5 of the greatest sporting redemption stories
Tyson Fury's journey from addiction, depression and controversy to knocking out Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas is one of sport's greatest comebacks.
Just three years ago, Tyson Fury weighed over 400lb. He was drinking 100 pints a week, taking cocaine on a regular basis and existing on a diet of pizza and kebabs.
He had lost all of his world titles, was accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs and had lost his licence to box.
Depression had taken him to the brink of suicide, while his reputation among the British public was at an all-time low.
Now, he is a world champion once again. His stoppage of Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on Saturday makes him the first heavyweight in history to have held the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and The Ring magazine titles.
His redemption in the ring, alongside his work as a mental health advocate, has transformed Fury from villain to hero among sports fans and the general public alike.
It is, however, easy to forget Fury’s past comments on women, the LGBT community and Jewish people – comments for which his apologies have been weak.
Having survived such tough times, though, Fury will now be well aware of the impact his words can have.
Let’s hope he remembers that now he’s back on top.
From November 2009 to mid-2010, Tiger Woods watched his world crumble around him.
The 14-time major winner, who was possibly the biggest sporting star in the world, saw his reputation destroyed by a string of revelations about his extra-marital affairs.
First, his wife left him. Then, his sponsors. Finally, over the course of the next eight years, his health deserted him too.
Four back surgeries left Woods’ career on the brink, with the former star now ranking outside of the world’s top 1000 golfers, while a DUI arrest in 2017 had many writing him off completely.
Then, following spinal fusion surgery, something clicked. Woods registered his first top-five finish on the PGA Tour in March 2018, before winning the season-ending Tour Championship in September.
That form carried over to 2019 and, on 14 April, Woods won his first major in 11 years with a one-stroke victory at the Masters.
The outpouring of emotion on the 18th green at Augusta, with his mother and two kids present, had Woods looking human for very first time.
Getting involved in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub is not the best preparation for the biggest series of your career, but that didn’t stop Ben Stokes.
Out partying with teammate Alex Hales, Stokes was arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm following a late-night incident on 24 September 2017.
He was eventually charged with affray, banned for eight games and fined £30,000 by the ECB, while also losing his sponsorship deal with New Balance.
After being acquitted of the charges in August 2018, Stokes was free to continue his England career once again, but his reputation had taken a serious hit.
Luckily for him, though, a home World Cup in 2019 was fast approaching – where better to rebuild his career?
Stokes duly obliged with a stunning tournament, scoring 465 runs, taking seven wickets and winning man of the match in an iconic final. He would go on to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, cementing his return to hero status among the adoring public.
A foul-mouthed run-in with a fan in South Africa in January shows that Stokes’ edge remains, but a repeat of the Bristol incident is surely out of the question for a player who has matured immeasurably since then.
Sporting stars tend to fall from grace over a period of days, weeks, months or even years.
For David Beckham, all it took was a second – an unnecessary flick of his right boot.
The young midfielder went from darling of the nation to public enemy number one as England crashed out of the 1998 World Cup following his red card against Argentina.
Effigies of Beckham were hung and burned outside pubs, his face plastered on a dartboard on the front page of a national newspaper and, worst of all, several death threats were issued.
His performances for Manchester United certainly didn’t suffer – Beckham was a treble winner just a year after his moment of petulance.
But it wasn’t until October 2001 that Beckham truly redeemed himself with England fans – and once again it took just a second.
Awarded a free-kick with seconds remaining against Greece, and needing a goal to send them through to the 2002 World Cup, Beckham stepped up to curl a beauty into the top corner.
“The kick was about drawing a line under four years of abuse. Four years of bitterness,” explained Beckham.
And what a swing of the boot it was.
In 2001, Michael Vick became the first African-American quarterback to be selected first in the NFL draft.
Over the course of his first six seasons as a professional, Vick helped revolutionise the position with his electric rushing game, breaking several records and being named to three Pro Bowls.
In 2007, however, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison having played a major part in overseeing a dog fighting ring from his home in Virginia.
The cruel nature of his crimes meant a return to the NFL seemed impossible for Vick but, upon his release in 2009, he signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick would go on to compile the greatest season of his career in 2010, being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and selected for a fourth Pro Bowl.
While many saw a changed man who had paid his debt to society, Vick never really managed to get away from his criminal past.
Sporting redemption is one thing, but redemption in the real world is something entirely different.
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