As Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White are all set to rekindle their famous old snooker rivalry having been drawn together in the World Championship Qualifiers, it got us thinking. Which sporting rivalries would we love to see rekindled after several years out of the spotlight? Perhaps Hendry v White is only the beginning.
Let’s wind the clock back and see if the fire is still burning between some of these historic rivals. ..
Tyson v Holyfield III
After six years of negotiations, delays and even a prison sentence, these two finally got the chance to meet in the ring in 1996. Evander Holyfield, after a couple of accidental head clashes, brutally stopped Tyson to pull off one of the biggest shocks in heavyweight history, stopping his opponent in the eleventh.
The second fight was the most infamous in history as Tyson bit a chunk of Holyfield’s ear off and was disqualified after biting him for a second time. The rivalry between these two at their peak was so intense that the pair didn’t forgive each other for a decade. Now a third fight could well be on the cards in Miami this year on May 28. The 54-year-old and the 58-year-old may not be at the top of their games anymore, but seeing these two in the ring again will bring back some incredible boxing memories.
Bolt v Gay
One of the finest rivalries we have seen on the track in recent years saw Jamaican Usain Bolt take on American Tyson Gay. With Gay on top of the sport and looking like every classic sprinter of the past, it was a bit of a surprise to see this tall, lanky youngster turn up and surpass him.
It was a clash of styles and a clash of personalities as Bolt the entertainer won the nation’s hearts but it was Gay who beat him in the 2007 World Championship in the 200m. For the next decade, it was the Usain Bolt show, winning every Olympic sprint gold medal and setting the 100m world record, beating Gay in 2009 World Championships.
The real drama came as Gay failed a drugs test in 2013, was stripped of the bronze medal he won at the London Games and banned for over a year. Bolt said Gay should have been “kicked out of the sport” for doping and described the decision to reduce the American’s ban as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”. It added to the good v evil storyline that had developed by the time the American returned, and like every good villain, he fought back.
The 2015 World Championships were where the two collided in the 100m, and brought one of the greatest commentary lines of all time from Steve Cram as Bolt beat both Gay and fellow American drugs cheat Justin Gatlin to the title. “He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation, he might have even just saved his sport!”
Anyone fancy a rematch?
Woods v Mickelson
Two of the top golfers in the world with eight Masters’ titles between them, but what we really want to see is another play-off between the pair. Mickelson’s 2000 Buick Invitational win ended Tiger Wood’s streak of six consecutive victories on the PGA tour to get this rivalry started even if after the win, Mickelson graciously said, "I didn't want to be the bad guy. I wasn't trying to end the streak per se. I was just trying to win the golf tournament,” beginning a relatively friendly rivalry between the pair which is now entering its third decade.
The two truly got to face off against each other in ‘The Match: Tiger v Phil’, back in 2018 as the pair did the full 18 up against each other with a prize pot of $9 million on the line, along with a few charity-based side bets. Mickelson won after a four-hole play-off as the two could not be separated, while the pair would organise a doubles rematch in 2020 to raise money for the Covid-19 relief fund. This time it was Woods who came out on top alongside Peyton Manning, as the pair defeated Mickelson and Tom Brady. Sensational stuff. Bring on round three.
Williams v Sharapova
The rivalry that was never a rivalry but was also the biggest rivalry in women’s tennis. We loved it. It all began as Maria Sharapova won her first Wimbledon title at the age of 17, beating Williams in the final as she burst onto the world scene. The rivals would lock horns several times since then, in a not always friendly manner, and people would be desperate to see if Sharapova could repeat the feat.
It seemed like the Russian could beat anybody on the planet, except Serena Williams. From 2005-2016, Williams set a new record by beating her 18 consecutive times, leaving their career head-to-head looking less like a rivalry and more like a tally chart. Sharapova was obsessed. In her book released in 2017, she mentioned Serena’s name over 100 times and also tried to give an explanation for why there was such a hatred between the two.
“But, to me, the real answer was there, in this locker room, where I was changing and she was bawling. I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon.”
Williams may have lost that 2004 Wimbledon final, but it’s fair to say that she more than got her revenge after a brutal display of dominance that lasted an entire decade. We’d love to see them on court together again after Sharapova’s 2020 retirement.