A case of Greatest Comeback Historians have done tremendous work of documentation on how many countries of the world has succeeded in winning the war after losing many battles, how generals have lost their men and still come out victorious and how sportsmen/women have given up their careers and ended up staging incredible and unbelievable come back. I will like to reference a few cases of these historical events.
In 1585-1587 when ENGLAND began their 1st expedition of colonialism to the Northern part of America little do, they know that they were in for a long ride. Central, South, West, and Eastern part of America filled with Gold and Silver to mine have been taken over by the Spanish and Portuguese empire. The United Kingdom Emissaries arrived at James Town in North Carolina and met the indigenous people that cannot be coarse to force labour with no Gold and Silver to mine. This adventure was a complete failure. Many of these English men died of hunger and the rest result in cannabis. In 1606 England staged a comeback under the leadership of Christopher Newport, but they also went out of food and supplies in 1607 and got rescued by Captain John Smith. It took England another 12 good years (1619) to stage a comeback which gave birth to what is called the United States of America today. This same spirit has led many American sportsmen/women to turn around their fortune even when the whole world has written them off.
Nigeria as a giant of Africa shared this endurance, mental toughness, and doggedness with the United State of America. Many doom Sayers have written many books and articles that Africa’s largest black nation will seize to exist. But we have proved them wrong in many instances. We have won many battles including the civil war. We have survived and overcome many challenges.
However, Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but no one knows who said it. The mantra, however, points to a broader truth: Humans love a good redemption story. Maybe it’s because these stories remind us how difficult it is to be a professional (in any field) or how easy it should be to bounce back from a rough day at the office. In sports, personal comeback stories can take on various shapes and forms, from overcoming injury and age to rebounding from tragedy and scandal. This is why deem it honorable to make a case for Bash Ali and also describe a few of his pairs below who had staged similar comebacks in their sporting career. And they prove that even the biggest winners can lose and the biggest losers still can win.
Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)
Many consider Pelé to be the greatest soccer player of all time. He won three World Cups and is the all-time leading scorer for Brazil. After retiring from the game in his native country, Pelé single-handedly brought soccer to the only major country that still didn’t care about it, the United States. In 1975, he signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and played to sellout crowds around the U.S. During his three-year American tenure, Pelé helped ignite a soccer boom that the U.S. still feels today.
Before she was 20 years old, Monica Seles won eight Grand Slam titles. No one was as dominant as she was at such a young age. After being ranked No. 1 in the world throughout 1991 and 1992, during a match in 1993, she was stabbed in the back with a knife by a fan of her biggest rival. Seles never fully recovered, but she did return to tennis in 1996, even after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer that year, and won the Australian Open, proving that winning requires bravery on and off the court.
Iron Mike Tyson (Michael Gerald Tyson)
After launching his comeback in 1995, Mike Tyson was never again the same dominating force of nature he had been in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But he did come back from a four-year layoff and prison sentence to become one of the most important fighters in the heavyweight division during one of the division’s most competitive decades. After returning to action in 1995, Tyson knocked out Frank Bruno in three rounds to capture the WBC title. He followed that by smashing Bruce Seldon in the first round in September 1996 to win the WBA belt. Two months later Tyson faced Evander Holyfield, in bout fans had been waiting over five years for. Holyfield broke the fierce Tyson down and stopped him in Round 11. After that, Tyson was a shadow of himself. He famously bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear to get himself disqualified in the rematch. He remained a contender and won fights over Francois Botha and Brian Nielson, among others, but the only significant fight he had again was a Round 8 KO loss to Lennox Lewis in 2002. This year Tyson emerge in preparation for an exhibition match.
In 1994 Evander Holyfield lost his heavyweight title to Michael Moorer. After the fight, it was announced that he suffered from a heart condition and would be retiring. By this point, Holyfield had already lost and reclaimed the title against Riddick Bowe in two of the best championship fights in the division’s history. In 1986 he had won a 15-round split decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi in what is almost certainly the greatest cruiserweight fight of all time. So, by 1994, Holyfield had been through wars. If he was suffering from heart problems, it made sense for him to walk away. But a little over a year later, he was back. He won a decision over Ray Mercer and then lost by Round 8 TKO to Bowe in a rubber-match. Then, in November 1996, Holyfield faced Mike Tyson in fight fans had been waiting five years to see. The relentless Holyfield broke down the ferocious Tyson, stopping him in Round 11. It made him the only three-time heavyweight champion besides Muhammad Ali. In 2000, Holyfield beat John Ruiz to become history’s first four-time heavyweight champ. Instead of being a guy who had to walk away in his prime, he became a guy who wouldn’t go away. Holyfield fought throughout the first decade in this century, until well past 40. In 2008 he dropped a majority decision to Nikolay Valuev. It was a nearly unwatchable fight, but I do think Holyfield should have won. It would have made him a five-time champ.
George Foreman crushed faces and old age as a boxer. He first retired from boxing in the 1970s and became a successful entrepreneur, selling more than 100 million grills. A decade after his retirement, Foreman decided to get back in the ring to raise money for his youth center. In 1994, at age 45, Foreman put on the same red shorts he wore when he was beaten and defeated in Zaire by Muhammed Ali 20 years earlier to knocked out Michael Moorer (who was 26 at the time) to become the oldest man to ever win a world heavyweight title. Foreman also broke the record for the longest period between championships.
One of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game, Serena Williams faced recurring shoulder and knee injuries in 2015 and 2016 and had to drop out of tournaments because of them. She came back to win the Australian Open in 2017 and set the all-time active player standard for grand slam singles titles. Serena also holds the record for the most women’s singles matches won at majors. She not only competes on the biggest public and media stages but also opened up about the challenges of returning to the game after giving birth at the age of 35. “Some days, I cry. I’m really sad. I’ve had meltdowns. It’s been a tough 11 months,” she shared. “If I can do it, you guys can do it, too.”
Tiger Woods (Eldrick Tont Woods)
By the time he was 30, Tiger Woods rose to the winning levels of Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan. But Tiger’s fall from grace started in 2009 when his wife caught him cheating with multiple women, and continued through 2017 as he pleaded guilty to reckless driving. The combination of issues he dealt with during that period, including agonizing back pain and multiple back surgeries, might have led to an Icarus-like collapse, but Tiger Woods returned to glory through a spectacular come-from-behind win at the 2019 Masters, his fifth Masters’ win and first since 2005, the longest gap between Masters championships in history. Two presidents from two different parties congratulated him on the win. President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Michael Jordan even said, “it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.” Tiger Woods not only transformed the game of golf. He also evolved himself.
Muhammed Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.)
Muhammed Ali is known as the “athlete of the century” for good reason. He was an international superstar and anti-establishment before anti-establishment was cool. Ali did more than just defeat some of boxing’s toughest foes: Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Ali also battled the most powerful government in the world, becoming one of the greatest contributors to political dialogue in the 20th century. In 1967, during his prime athletic years, he lost his boxing license, had his heavyweight title belt revoked, and was sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War. But his title was reinstated after the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction in Clay vs the United States. After being banned from boxing for three years, Ali lost his first fight as a pro in 1971, to Frazier, in the 15-round “Fight of the Century.” Three years later, Ali battled back to beat Foreman in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” to reclaim the title. He remained in the public spotlight following his days in the ring, even traveling to Iraq in 1990 to negotiate the release of American hostages. Muhammed Ali was the greatest master of reinvention and got back up after every single one of life’s knockouts.
Let me avoid the temptation of mentioning Michael Jordan who was adjudged by playboy magazine to be more popular than Jesus Christ. But Jordan as many of his likes dealt with their fair share of the fearful moment during their moment of a miraculous comeback.
Nigeria like the USA has also produced many greatest sportsmen notably in the field of Boxing. The likes of Nojim Maiyegun, Duncan Dokiwari, Hogan Bassey, Dick Tiger, and Ike Ibeabuchi have made this great nation proud and they have all had their moment of a comeback.
Bash Ali (Bashiru Ali)
Bashiru Ali was born on February 27, 1956, in Lagos, and he started his boxing career in the United States of America in 1978.
He is the only boxer in the world to win every cruiserweight title conceivable as he has won the California title, United States Boxing Association title, North America Boxing Federation title, World Boxing International title twice and the current World Boxing Federation title which he won on September 9, 2000, when he knocked out the then champion, Terry Ray of the USA and Tony Booth of Great Britain threw in the 3rd round just to mention few. He is a formidable man of steel. With 80bouts, 472 rounds, and 58% Kos under his belt. He knocked out Terry Ray of USA on September 9, 2000
Heretofore, several attempts have been made to block this legend of our country who paved the way and set the pace for the new generation of boxers like Anthony Joshua the current holders of IBF, IBO, WBA, WBO, and Tyson Fury current holder of WBC. Bash Ali is a patriot, national hero, and holder of national honor (Order of Niger) which was bestowed on him by formal president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Bash Ali has a genuine case that I urge our current president and commander in chief Muhammadu Buhari, our Minister of Youth and Sport comrade Sunday Dare, and the National Body of Boxing Association of Nigeria to rally round and support our legend to make the greatest comeback in the history of boxing.
If age could not prevent Pele, George Forman, and Larry Holmes from greatest comeback Bash Ali has a chance. If health and injuries could not stop Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Evander Holyfield, and Vitali Klitschko from their superlative comeback Bash Ali has a chance. If mistakes, scandals, and personal damage could not breakdown Mike Tyson and Tiger Wood then Bash Ali have a case. If Politics could not denial Muhammed Ali (Clay) from staging the most celebrated comeback why would anyone want to stop Bash Ali?
Bash Ali must be given national and state support to actualize his dream just like some of his compatriots. If Mike Tyson is trying to make another comeback in an exhibition match slated for this month and President Trump has given his nod and absolute support. I plead we should do the same for this man of honor. Our private sectors should also join and lean their support in this crusade. God Bless Nigeria.
▪︎Bamisebi Samson wrote in from No. 62, Ojuelegba Street Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria.