When Marvin Hagler became world middleweight champion, Britain's Alan Minter lost it. So did the crowd at Wembley Arena. And not just the title. Minter had taken it from Vito Antuofermo earlier in the year ( March 16), then sliced him up in the return fight. This was his second defence. A class act in the ring, Minter let himself down in a pre-fight interview, praising Hagler as a dangerous opponent but adding 'He's not taking my title. 'I'm not losing it to no black man.' Ouch, Al. Whether Hagler heard that or not, he was a real fury in the ring. Minter had always been prone to cuts, and Hagler's slashing punches were the last thing he needed. Three quick shots in the first round jerked Minter's head back in different directions and nicked his left eye. By the time the referee stopped it in the third, Minter was so badly cut he needed 15 stitches and micro-surgery. When the decision was announced, parts of the crowd rioted, filling the ring with missiles. Hagler had to be escorted away by the police and swore he'd never fight in Britain again: his only defence against a British boxer was staged in Massachusetts (February 11, 1983) against Tony Sibson, who ended Minter's career in 1981. Hagler kept the world title until his last fight, against a crafty Sugar Ray Leonard (April 6, 1987).
The same night in 1986 was infinitely brighter for British boxing. Don Curry was flavour of the time. Winner of all his 25 pro fights, he'd become undisputed world welterweight champion by beating the skilful Milt McCrory, who'd fought two close fights with Colin Jones of Wales. Curry knocked out McCrory in the second round, stopped Jones in the fourth, and was expected to have no trouble with Lloyd Honeyghan, who had the right credentials - also unbeaten (in 28 fights); British, European, and Commonwealth champion - but hadn't fought the same calibre of opponent and didn't have Curry's sharp punches and all-round class. But what he did have was a plan, and the guts to carry it out. Instead of standing back, fearful of Curry's punching, he crowded him from the start, smothering him so the champion couldn't even throw his painful body-shots. In the second round, a right hand sent Curry staggering round the ring. He came back with a big right of his own in the fourth, but Honeyghan punched his way out of bother. In the fifth, he had Curry stumbling again. In the sixth, he cut his eye so badly that the fight was stopped. The result of an accidental butt? Maybe, but Honeyghan had won at least four of the six rounds and Curry's invincibility crumbled the first time he was really tested. Honeyghan's camp had studied tapes and realised Curry always fought the same way. Bashed out of his comfort zone, he had no Plan B. The Ring magazine made it their upset of the year, but Honeyghan was a worthy champion. He made three successful defences, lost unluckily to Jorge Vaca, smashed him in the rematch, then won another fight before losing title bouts to Marlon Starling and Mark Breland. Curry was knocked out by Mike McCallum in a challenge for the WBA light-middleweight title before taking the WBC belt from a much less dangerous opponent in 1988.
Back in 1950, Joe Louis fought his last world title fight. King of the heavyweights for eleven years from 1937, he retired as undefeated champion - only to find his finances suddenly under attack. Louis had donated the earnings from some of his title fights to the US war effort - but the inland revenue began chasing him for the tax on those earnings. Gratitude isn't the word. Short of money, Louis had to return to boxing, and his first fight back was for the world title. But he was 36 by now, and his famous speed of punch was gone. Ezzard Charles was no more than a built-up light-heavyweight but a great one. Although Louis was two and a half stone heavier, he weighed a stone more than in his prime, and the extra ballast slowed him right down. Charles fought the last five rounds with one eye closed, but even then Louis won only two of the 15 rounds on one judges' cards and only three on another. His arms were just too tired to do what his brain wanted, and Charles almost knocked him out in the 14th. Louis kept boxing for the money, taking nine fights in the next 13 months until Rocky Marciano destroyed him in the last. Charles made another four successful defences before losing the title to old Jersey Joe Walcott the following year.
In golf's Ryder Cup, Europe beat the USA away from home for the first time, something Britain & Ireland alone had never been able to do. After their landmark win two years earlier (September 15), the Continentals flew to Ohio to defend the trophy at the Muirfield Village course designed by Jack Nicklaus, the USA's non-playing captain. They flew with an immensely strong team: Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, José María Olazábal. It won six of the eight foursomes and fourballs on the first day and stretched the lead to five points after the second. But the American team had stars of its own: Payne Stewart, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange. They won five of the first seven singles matches, and Europe's lead was down to a single point with five to go. But then Eamonn Darcy faced Crenshaw in an amazing match. When the American went two holes down, he broke his putter in disgust and had to use the edge of his wedge or his one-iron on the greens! Darcy's brave putt at the last won him the match by a single hole, and Ballesteros beat Strange 2 & 1 to keep the Cup. The final score was 15-13.
On the same day in 1930, Bobby Jones completed golf's Grand Slam as it was then decided: the British and US Opens and both amateur championships. Today he won the US Amateur at the Merion Cricket Club in Philadelphia, where he'd made his debut in the competition in 1916 when he was only 14. He had no trouble with Eugene Homans in the Final, taking a lead of seven strokes after the first round and winning by 8 & 7. It was Jones's seventh and last Final in the event and his fifth win, both records that still stand.
After moving from Britain to represent Italy, long jumper Fiona May won two Olympic silver medals that were almost gold. In 1996 she finished second to an athlete returning from a four-year drug suspension. May jumped 7.02 metres then. If she'd managed the same distance today, she'd have won gold. Instead she was in front after the first round, regained the lead in the second, but had to watch Germany's Heike Drechsler hit 6.99 in the third. May responded well, but 6.92 was only enough for second place. In third, with the same distance but a shorter second-best jump, was the infamous Marion Jones, who came to Sydney hunting for five golds but lost all her medals after being banned for taking drugs. Drechsler, who'd won the long jump at the 1992 Games, was one of the few athletes to regain an Olympic title.
The men's 800 metres was supposed to be two laps of honour for Wilson Kipketer. Four years earlier, Kenya refused to let him run in the Olympics after he switched allegiance to Denmark. By now, Kipketer was the world record holder, yards faster than anyone else in the race. The only way he could lose it was in a slow tactical contest - which he allowed to take place. With fifty metres to go, Germany's young European champion Nils Schumann took the lead in a race he didn't expect to win and held off Kipketer by half a yard. The winning time of 1 minute 45.08 seconds was the slowest in 20 years. Kipketer managed only bronze four years later and never won Olympic gold.
Meanwhile German powerhouse Jan Ullrich was winning the Olympic road race in cycling. With just over a mile to go, the former Tour de France winner broke away from two other riders and won by a single second.
On the same day in 1995, another top cyclist regained a world title. In 1993, Scottish genius Graeme Obree set a world record for distance covered in an hour (July 17), using a bike he adapted himself, including a part from a washing machine and straightened handlebars which led to a more aerodynamic position with his elbows tucked in. He won the individual pursuit world title that year, but in 1994 his position was banned from the World Championships at the last minute. Now he was back, still on the old bike but with a new way of riding it: arms straight out in front of him in his famous 'Superman' pose. The Final against Italy's Andrea Collinelli was a real thriller, with the lead changing hands four times before Obree pulled away in the last kilometre. Collinelli won Olympic gold the following year, while Obree's new position was also banned! Small minds in judgment of a fertile brain.