Regaining The Crown: The Heavyweights Who Reclaimed The Championship Of The World

On this day in 1960, Floyd Patterson became the first man to regain the heavyweight title
10:00, 20 Jun 2023

On this day in 1960, Floyd Patterson became the first man ever to regain the heavyweight championship of the world. ‘The Gentleman’ had lost the title to Ingemar Johansson via third-round knockout in his previous bout. Almost a year on, Patterson avenged ‘The Hammer of Thor’ in five rounds to lift the title for a second time. He would knock out Johansson again in their trilogy bout before defeating Tom McNeeley in his final defence. Patterson lost the crown to Sonny Liston in a single round in 1962, never to regain it again.

In honour of Patterson’s achievement, here is a look at some of the other great heavyweights who have returned to the throne.


Muhammad Ali

‘The Greatest’ would face Patterson twice during his career, stopping ‘The Gentleman’ on both occasions. But Ali also followed in his footsteps, reclaiming his heavyweight championship on two occasions.

The first time the former Cassius Clay lost his title, it was in a court of law rather than a boxing ring. Ali was stripped of his titles and suspended from his sport for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam war. He lost his first attempt to regain the belt in 1971, when Joe Frazier won their “Fight of the Century”. It would take until 1974 and “The Rumble in the Jungle” before Ali would lift the title again, stopping George Foreman in Zaire.

Ali became the first three-time champion in heavyweight history in the autumn of his career. He was 36 years old when he avenged his championship defeat to Leon Spinks. The Olympic gold medalists met twice in 1978, with Ali emerging as the champion.

George Foreman

While Foreman was the unwilling fall guy for Ali’s reascension, ‘Big’ George would have his own moment in the sun. The Texan knockout artist waited longer than any fighter ever has to regain the heavyweight championship. It was 20 years between that defeat in Zaire and his moment of redemption.

After a decade out of the ring, Foreman returned to much derision in 1987. A comeback that was originally treated as a punchline gained steam when he performed admirably against Evander Holyfield in a 1991 title shot. Three years later, the grill impresario shocked the world by knocking out reigning ruler Michael Moorer to lift the WBA and IBF titles. Foreman reigned as lineal boss for three years before a controversial defeat to Shannon Briggs.

SM News George Foreman Toronto 5jpg

Mike Tyson

‘Iron’ Mike looked like he may never lose the title when he cut a swathe through the division in the second half of the 1980s. But as with scores of hair metal bands, the dawn 1990s were not as kind to the fearsome Catskills slugger. Tyson lost his undisputed championship to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990 in one of the sport’s most enduring upsets.

A prison term for rape kept Mike out of the ring for arguably the last of his prime years. But upon his return to decent society he did manage to strap on another pair of world championships. Frank Bruno was destroyed in three rounds for the WBC strap while WBA titleholder Bruce Seldon embarrassingly folded six months later. Tyson would lose the latter belt to Evander Holyfield in 1996, ending his days at world level.

Lennox Lewis

The greatest heavyweight of his era, Lewis often found concentration an issue. That was certainly the case when tough but unfancied American Oliver McCall relieved him of his WBC title in 1994. By the time Lewis met ‘The Atomic Bull’ in a 1997 rematch, McCall was no longer champion. But Lewis left with his old title anyway, with the vacant WBC gold on the line as McCall bizarrely burst into tears and quit in five rounds.

Lewis’ focus would be questioned again when he appeared to prioritise filming his Ocean’s Eleven cameo over his title defence over Hasim Rahman. ‘The Rock’ sensationally splattered him in five rounds in South Africa. As with McCall, Lewis regained his concentration for a brief, decisive rematch. Rahman was relieved of his newly-won gold in four rounds. Lewis would retire as champion two years later, but not before seeing off Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.

Tyson Fury

Reigning WBC boss Tyson Fury regained the crown in circumstances so spectacular they have been mooted as a possible feature film. ‘The Gypsy King’ vacated the belts he won from long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko after mental health and substance abuse issues ebbed away at his drive and physical condition.

After retiring from the ring, Fury returned after two-and-a-half years to try to regain that which he never lost. His first attempt saw him come back from the brink of a knockout defeat to eke out a draw with WBC kingpin Deontay Wilder. Beating ‘The Bronze Bomber’ in two subsequent rematches, Tyson remains an unbeaten champion eight years after his initial crowning against Klitschko.

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