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  • December 14 down the years

Say it ain't so Bowe

The sporting events of December 14 down the years
Riddick Bowe, a classy but controversial fighter © Getty Images
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1992 How best to illustrate your refusal to defend a world boxing title? 'I know,' thought Riddick Bowe, 'I'll toss the championship belt in a dustbin.' In a famous televised sequence, he dumped the WBC heavyweight belt rather than fight Lennox Lewis, who'd stopped him in the final of the 1988 Olympics. The WBC promptly made Lewis their champion. Bowe successfully defended his WBA and IBF titles by stopping Michael Dokes in the first round. On this day in 1996, he became one of the very few boxers to win consecutive fights on disqualifications against the same opponent, when the controversial Andrew Golota was thrown out for his latest string of low blows.

1996 Jason Leonard liked playing against Argentina. Today, in an unconvincing 20-18 win at Twickenham, he captained England for the first time and scored his only try in 119 internationals. Argentina were also the opposition when Leonard won his first cap (in 1990) and his 86th (November 25, 2000), which set a new England record.

1994 Diane Modahl was banned for four years for drug-taking. Four years earlier, when she was still Diane Edwards, she'd won the 800 metres at the Commonwealth Games. Now she was found to have 42 times the normal level of testosterone. Concerns over the handling of her urine sample led to her exoneration, and she won bronze at the 1998 Games.

1946 Stan Smith was born. In the days when serve-volley dinosaurs ruled the grasslands, he won singles titles at the US Open and Wimbledon. He was nothing like as good on clay, but in his big year, 1972, he beat Ilie Nastase on that surface in Bucharest to win the Davis Cup. Earlier in the year, he'd beaten the same player in a famous five-set Wimbledon final. In all, Smith helped the USA win the Davis Cup seven times. A top doubles player, usually with Bob Lutz, he surprisingly never won the Wimbledon title in that event, losing in four finals, all to great pairs: Hewitt & McMillan, Newcombe & Roche, McNamara & McNamee, Fleming & McEnroe. 2002 When Joe Calzaghe wonders why he isn't universally regarded as one of the all-time greats, he should look at mismatches like this, a two-round farce against one Tocker Pudwill, who took the fight at a fortnight's notice. As for Calzaghe's wins against giants like Roy Jones junior and Bernard Hopkins, they were against a shot fighter and a 43-year-old.

1975 Ben Kay was born. He's probably always going to be best known for dropping the ball in front of an open try line in the 2003 World Cup final - but he spent the tournament doing good work alongside Martin Johnson in the second row. He won his 60th cap in 2008 and played in two Tests for the Lions in 2005. Just to show he did know how to fall over a line with a ball in his grasp, he scored tries against Ireland and Argentina in 2002.

2008 At the European Cross-Country Championships, Serhiy Lebid of the Ukraine won the men's race for the eighth time.

2007 German swimmer Thomas Rupprath won a record 25 gold medals at the European Short-Course Championships, the first in 1996, the last today in the 50 metre backstroke, his 6th win in the event.

1964 The underrated Joey Giardello kept his world middleweight title with a unanimous decision against big-hitting Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, who became the subject of a Bob Dylan song and a Denzel Washington film after being imprisoned for murder, a decision later described by a judge as 'based on racism rather than reason'. Carter served 20 years before the charges were dismissed.

1901 A tennis genius was born. Henri Cochet had a weak serve, a poor overhead, and only adequate ground strokes - but won eight Grand Slam singles titles without them. His ability to take a ball on the rise, using the half-volley as a weapon not a last resort, hurried opponents out of their rhythm. Even the mighty Bill Tilden (born February 10 1893) had trouble fathoming his game. Cochet won Wimbledon in 1927, coming from two sets to love down in his last three matches and saving six match points in the final. He won the championship again in 1929, took the US title in 1928, the French five times, and helped France win the Davis Cup six times in a row, winning the deciding singles four times.

1946 Ruth Fuchs was born. East Germany's leading javelin thrower, she won gold at the Olympics of 1972 and 1976 and the European Championships in 1974 and 1978, and set six world records. All of which adds to nothing much when you admit to having taken steroids during your career. She later became an MP. Jokes on a postcard.

1975 George Harman died at the age of 101. He played rugby for Ireland in 1899 and was the longest-lived international from any country until Mac Henderson, who died on March 5, 2009.

On the same day in 2004, Harry Bowcott died at the age of 97. Another rugby union international (1929-33), he lived longer than anyone else capped by Wales.

1935 Jack Metcalfe of Australia triple-jumped 15.78 metres, the last world record set in a jumping event by a male athlete from a Commonwealth country until Jonathan Edwards in 1995. In 1936, Metcalfe naturally went to the Olympic Games as favourite, but finished third behind two Japanese, one of whom broke his world record. Metcalfe retained his Commonwealth Games title in 1938.

1914 With a name like Johnny Basham, you might as well end up a boxer. On this day, he won the vacant British welterweight championship by stopping Johnny Summers in the 14th round. He didn't lose the title until 1920, when he was stopped by the great Ted 'Kid' Lewis. The Kid's last fight was also Johnny's, on December 13, 1929.

1903 Walter Rangeley was born. Britain's leading sprinter for many years, he won three Olympic medals, two in the 4x100 relay and silver in the 200 metres in 1928. At the age of 30, he helped England win the sprint relay at the 1934 Empire (now Commonwealth) Games.

1955 Blair Mayne died in a car crash, a bathetic ending for a man who escaped death any number of times in the Second World War. A founding father of the SAS, he won the Croix de Guerre and Légion d'Honneur and no fewer than four DSOs. In peacetime (for want of another word), he was Irish Universities heavyweight boxing champion before finding fame as a rugby player. An immensely strong and combative forward, he played in some weak Ireland and Lions teams (his only international try was scored in a 36-14 thrashing by England in Dublin), but he left his mark on everyone he played against. A real scary geezer.

1892 In boxing's first world title fight at welterweight, 'Mysterious' Billy Smith flattened Danny Needham three times in the 9th round and several times in the 14th before the fight was stopped.

1903 Reginald 'Tip' Foster made 287, not bad for his Test debut.

1928 Don Blackie's Test debut at the age of 46 years 253 days, Australia's oldest ever Test new boy.

1960 The first tied Test.

1894 First day of Test cricket for Archie McLaren, Joe Darling, Ernie Jones.

1994 West Indies won the third and final Test in India, and therefore avoided losing a series for the first time since 1980. They'd played 29 series since - and they'll always believe they were robbed in 1980!

1974 Viv Richards first Test ton a big one.

1969 Bishen Bedi grabs his Test best 7-98 v Australia.

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