Revenge! Five Historic Rematches

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A look at five instances when a former champion exacted revenge and regained his title as former long-time champion Deontay Wilder attempts to do the same against WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury in their third encounter this Saturday night, live on pay-per-view.

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Deontay Wilder Sends a Message to Tyson Fury Ahead of Trilogy

Although the Oct. 9 pairing of WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) and former long-time WBC titlist Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, live on pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), is technically their third fight, the initial clash – a split draw on Dec. 1, 2018 – could be deemed a wash. Wilder retained his WBC belt, but he floored Fury in the ninth and 12th rounds, the second knockdown coming within one second of a knockout. It could also be reasonably argued that Fury squirreled away enough other rounds to have merited a victory on points.

Now, coming nearly 20 months after Fury’s seventh-round stoppage of Wilder on Feb. 22, 2020, both fighters could possibly make a historic statement, one way or the other. Will Fury make it back-to-back victories over Wilder, thus clearly establishing his claim of superiority in the rivalry? Or will the “Bronze Bomber” take back what once was his, adding his name to those listed below who reversed previous outcomes in title-changing rematches?


DATE: June 22, 1938

LOCATION: New York City, Yankee Stadium

AT STAKE: Louis’ heavyweight championship

RECORDS: Louis 35-1 (29 KOs), Schmeling 52-7-5 (35 KOs)


SUMMARY: It was seen as a huge upset when Germany’s Max Schmeling, an 8-1 underdog despite having reigned as heavyweight champion from 1930 to ’32, floored the undefeated and seemingly invincible Joe Louis in the fourth round before finishing him off in the 12th round before 42,000 stunned spectators in Yankee Stadium. It mattered little to the “Brown Bomber” that he would claim the heavyweight title a year later on an eighth-round KO of Jim Braddock. “I don’t want nobody to call me champ until I beat Schmeling,” he insisted.

After three successful defenses of a bejeweled belt he would go on to hold for 11 years and a record 25 title bouts, Louis, a black American, would get his opportunity to avenge his only defeat to that point against Schmeling, but by then the world was on the verge of a second global conflict and the rematch had taken on connotations that superseded boxing. Louis was widely seen as the heroic defender of democracy while Schmeling, who was not a Nazi, was – unfairly – depicted by one U.S. writer as “a swastika in shorts.”

From the opening bell of the bout, staged before a packed house of 80,000, the on-a-mission champion made it clear he was out to win quickly and emphatically. A ripping right to the body caused Schmeling to double over in pain, and in short order Louis registered three knockdowns, prompting referee Arthur Donovan to wave off the abbreviated massacre.


DATE: June 20, 1960

LOCATION: New York City, the Polo Grounds, 

AT STAKE: Johansson’s heavyweight championship, which he had wrested from Patterson after knocking him down seven times in the third round

RECORDS: Patterson 35-1 (26 KOs), Johansson 22-0 (14 KOs)

RESULT: Patterson KO5

SUMMARY: For a moment in the second round, the fight looked like it might be a repeat of the original as Johansson rocked Patterson with one of his trademark overhand rights. But Patterson made it to the end of the round on his feet. It would be the only window of opportunity that was briefly open for the Swedish champion, who went off as a 7½-5 favorite. Patterson gained the upper hand in the third round and never relinquished it, and he dropped Johansson twice in the fifth, the first for a nine count and the second one with a ripping left hook that made referee Arthur Mercante’s 10-count a mere formality.

“I think it was the hardest blow I ever hit anyone with,” said Patterson, who became the first former heavyweight champion to regain the title, a feat that predecessors Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries, Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling, Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles had failed to accomplish. 


DATE: November 6, 1993

LOCATION: Las Vegas, Caesars Palace

AT STAKE: Bowe’s WBC and WBA heavyweight titles

RECORDS: Bowe 34-0 (29 KOs), Holyfield 29-1 (22 KOs)

RESULT: Holyfield MD12

SUMMARY: Bowe, who had impressively dethroned WBC/WBA/IBF champ Holyfield on a wide unanimous decision a year earlier, appeared to be on his way to a follow-up victory when the unthinkable happened: an attention-seeking paraglider attempted to land in the ring of the temporary outdoor stadium in the seventh round. James Miller, who came to be known as “Fan Man,” got tangled up in the ring ropes, precipitating a 21-minute delay. Perhaps the unexpected intermission did not affect either fighter’s performance thereafter, but when the fight resumed Holyfield, behind on the scorecards, took command and went on to eke out a majority-decision victory.

“Bowe and I fought two different six-round fights tonight,” said Holyfield after he reclaimed two of his titles (the bout was not sanctioned by the IBF). “In the first one, I was just getting ready to go toe-to-toe with him when that guy dropped in. I was in a rhythm, and I felt I could outgun him. I started to get upset (during the delay), but then I realized it was the same for both of us.”

Or was it? Miller’s intrusion caused Bowe’s pregnant wife Judy to faint, and his 82-year-old trainer, Eddie Futch, to have heart palpitations. Bowe also claimed he was unable to warm properly again in the 54-degree night chill. 


DATE: July 18, 1951

LOCATION: Pittsburgh, Forbes Field

AT STAKE: Charles’ heavyweight championship, which he was defending for the ninth time

RECORDS: Charles 71-6-1 (39 KOs), Walcott 49-16-2 (31 KOs)

RESULT: Walcott KO7

SUMMARY: Walcott, making his fifth bid for the title (following two losses to Joe Louis and two to Charles), became the oldest heavyweight champion, at 37, when he put Charles down and out with a devastating left hook. “I’ve tried for 21 years for this night,” the new champ said. “Now I feel like I’m 16 years old.”


DATE: November 25, 1980

LOCATION: New Orleans, the Louisiana Superdome

AT STAKE: Duran’s WBC welterweight title

RECORDS: Duran 72-1 (56 KOs), Leonard 27-1 (18 KOs)

RESULT: Leonard TKO8

SUMMARY: The first meeting of Leonard and Duran, on June 20, 1980,in Montreal, was a classic, with Duran wresting Leonard’s WBC welterweight crown on a razor-thin unanimous decision in no small part because he so got into the Sugar man’s head that he tried to beat the Panamanian bully at his own rough game.

Leonard had no intention of letting that happen again in the rematch four months later, and he openly mocked Duran in the seventh round, wind-milling his right arm before shooting a left jab and doing a pugilistic rhumba like Muhammad Ali. Maybe Duran did have stomach cramps as he claimed after he quit in the eighth round, or maybe his pride was such that he simply was disinclined to be embarrassed.

“He was the living legend, the great macho man,” an unawed Leonard said. “I nullified all that. I saw the expression on his face. The sneer had disappeared.”

For a closer look at Fury vs Wilder 3, check out our fight night page. 

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