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The longest ever winning streak & belly putter woes

Steven Lynch February 20, 2012
Muhammad Ali was beaten on points by Leon Spinks © PA Photos
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Who was the last world heavyweight champion before Muhammad Ali to lose the title on a points decision? asked Brendon Moore

Muhammad Ali lost the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles on points to Leon Spinks in February 1978 (but regained the WBA title, also on points, seven months later). Remarkably, the last champion before Ali to lose the heavyweight title on a points decision was back in 1935 - when Max Baer, making the first proper defence of the title he'd won from Primo Carnera the year before, lost to James J. Braddock in 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden. Baer was a hot favourite, and may have taken Braddock too lightly: the fight formed the background to the successful 2005 film The Cinderella Man, which was Braddock's nickname.

What is the longest winning streak in any sport? asked Freddie Turner

The most matches known to have been won consecutively in any single sport is 555, the staggering record of the great Pakistani squash player Jahangir Khan between 1981 (when he was 17) and 1986, when he lost to the New Zealander Ross Norman in the World Open. A personal favourite also comes from the world of squash: the Australian Heather McKay was unbeaten between 1962 and 1977, during which she won the British Open (the major title of the time, and the precursor of the World Championship) on no fewer than 16 occasions. It was unusual for her to lose even a game in a best-of-five match - she never lost one in those 16 British Open finals, and won the 1968 one, against her unfortunate compatriot Bev Johnson, 9-0 9-0 9-0.

Who once won their sport's major trophy because the opposition refused to play after the local railway company refused to sell their fans cheap tickets to get to the final? asked Joe Mahoney via Facebook

The answer to this seemingly unlikely conundrum is Louth, who won the All Ireland Senior Football Championships (in Gaelic football) in 1910 after their opponents, Kerry, objected to the fact that the railway would not sell cut-price tickets to their fans. Kerry refused to travel to Dublin, and Louth took the title by default. There was a feeling at the time that the railway's management was hostile to Gaelic football, preferring the "English" game of rugby union; one report of the incident claims that "supporters travelling to big matches were often delayed for hours; however for rugby matches it is reported that first-class facilities were laid on at all times".

Who has won the most medals at the World Indoor Athletics Championships? asked Jeremy Milton

Keegan Bradley broke the duck of the belly putter © Getty Images
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Two athletes have won seven gold medals at the World Indoor Championships. Pride of place should probably go to Mozambique's Maria Mutola, who won the women's 800 metres seven times - in 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2006, only missing out in 1999, when she finished just behind the Czech Ludmila Formanova at Maebashi. Mutola rounded off her career with bronze in the event in 2008, when it was won by the Australian Tamsyn Lewis. The other woman to have won seven gold medals is the Russian Natalya Nazarova, who won five in the 4x400m relay as well as two in the individual 400m. The male record is five golds, by Cuba's Ivan Pedroso, who won the long jump in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001.

Has anyone ever won a golf major using a big broom-handled putter? asked Charles Kentish

Rather surprisingly, given the general popularity of broom-handle (or belly) putters on the pro tours, only one golfer has ever won one of the four majors with one - and it's the most recent major to be contested: Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club last August using one of these big putters. He beat Jason Dufner in a playoff: Dufner - who, like Bradley, had never won a major before - was five shots clear with four to play, but blew up over the last few holes, and then lost the three-hole playoff.

With the Cheltenham Festival coming up, who is the most successful jockey there? asked Mike Keen

The most successful jockey ever at the Cheltenham Festival is the Irishman Ruby Walsh, who rode the 26th of his current total of 30 winners there in 2010, beating the old record of 25, set by another Irishman, Pat Taaffe (who was most famous for being the lucky man who rode Arkle to most of his successes). Walsh - whose real first name is Rupert - set another record in 2009 when he rode seven winners in the four-day Festival's 28 races, including three of the major ones: the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Master Minded, the World Hurdle on Big Buck's, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the great Kauto Star.

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