It took Muhammad Ali four years to reclaim his world title after an enforced three-year lay-off from boxing.
Ali achieved the feat against the unbeaten George Foreman on neutral territory in Zaire. Ali was the underdog, and almost ten years young than the then 25-year-old, unbeaten Foreman.
He suffered two defeats in the four years it took him to rebuild his fitness and sharpness. Defeat to Joe Frazier in his second fight in 1971 proved he was some way off challenging for a world title again, and he then suffered a set-back loss to Ken Norton in 1973.
Hopefully all the above detail will give boxing fans and the wider world an idea of how special Tyson Fury was against Deontay Wilder. Ali is arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, but even he struggled to find his best form after such a long lay-off.
Fury missed two-and-a-half years, piled on 10 stone and battled with addiction and depression. George Foremans comeback aged 38 is similarly celebrated in heavyweight folklore like Alis.
Foreman made his return to the ring against journeyman Steve Zouski to raise money for charity, but then embarked on a 23-fight quest to become a world champion again. Defeats to Evander Holyfield in 1991 and Tommy Morrison in 1993 raised doubts about whether Foremans body was capable of getting him over the line in a championship fight.
But Foreman managed the feat in 1993 against Michael Moorer just a nine weeks shy of his 46th birthday. The scorecards read out inside the Staples Centre on Saturday night probably denied Fury the greatest comeback in boxing history.
Fury fought just twice before taking on Wilder. During both bouts there were but glimpses of the fighter who beat up Wladimir Klitschko in his own backyard. That achievement already marked out Fury as a special fighter, but the display against Wilder confirms the Gypsy King as a unique talent in heavyweight history.
It seemed impossible to many, myself included, that Fury would be able to outbox Wilder so convincingly. Not because I doubted Furys talents, but because I doubted whether the heavyweight would be able to access the fighter that dethroned Klitschko.
Fury spent two of his three training camps effectively losing weight, ten stone in all. His two comeback fights were glorified sparring matches. Crusierweight Sefer Seferi bailed on the fight after four rounds, while Francesco Pianeta fulfilled his duty to give Fury ten rounds.
They were not ideal warm-ups, and much of the boxing world were baffled to see Fury accept a showdown with Wilder in America. Frank Warren didnt want his fighter to take the offer, neither did Ben Davison. But such is the will of Fury, the fight was made.
Fury moved camp to America, beginning in Big Bear before moving down to sea level in Los Angeles at Freddie Roachs Wild Card gym. Furys fitness and sharpness was the key question going into the Wilder fight, but he showed zero signs of sluggishness.
He did not look troubled by Wilders pace, indeed it was he who set the rythm for most of the contest. Fury was dropped twice, once in the ninth and once in the final round. The 12th round knockout was truly a resurrection moment as Fury suddenly climbed to his feet after laying motionless on the canvas for five seconds.
Wilder thought he had pulled a rabbit out of the hat. But literally seconds after shaking off the knockdown, Fury was showboating. The defending champion then needed a miracle of his own on the scorecards. Boxings inherent ability to shoot itself in the foot spared Wilders blushes following some highly questionable scoring, and Fury was robbed of one of the most incredible victories in boxing history.
It was a comeback victory within a comeback story. There can be no doubt Fury is a special fighter. His talents remain unaffected by abuse, neglect or time. You simply cannot say that about most fighters, not even Ali or Foreman.
Fury should be celebrating a historic achievement. He should be adding the WBC title, the one world title missing from his collection. But one fact is clear and undeniable, Tyson Fury is unique in the annals of heavyweight history. If there were questions about whether Fury could reach the level he once did, there cannot be any lingering doubts after Saturday. Fury is a special fighter, end of debate.