After his crushing defeat in June, Anthony Joshua is set to rematch Andy Ruiz for three of the heavyweight world titles in a legacy-defining fight. Let’s take a minute to look at five world champions who bounced back after shock defeats.
MIKE TYSON, 1990
In the biggest of upsets – even bigger than AJ getting dropped four times and stopped earlier this year – Tyson was toppled from his reign of terror by a rough Buster Douglas in 1990. It emerged that, away from the ring, Tyson’s life was going badly wrong and in ‘92 he was convicted of rape and sent down for a three-year stretch.
After returning to the ring in August 1995, Tyson was in heavyweight world title contention just seven months later. Newly minted champ Frank Bruno made his way to Las Vegas for the bout, and Tyson walked away with the title after less than seven minutes of action.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ, 1994
At the start of 1994, Chavez was on an unrivalled 90-fight unbeaten streak. The Mexican legend had won world titles in multiple weight divisions, he’d recently been named ‘The fighter of the year’, and he’d sold out the 130,000 Estadio Azteca in ‘93.
Chavez was a big favourite against Frankie Randall, but the American floored Chavez for the first time in his career and edged out a tight decision. The immediate rematch was set for May, and Chavez recovered his super featherweight belt by the thinnest of margins on points when the contest was stopped because of a cut.
LENNOX LEWIS, 1994 & 2001
The Nineties continued to throw up shock results when unfancied puncher Oliver McCall caught golden boy Lewis cold in the second round of their heavyweight world title fight.
Lewis was kept waiting until 1997 for the rematch and a chance to recapture his old belt. The Brit dominated the first three sessions and then McCall had some kind of mental breakdown – the American refused to engage in any action in the fourth round and was in tears before the referee stopped the contest early in the fifth.
Lennox suffered his second upset loss in 2001 when filming for Ocean’s Eleven overran and the champ didn’t have enough time to get to South Africa and acclimatise. Hasim Rahman was ready and waiting, and ‘The Rock’ iced Lewis in five rounds, but the Baltimore man had no answer to Lewis’s power in the rematch seven months later.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, 2003 & 2004
If there’s one man in boxing who loved a comeback, it’s the younger Klitschko. In 1998, an inexperienced Wlad was KO’d for the first time by rugged journeyman Ross Purity, but the Ukrainian adonis blitzed through 10 opponents the following year and then won a world title for the first time in 2000.
Klitschko took his eye off the ball just two-and-a-half years later, when veteran heavyweight Corrie Sanders only needed two rounds to snatch the belt. And in Klitschko’s first effort to win another version of the title, just 12 months on, he was stopped again, this time by the mediocre Lamon Brewster.
Something had to change, and the Soviet prizefighter sought out the help of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward. That relationship resulted in a nine year run as heavyweight number one, and was only ended by an inspired Tyson Fury.
MANNY PACQUIAO, 2017
Although Pacquiao had taken a few losses in his career, there was never an outright shock until the Filipino congressman met quiet Australian welterweight Jeff Horn in 2017. The bout in Brisbane was supposed to be the start of Pacquiao’s career-closing world tour, but Horn fought bravely and won the title through a controversial decision victory.
At the age of 38 and with a serious political career to manage most people assumed that would be the end of ‘Pac-Man’, but Manny returned in a championship contest 12 months later. Pacquiao rolled back the years and won by KO for the first time since 2009, and he’s gone on to defend the bauble twice against some of the best in the division.