Nigel Benn: Five sports stars who have successfully come out of retirement

Split picture of Michael Jordan, Nigel Benn and Kim Clijsters
Can Nigel Benn (centre) follow in the footsteps of fellow sports stars Michael Jordan (left) and Kim Clijsters (right) in making a successful comeback after retirement?

For many professional athletes, giving up the sport you've put your life's work into can be one of the most difficult things to do.

Former world champion Nigel Benn, whose last professional fight was in 1996, is the latest sports star planning a shock comeback.

Despite being branded the "fittest 55-year-old on planet Earth" by boxing promoter Mark Peters, the former British champion's odds of making a winning return to the ring aren't good.

However, sport can produce unexpected twists.

Just ask Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Anthony Joshua - all boxers who have been on the wrong end of an upset.

If Benn needs any inspiration in making a successful comeback, he needs to look no further than the following sports stars.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Michel Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time

"I'm done. I'm finished. I'm retired. No more."

When Michael Phelps first retired after the 2012 London Olympics, he left swimming as the most successful Olympian of all time.

With a record 18 gold medals to his name and 22 overall, the American had achieved everything he could in the pool.

His legacy was unmatched and his records may never be broken.

Or so we thought.

Following a return to the sport in 2014, Phelps set his sights on more Olympic glory at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 31-year-old didn't disappoint - more triumphs, accolades and celebratory tears followed and Phelps left Brazil with a record of 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold.

Phelps is once again retired but by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he will have just turned 35...

You wouldn't put it past him, would you?

Paul Scholes

Paul Scoles and Sir Alex Ferguson
Paul Scholes retired alongside manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 - Manchester United haven't won the Premier League since

There aren't many footballers who have come out of retirement at the top level and gone on to win the Premier League.

Step forward, Paul Scholes.

Following a 17-year career in which he made 676 appearances for Manchester United, winning 10 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies, the midfielder announced his decision to retire at the end of the 2010-11 campaign.

Fast forward to January 2012, and a midfield injury crisis at Old Trafford led to Scholes coming out of retirement for manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

A few eyebrows were raised, with former United captain Roy Keane calling the move a "gamble".

However, there's a reason Ferguson once referred to Scholes as the "player of a lifetime".

He went on to help the club reclaim the title from rivals Manchester City in 2013 - his 11th Premier League medal.

Scholes and Ferguson both retired that summer, and Manchester United haven't won the league since.

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters with the US Open trophy
Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open to become the first unseeded woman to lift the trophy

It's easy to see why 36-year-old Kim Clijsters has just announced her tennis comeback - she's successfully done it before.

The Belgian first retired in 2007 to start a family, only to return two years later and add an Australian Open and two US Opens to her previous triumph at Flushing Meadows in 2005.

Not only did she add to her Grand Slam collection, she also regained her world number one ranking in 2011, before retiring for a second time in 2012.

As far as sporting comebacks go, not many can top that.

Could she do the extraordinary and win a fifth Grand Slam following her second comeback in 2020?

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player five times during his career

The world was stunned when 30-year-old Michael Jordan, one of the greatest and most marketable NBA players of all time, announced his retirement in 1993.

The American switched to playing Minor League Baseball, turning out for a number of sides.

However two years later, with former side Chicago Bulls struggling, he announced his return to basketball with a short, but emphatic press release.

It read: "I'm back."

Back he was, and like the Terminator, he was relentless in pursuit of his goals.

Jordan led the Bulls to three straight NBA titles between 1996 and 1998, sealing one of the greatest comeback stories of all time.

George Foreman

George Foreman following his title win against Michael Moorer
George Foreman was 45 years old when he regained the heavyweight title against Michael Moorer in 1994

If there's one person in this article who Nigel Benn can take inspiration from the most, then it's former heavyweight champion George Foreman.

During a golden era of heavyweight boxing in the 1970s, Foreman endured bruising rivalries with former champions Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.

His battles, most notably the 'Rumble in the Jungle' with Ali in 1974, led to Foreman taking an extended break from the sport at the age of 28.

A decade later, Foreman surprisingly announced his return to boxing and eventually, aged 45, regained the heavyweight title he had lost to Ali 20 years before.

During the fight, he wore the same red shorts as he did in defeat by Ali.

Nigel Benn, if you still have those shorts from the fight against Steve Collins 23 years ago, it might be time to dig them out...

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