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Top 10 Comeback Kids: Where Mike Tyson Ranks Among Sport’s Great Returners

Top 10 Comeback Kids: Where Mike Tyson Ranks Among Sport’s Great Returners

You've seen it. We've seen it. Everyone has seen it.

The video of boxing royalty Mike Tyson getting back into training at the ripe old age of 54 is pretty damn frightening.

Scary footage of Tyson hitting pads and laying into the heavy bag flooded the internet mid-pandemic, sending die-hard fight fans into meltdown and sparking the question as to whether a historic return was genuinely on the cards.

Since returning to training, the former Heavyweight world champ told his social media following: "The gods of war have reawakened me. They've ignited my ego and want me to go to war again."

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Talks of a mega-money return fight had plucky amateurs and seasoned pros chomping at the bit to step into the ring with the man simply known as 'Iron Mike'.

While potential punch bags initially included Aussie sporting greats Paul Gallen and Barry Hall, it appears a more serious opponent has finally been found.

Tyson has agreed to fight former world champ Roy Jones Jnr in an eight-round exhibition bout in California in September - although the fight has already been postponed.

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Clearly an extortionate payday is inevitable for the ageing warrior-turned-marijuana farmer, but the sheer prospect of seeing Tyson bob and weave under the bright lights of a boxing arena has even the most skeptical sports fans licking their lips.

It would, in essence, be one of the greatest sporting comebacks in history - but where does it rank among the rest?

Here, we take a look at some of sport's best return tales and what makes them so special!

Even this bloke made the cut. Credit: PA
Even this bloke made the cut. Credit: PA
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Lance Armstrong (cycling)

Wait one second. We know exactly what you're thinking: Lance Armstrong is a lying cheat who should never be considered in a conversation of this magnitude. To an extent, we agree. But you can't deny the man's strength during this comeback - even if he did dabble in some PEDs. Given just a 40% chance of surviving testicular cancer, the American cyclist crushed the disease before going on to clinch seven consecutive Tour de France wins from 1999 to 2005. Great cyclist? Yes. Drug cheat? Most definitely. One tough bugger? You bet.

Bethany Hamilton (surfing)

Any normal human wouldn't even consider getting back into the water after having their arm torn off in a vicious shark attack. But quite frankly, Bethany Hamilton isn't what you'd classify as a 'regular human'. Just one month after the incident, which completely severed her left arm, the American surfer was out catching waves again. To top it off, she turned professional just a year later before going on to win her first National Title. Not bad for a 14-year-old.

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Bethany Hamilton. Credit: PA
Bethany Hamilton. Credit: PA

Floyd Mayweather (boxing)

Granted, when an in-prime boxer announces their 'retirement' most fans roll their eyes. In boxing, the concept of retiring should really be taken with a pinch of salt as most of them make a return more often than not - mainly for a big pay day and some publicity. And Floyd Mayweather is no different. We've lost count of the amount of times the undefeated showman walked away from the sport only to return not long after. But perhaps his most impressive return to the combat arena was when he faced UFC fan favourite Conor McGregor in 2017. Almost two years after his initial 'final fight' against Andre Berto, a 40-year-old 'Money' Mayweather stepped into the ring with The Notorious and put in arguably the most exciting performance of his career. Oh, and he departed the T-Mobile Arena with a guaranteed purse of US$100 million (AU$153m) - not too shabby for a night's work.

Mayweather vs McGregor was the highest Pay Per View sporting event in history. Credit: PA
Mayweather vs McGregor was the highest Pay Per View sporting event in history. Credit: PA
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Shane Warne (cricket)

While Shane Warne isn't shooting hair loss commercials for Ashley and Martin, he's widely regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of all-time. And while his decorated career spanning nearly two decades was unparalleled, his second coming was even more legendary. Bowing out of cricket in 2006/07 after becoming one of only two bowlers to have taken 1000+ wickets at international level, Warne's next task was to help grow the newest format of cricket: Twenty20.

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Following his retirement at Test level, the Aussie icon signed as the captain for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, cashing a cheque of almost US$450,000 (AU$689k). Warne later went on to sign a lucrative deal with the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, becoming one of the first high-profile cricketers to help launch the Australian competition. Seeing the blonde-haired, trash-talking leg spinner mic'd up on a weekly basis well and truly propelled the BBL into the modern powerhouse competition it is to this day.

Shane Warne playing for Australian in 2005. Credit: PA
Shane Warne playing for Australian in 2005. Credit: PA

Magic Johnson (basketball)

When Earvin 'Magic' Johnson shocked the world in 1991 by announcing he had tested positive for HIV, it looked like his playing career was over. Retiring immediately, the five-time NBA champion took a four-season hiatus to deal with his health. Initially praised as a hero for his honesty and bravery, a layer of uncertainty surrounding the disease itself was still ingrained within the psyche of the American public. At the time, not much was truly known of the disease and Magic was determined to use his time off to educate people on it. Setting up the Magic Johnson Foundation not long after the announcement, the NBA Hall of Famer used his platform to become a HIV and AIDS activist. After helping spread awareness and eradicate the connotations attached to the illness, Johnson finally made his long-awaited return to the court for the 1995/96 season. Magic was well and truly back and he looked better than ever.

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Kim Clijsters (tennis)

Maternity leave? Not for some! While Serena Williams actually one-upped her by winning the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017, it doesn't take away from Kim Clijsters' astonishing achievements. Following a lengthy string of injuries, the Belgian number one was forced to retire from tennis in her prime. After having a baby in her time off, Clijsters quickly announced her comeback in 2009 where she won her second US Open title in just her third tournament back (beating Serena and her sister on the way to gold). Incredibly, she won back-to-back US Open titles in 2010 before clinching the Australian Open crown in 2011. This feat regained Clijsters her world number one ranking and catapulted her into conversation for all-time great tennis players.

Clijsters is pictured with her daughter after winning the US Open. Credit PA
Clijsters is pictured with her daughter after winning the US Open. Credit PA

Michael Jordan (basketball)

If you've been watching the 'Last Dance' documentary, you'll know exactly what we're talking about. After almost single-handedly guiding NBA laughing stocks the Chicago Bulls to three successive championships, the man simply referred to as 'Air Jordan' was forced into an early retirement. Poorly managed by the Bulls backroom staff? Struggling with the tragic death of his father? Having to put up with the relentless media attention? Or simply burnt out from years of physically-demanding basketball? We'll let you be the judge. Either way, MJ turned his back on the NBA and began a career in baseball. But it wasn't long before Jordan made his highly-anticipated return to the court to deliver another three-peat of championships to the sport-fanatic people of the Windy City. His return to Chicago in 1995 not only marked the beginning of a new era for the struggling team, but also marked the rebirth of arguably the most dominant megastar in NBA (and sports) history.

Michael Jordan won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and is the greatest basketball player ever
Michael Jordan won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and is the greatest basketball player ever

Muhammad Ali (boxing)

Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, otherwise known as Muhammad Ali, was undoubtedly one of the greatest boxers to walk the face of the earth. With 56 wins in 61 bouts, the former world champion left an indelible mark on boxing with his trash-talking nature outside of the ring and his fancy footwork in it. But Ali was more than just boxer - he was a fighter in every sense of the word. After beating Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship at the age of 22 in 1964, Ali refused to be drafted into the military for the Vietnam War just two years later. Found guilty of draft evasion, Ali was subsequently stripped of his boxing titles and banned from all competitions. Spending nearly four years out of the ring as a result of his beliefs, Ali rose to prominence and became a high-profile figure of racial pride for African Americans. His conviction was finally overturned in 1971 and Ali returned to boxing to become world heavyweight champion once again. While his impact on the sport itself is unprecedented, perhaps Ali's biggest influence came outside the ring.

Ali knocks out Sonny Liston in 1965. Credit: PA
Ali knocks out Sonny Liston in 1965. Credit: PA

Niki Lauda (Formula 1)

Forty-three days. That's the time it took for Niki Lauda to be back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car after recovering from a near-fatal crash. The Austrian was on the brink of collecting his second world championship when his Ferrari F1 car crashed at the Nurburgring during the 1976 German Grand Prix. Hitting a bump in the road, his car swerved off the track and burst into flames before making contact with another racer. While he was eventually pulled from the wreckage, Lauda was trapped inside the burning car which left him with severe burns to the face.

Lauda's crash in 1976. Credit: PA
Lauda's crash in 1976. Credit: PA

Despite inhaling the hot toxic fumes of the vehicle which caused damage to his lungs, Laude somehow survived. Incredibly, the eager Austrian only missed two events during his recovery before returning to race in the Italian Grand Prix - an event in which he finished fourth. Adding two more F1 World Drivers' Championships to his name after the crash, many widely consider Lauda as one of the greatest drivers of all time.

Lauda's severe facial burns following the incident. Credit: PA
Lauda's severe facial burns following the incident. Credit: PA

Monica Seles (tennis)

As far as sporting returns go, Monica Seles' journey is up there with the very best. As the youngest ever French Open champion at the age of 16 and the youngest woman to ever reach top spot in the World Rankings in 1991, Seles was on a path to greatness. With numerous titles already under her belt, the teenage sensation was at the height of her tennis career in 1993 when a man leaped over the court-side fencing and stabbed her in the back with a knife. It took her almost two years to physically and mentally recover from the traumatising incident, but Seles returned to tennis like a woman possessed. Clinching the Canadian Open in late 1995 and the Australian open in early 1996, the Yugoslavian-born star ended her career with nine Grand Slam singles titles. Not many would even dare step foot on a tennis court again after such a disturbing event, let alone go on a prolific title-winning run of form.

Rob Burrow (rugby league)

Georges St-Pierre (MMA)

The sport of mixed martial arts is gruelling to say the least. Inside the ring, you're taking punishment from rival fighters. Outside of it, you're cutting copious amounts of weight during month-long training camps. For the UFC, the sport's leading organisation, their turnover of fighters is substantial. But those that stick around on the roster for years are a different kind of athlete - step forward Georges St-Pierre. After announcing his plans to end his decorated nine-year career in the UFC - thus vacating the Welterweight title - GSP disappeared from the public eye completely. Almost 50 pay-per-views and approximately four years later, the Canadian-born fighter was lured back into the octagon to fight Michael Bisping for the Middleweight belt - and 'Rush' didn't disappoint. With boxing legend Freddie Roach in his corner GSP put on a spectacle for the fans, submitting Bisping in the third round to become the Middleweight champion and only the fourth person in UFC history to become a champ in multiple divisions.

GSP made his comeback against Bisping at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden. Credit: PA
GSP made his comeback against Bisping at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden. Credit: PA


Featured Image Credit: Instagram / Mike Tyson

Topics: Mike Tyson, Football, Analysis, Boxing, Rugby Union, History, Rugby League, F1, UFC, Australia, MMA

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Max Sherry

Max Sherry is a journalist for SPORTbible Australia. After migrating Down Under from London as a teenager, he instantly fell in love with Aussie sport and its culture. From NRL to AFL, cricket to rugby — you name it, Max watches it (with a beer in hand, of course). During his time at Fox Sports, he worked in the football department covering the Premier League, A-League, Socceroos and Matildas. Born a stone's throw away from West Ham's training ground, Max is obviously a die-hard Liverpool fan.