On This Day

  • April 19 down the years

Foreman goes close to glory

George Foreman contested a world title 17 years after losing to Muhammad Ali © Getty Images
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1991
George Foreman's first world title fight since losing to Muhammad Ali on October 30, 1974. Big George had been willing to work his way back up. He was unbeaten in 24 fights since making his comeback on March 9, 1987 after ten years out of the ring. But he was also 42, and up against Evander Holyfield, who was unbeaten as a pro, held three world championship belts, and was 14 years younger. Still, the fight told us a few things. First, despite his bodybuilder's physique, Holyfield didn't have the punch to knock down a man who weighed 18 stone to his 15: in the third round, he had Foreman reeling round the ring but couldn't put him away. Secondly, Foreman was for real. He didn't have the punch that destroyed opponents all those years ago, but he took his punishment and never stopped trying. He lost on points but must have gained confidence for his next attempt at a world title, on November 5, three years later. Holyfield lost his titles to Riddick Bowe in 1992.

2008
The night Joe Calzaghe claimed his first win on American soil. His fight with Bernard Hopkins was his first in the USA and first at light-heavyweight, so there were no titles at stake. Calzaghe had to do it the hard way as Hopkins caught him with a short right hand in the first minute and knocked him down. Calzaghe wasn't hurt, but he struggled throughout the opening rounds, when Hopkins kept scoring with that famous right. As the fight went on, Hopkins landed fewer punches and Calzaghe took over, but the split decision was still greeted with derision. Calzaghe remained unbeaten but admitted it had been one of his hardest fights - even though Hopkins was 43 years old. 'I'm a legend killer,' claimed the Welshman.

1897
The first Boston Marathon. Run over 24½ miles, it attracted only 15 entrants. Despite walking part of the last stretch, John McDermott won in 2 hours 55 minutes 10 seconds, and his margin of 6 minutes 52 seconds is still the widest in the history of the event. The previous year, he'd won the New York Marathon, which wasn't staged again until 1970 - so Boston is the oldest continuously-run annual Marathon in the world.

In 1930, Clarence DeMar won the race for the seventh time at the age of 41, records that still stand. He followed Hans Oldag for the first 16 miles, then pulled away on the hills and finished well ahead of Willie Kyronen. DeMar had won the event for the first time in 1911, then three years in a row 1922-24. He was Olympic bronze medallist in 1924.

The only world record in the men's race was set today in 1935, when Yun Bok-Suh of Korea ran 2:25:39. Two women have set world bests in the event: Liane Winter of West Germany in 1975 and America's Joan Benoit in 1983, when she finished more than six minutes clear of the rest. For the second year in a row, Jim Knaub set a wheelchair world record (1:47:10).

At the 1998 Rotterdam Marathon, Tegla Loroupe broke the world record set in London on 21 April thirteen years before.

1997
At the World Short-Course Championships, Britain's James Hickman won the 200 metres butterfly for the first time. In 2004 he won it for the last time, making him the only swimmer to win the same event at the Championships five times, let alone five in a row.

2001
Haig 'Harry' Prieste died at the age of 104. Back in the 1920 Olympics, he won bronze in highboard diving - but he was better known as a dastardly thief. After the event, he climbed a flagpole and made off with the Olympic flag, which he kept in a suitcase for the next 80 years. He returned it to the IOC in a special ceremony at the 2000 Games.

1952
The oldest player in any Challenge Cup final. In the first final to be televised in full, 41-year-old Gus Risman captained Workington to an 18-10 win over Featherstone Rovers. He kicked three goals, including a penalty in the second minute, and winger John Lawrenson scored two tries, the second converted by Risman to put Workington 15-7 ahead. Fourteen years earlier, Risman had captained Salford to victory in the final, his two goals making the difference in a 7-4 win over Barrow.

Sue Barker never won Wimbledon © Getty Images
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1956
Sue Barker was born in Devon. The women's singles final at Wimbledon on July 1, 1977 should have featured two British players. After losing the first set of her semi-final to big Betty Stove, Barker won the second 6-2 and should have gone on from there. But she hardly ever went to the net, and her big opportunity passed her by 6-4. The year before, Barker had won the French Open singles title from a weak field (no Chris Evert, who was compiling a record run of wins on clay). She helped Britain reach the Fed Cup Final in 1981, where she was thrashed by Evert in the singles and lost the dead doubles. She became the regular presenter of A Question of Sport in 1994 and once reacted strongly to a question (not of sport) about her second name, which is Dorothy.

2002
One of the shortest world title fights in boxing history. When Daisuke Naito of Japan tried to take the WBC flyweight belt from Thailand's Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, he was knocked out in only 34 seconds. Three years later, Naito tried again, but the fight didn't go beyond the seventh round. By the time the two met again in 2007, Wonjongkam had made 17 successful defences and was unbeaten in 11 years. But Naito outpointed him to win the title at last, and kept it after drawing with his old foe the following year.

1953
Sara Simeoni was born in Italy. She took over from Rosi Ackermann as the world's top female high jumper. After finishing sixth at the 1972 Olympics (one place ahead of Ackermann), she won bronze behind her at the 1974 European Championships in Rome and silver to Ackermann's gold at the 1976 Olympics. Then the tide turned. In 1978 she beat Ackermann into second place at the Europeans, and her winning height of 2.01 metres equalled the world record she'd taken from the East German earlier in the year. At the 1980 Olympics, Simeoni completed the handover by winning gold while Ackermann finished fourth. The slide downhill was painless: another bronze at the 1982 Europeans, another silver at the 1984 Olympics. Simeoni was European Indoor champion four times and held the Italian record from 1971 to 2007.

1958
Swimming for Britain against Germany, Margaret Edwards regained the 110 yards backstroke world record that she'd once held for only 20 minutes. Her time was also a new record for 100 metres.

1986
After wrecking Larry Holmes' tilt at history on September 21, Michael Spinks outpointed him again to retain the IBF heavyweight title, this time on a split decision. Before the fight, Holmes claimed the Las Vegas boxing judges were often drunk and could be bought! He was made to apologise, but believed 'my big mouth cost me the fight'. Many observers thought his finishing burst had done enough to win, but although Spinks did a lot of holding near the end, Holmes was 36 and his punches had lost their zip. Both boxers went on to ill-fated encounters with Mike Tyson, Holmes on January 22, 1988, a wide-eyed Spinks on June 27 the same year.

1931
The only time the Monaco Grand Prix was won by a driver born in Monaco. The great Louis Chiron won a national Grand Prix for the first time in 1928 and the last in 1947. Today he drove one of 16 Bugattis in an entry of 23 cars! Starting slowly, he threw in a lap record on his way to overtaking Achille Varzi and finishing well clear of Luigi Fagioli's Maserati.

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