet the depths of Fury’s demise following his 2015 victory over Wladimir Klitschko would make victory this weekend all the greater. Fury descended into a dark depression after failing a test for performance enhancing drugs. Drink and recreational drugs became his company of choice. Through it all he ballooned in weight, lost his voice, and showed less regard for his health and wellbeing than any heavyweight who subsequently managed to come back successfully.
Even Foreman’s 10 years out (between 1977-1987) were not nearly as damaging as Fury’s two-and-a-half. Klitschko’s time away was spent fine tuning his athletic body. Mike Tyson remained fit in prison. Also consider that Foreman had seven years to walk among the best heavyweights and find his feet.
Fury’s comeback, by comparison, is not yet crawling. Do not underestimate his achievement if he wins. ONE hopes we won’t be talking about a Frank Buglioni comeback in years to come following his brave and intelligent retirement announcement. He has decided, at the age of 29, to pursue a life outside of the ropes. His last-gasp victory over Hosea Burton to win the British light-heavyweight strap two years ago was electrifying. Prior to that he secured his position among his country’s most exciting fighters during a series of thrilling affairs at super-middleweight and a stirring amateur career.
Buglioni accepted that injuries and his recent form (losing two of three) was a warning to what might have followed. In a brutal and unforgiving sport, littered with casualties who refused to accept the truth, Buglioni’s decision to walk away should be wildly applauded.
Everyone at Boxing News wishes Frank and his family all the very best for the future.
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