This Saturday pound-for-pound superstar Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring after a brief absence from the sport. Looking back through boxing history, there have been many examples of former World Champions coming out of retirement to try and relive past glories. Five of those are in our list, which includes two of Pacquiao’s foes.


One of the most famous athletes in history due to his work in and outside of the ring, Muhammad Ali, as Heavyweight Champion, refused to fight for the United States Army in the Vietnam War and subsequently lost his boxing licence in 1967.

After lengthy legal battles the man born Cassius Clay could fight again from 1970. On his return to the competitive division he suffered reverses to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, before winning the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ with George Foreman in 1974. Four years later, he became the first three-time Heavyweight ruler when he lost to Leon Spinks and then regained his crown in an immediate rematch.

Ali Spinks

Sadly, two further retirements and comebacks proved damaging to ‘The Greatest’. The defeats to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick made up two of his five career losses. Those defeats may have impacted his long-term health, but the legend from Louisville will never be forgotten.


The American Heavyweight had a solid reign as Champion in the 1970s, crushing fellow-greats Frazier and Norton within two rounds before losing to Ali in Zaire. George Foreman is said to have experienced a religious epiphany after losing a fight and became an ordained minister in Houston.


After 10 years away from the sport, he returned aged 38 in March 1987. Foreman was unsuccessful in his next two attempts at a World Title, losing to Evander Holyfield in 1991 and Tommy Morrison two years later. It was third time lucky for ‘Big George’ as he knocked out Michael Moorer to lift the WBA and IBF Heavyweight Titles at the age of 45, making him the oldest ever World Champion at the time. He retired permanently in 1997 and became very successful post-boxing after releasing a range of grills.


As the undisputed Welterweight Champion at just 26-years-old, Sugar Ray Leonard was forced to retire after suffering a detached retina in 1982. The American made a swift but unconvincing return two years on and was back again in 1987. This time he took on WBC Middleweight boss Marvin Hagler, and surprised many to claim a controversial split-decision victory over ‘Marvellous’ Marvin, who had become pound-for-pound king during Leonard’s five-year absence.

Sugar Ray Leonard


By the end of the 1990s, Erik Morales was a commanding WBC Super-Bantamweight Champion. He then lifted belts in the Featherweight and Super-Feather divisions. ‘El Terrible’ shared the ring with fellow-Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera three times between 2000 and 2004, as Barrera edged the incredible trilogy of bouts.

Morales Pacquiao

Morales outpointed Manny Pacquiao in 2005 but then suffered four straight defeats, including two consecutive stoppages to Pac Man before calling time on his career.

He returned at Super-Lightweight and after showing flashes of his former self in the 2011 majority-decision loss to Marcos Maidana, he earned a World Title shot against unbeaten Pablo Cesar Cano. Morales overcame his countryman to lift the vacant WBC bauble and further cement his legacy.


While his recent retirement is still fresh in the memory, Floyd Mayweather first walked away from the fight game in 2008. Aged 31 and sat top of the pound-for-pound rankings, the American’s record read 39-0 following the knockout win over Ricky Hatton. A year later he announced his departure despite plans for a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya.

However just as his father had predicted, ‘Money’ returned in 2009 and went on to continue his dominance on the Welterweight division, handily beating the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez and finally Pacquiao in what was billed as ‘Fight of the Century’. After reaching 49 victories without defeat, the self-proclaimed ‘Best Ever’ retired at the top, but rumours of a return continue amongst the boxing world.

Pac Marquez

Find out how Manny Pacquiao fares after coming out of retirement live on BoxNation this Saturday. Sky customers can register for free using code THELEGEND.