On This Day

  • November 4 down the years

Owen loses fight for life

Lupe Pintor proved much too good for Johnny Owen in their title fight © PA Photos
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1980
Johnny Owen died in hospital. The press called it the longest fight of his life, which was forgivable: he'd spent more than six weeks in hospital after an operation to remove a blood clot from his brain. When he took on WBC bantamweight champion Lupe Pintor in Los Angeles, no-one gave much for his chances. Owen was a matchstick man who was expected to put up very little resistance despite being European and Commonwealth champion. But in fact he gave Pintor a great battle, surprising the American TV commentators and leading on points when he suddenly suffered two knockdowns in the 12th round, the second one leaving him unconscious. Johnny Owen was 24. When a statue was erected in his home town of Merthyr Tydfil, it was unveiled by Lupe Pintor.

2001
After a successful playing career at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola went on to play for Brescia in Serie A. But it was shortly after his move to Italy that it all turned sour when he tested positive for the steroid nandrolone following a 5-0 defeat to Lazio. The Spaniard protested his innocence, claiming the drug was part of a dietary supplement, but he was still handed a four month ban. In 2007 he was exonerated by the Italian FA - but had to prove his innocence again when Italy's anti-doping authorities reopened the case. He was finally cleared of all charges in 2009.

1988
Tommy Hearns had only just turned 30 when he became the first boxer to win world titles at five different weights. He was already the first to win titles at four ( October 29, 1987). He'd lost the WBC middleweight belt in his previous fight ( June 6) but tonight he won the WBO super-middle belt by outpointing James Kinchen in Las Vegas. Hearns survived a fourth round in which he was knocked down and had a point deducted for holding. The next boxer to win world titles at five weights did it only three days later.

1951
This year's Ryder Cup was one of many mismatches in the event's history. Britain & Ireland went to Pinehurst with one of their weakest ever teams, which is saying something. Two of their players had won the Open - Fred Daly in 1947 and Max Faulkner that summer - but the top Americans stayed away each time. They were there today at Pinehurst: all-time giants like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead backed up by three other major winners. They led 3-1 after the first day's foursomes and lost only one of the singles against a team of also-rans like Jimmy Adams, Ken Bousfield, Jack Hargreaves, and John Panton. Arthur Lees beat Ed 'Porky' Oliver in foursomes and singles, but they were the only matches GB & I won in a typical 9½-2½ defeat. They didn't regain the cup for another six years ( October 5).

2007
Two NFL records in the same game. First up: the whole 109 yards. The longest play of all time. San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie caught a missed field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. The Chargers led at half-time, but were then swept away by Adrian Peterson. In only the 8th game of his NFL career, the Minnesota Vikings running back had a relatively sedate first half, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown. In the second, he crossed the San Diego line twice more, and ran another 253 yards, the last three in the last two minutes. He added one yard to the record of 295 set in 2003.

Back in 1923, two all-time greats combined to set a previous NFL record in the same category. Jim Thorpe was such a great all-round athlete that he won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics ( July 15) but was probably even better at American football. Though not today. When he was tackled by George Halas, who was owner and coach of the Chicago Bears as well as a player, the ball ran loose. Halas picked up the fumble and ran the ball 98 yards for a touchdown, the longest in any NFL game until 1972. The Bears beat the Oorang Indians 26-0.

1975
Alan Minter won his first belt in professional boxing, beating former champion Kevin Finnegan to take the vacant British middleweight title. You can't help referring to Finnegan as Chris' brother, but Kevin was a class act in his own right, and Minter had to go 15 rounds for the first time in his career. He did a lot of holding but just about deserved the close decision, starting and finishing strongly and using his right jab effectively. Minter outpointed Finnegan twice more in British title fights, the first of which won him a Lonsdale belt outright, then fought for the world title in 1980 ( March 16).

On the same Wembley bill, raw and clumsy Richard Dunn retained his British heavyweight title against a rawer and clumsier former champion. Some serious payback was involved. On his professional debut, Dunn had been knocked out in the first round by Danny McAlinden. Tonight McAlinden went down three times in the second before the referee stopped it. But on this evidence, no-one would have believed that Dunn was on his way to a world title fight against a certain M Ali ( May 24, 1976).

1999
Any boxing fans who thought the IBF were a Mickey Mouse organisation were now looking at more sinister cartoon characters. Their president and other officials were indicted on 32 federal charges of conspiracy and racketeering, money laundering and tax fraud, and accused of taking bribes to manipulate their rankings. The charges followed two years of investigation, leading to indictments for president Robert W Lee and his son Robert junior, among others. Lee senior was a former New Jersey boxing commissioner who was removed from office in 1985 for 'violating ethics regulations'. A series of appeals kept him out of jail until 2004, when a district judge ordered him to begin a 22-month sentence.

2000
Wholesale destruction at the rugby league World Cup. Of minnows and records. In Hull, Australia became the only country to hit a ton in the history of the competition. In their 110-4 win over Russia, they scored 19 tries, breaking their own World Cup record of 16 from five years earlier. Wendell Sailor scored four of them to match the Cup record equalled by team mate Mat Rogers three days before. Rogers scored 34 points in that game, another competition record - but Ryan Girdler put that completely in the shade. His 17 goals were a record for any international match, and his 46 points included three tries. If he hadn't hit a post with another kick, he would have equalled the world record set the year before ( November 17). Russia's try was scored by Matthew Donovan, who played for an Australian club.

Over in Leeds, England were also filling their boots a bit. They'd also thrashed the Russians, and now Jamie Peacock scored three of their 12 tries in a 66-10 win over Fiji. Andy Farrell kicked nine goals, while one of Fiji's two tries was scored by Lote Tuqiri, who also scored one against England in the rugby union World Cup final.

1978
Nice neat numbers at the Albert Hall. This was the 50th Wightman Cup in tennis, and the USA now led Britain 40-10. Chris Evert thrashed Sue Barker 6-2 6-1 and Virginia Wade 6-0 6-1, and Billie Jean King teamed up with 15-year-old Tracey Austin to win the first doubles. But America's young guns weren't quite ready. Austin lost to Wade, who was more than twice her age, and also to Barker. And 16-year-old Pam Shriver was beaten by the unsung Michelle Tyler after winning the first set. It all came down to the final set of the second doubles. Barker and Wade won the first set 6-0 but lost the second. The decider went to 5-4 with Shriver serving to keep the USA alive. A stinging low return by Wade was followed by Barker's lob to produce two match points. It was the last time Britain won the Cup, which was discontinued after 1989 when the US won four of the last encounters 7-0.

1980
Sadaharu Oh announced his retirement. Never heard of him? Check the record books. Playing his first-class baseball in Japan, he hit a world record 868 home runs.

2006
One of the highest-scoring draws in international rugby union. At the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Australia outscored Wales by four tries to two, including one by Matt Giteau, who also kicked nine points. But two Williamses scored tries for the home side - flanker Martyn and winger Shane - and above all Wales kicked their goals. James Hook landed three penalties, Gavin Henson and Stephen Jones one each. It was tight throughout, Australia leading 17-16 but drawing 29-29.

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