• December 17 down the years

Monster Valuev stands tall

The sporting events of December 17 down the years
Nikolai Valuev eventually lost his title to David Haye © Getty Images
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2005
The biggest man ever to become a world champion at boxing. Nikolai Valuev of Russia won a close points decision to take the WBA belt from John Ruiz. Valuev is 7 foot tall and weighs 24 stone. He was 6' 7 when he was 16. His father and mother are 5' 5, his wife 5' 2. Ruiz is 6' 2.

1973
Paula Radcliffe was born. Her even-paced running wasn't enough to win major championships (fourth at 10,000 metres in the 2000 Olympics and second in the 1999 World Championships) until she switched to the Marathon - and became a star overnight. Over 26 miles, you can live without a fast finish, and her nodding head became the sign of an impending record rather than the action of a persevering also-ran. Her second world best, 2 hours 15 minutes 25 seconds set at the 2003 London Marathon, is unapproached by any other woman. She became a world champion at last in 2005, and there was no shortage of bling before that: Commonwealth Games champion at 5,000 metres in 2002, European champion at 10,000 in the same year, twice world cross-country champion, world half-Marathon champion three times. Unfortunately for her, Olympic races tend to be staged in inhumane heat, and Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 were the first two Marathons she didn't win. She's still aiming for London 2012, when she'll be 39, but her place in the history of the event is secure.

1994
In his 102nd match for France, a 28-9 win over Canada in Besançon, the brilliant Philippe Sella scored his 30th and last international try, 12 years after his first. He won another nine caps after this one.

1991
In basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat 148-80, the widest victory margin in any NBA game.

1938
Peter Snell was born in New Zealand. A leading candidate for the title of greatest 800 metre runner of all time, he spread a feeling of impotence among his opponents. Barrel-chested, strong enough to set a world record that lasted 11 years, he also had a killer sprint finish, so he could beat you off a fast pace or in a slow tactical race. A surprise winner at the 1960 Olympics, he retained the title easily in 1964 and added the 1500 gold for good measure. The double of 880 yards and one mile at the 1962 Commonwealth Games was loose change to him. He set a world record at 800 metres and two at the mile.

1984
The USA arrived in Gothenburg for the Davis Cup final with just about the strongest team in their history. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were the top two singles players in the world, McEnroe and Peter Fleming the best doubles pair. The match was played indoors on clay, which was the Americans' least favourite surface - but Connors had won the US Open on the dusty stuff in 1976, beating Björn Borg in the final, and Borg was long gone by now. Still, it was no surprise when Jimbo lost the opening match in straight sets to Mats Wilander, who was only 20 but already a former French Open champion. The real shock came in the second singles, when McEnroe came up against another 20-year-old, the almost unknown Henrik Sundström. We all know about McEnroe's brilliance with a racquet, but he was notoriously unfit throughout his career and if a match went into its third hour he often flagged against good players. Here he lost the first set 13-11 and the next two more easily. Then in the doubles he and Fleming went down in four sets to Anders Järryd and an 18-year-old Stefan Edberg. McEnroe beat Wilander on day three, but the USA lost 4-1.

This same day hasn't always been so happy for Sweden in Davis Cup finals. They lost two in a row against West Germany, more specifically against Boris Becker.

In 1988, again in Gothenburg, it was their turn to be on the wrong end of a shock result. By then, Wilander was a full-grown champion, one of the best players in the world. That year he'd won three of the four Grand Slam singles titles, including the French for the third time. As for his opponent...well, if you've heard of Carl-Uwe Steeb, congratulations on your tennis knowledge. When Wilander won the first two sets, including the second 6-1, it's possible that he switched off. By the time the power came back on, he'd lost the next two sets easily and was in the process of losing the fifth 8-6. Sweden never recovered. Edberg went down in straight sets to a fully charged Becker, who then helped Eric Jelen win the doubles after Edberg and Järryd had led 2-0.

The following year, 1989, Germany were at home in the final. Steeb couldn't quite repeat his heroics against Wilander, who won from two sets to one down, but he sowed further seeds of doubt. Edberg again lost in straight sets to Becker, who saw Jelen through another doubles win before crushing Wilander (on clay, too) 6-2 6-0 6-2.

1978
Manny Pacquiao was born. His speed (of punch, too) made him the boxer of the 2000s, with wins over great champions like Marco Antonio Barrera (15 November 2003), Oscar de la Hoya (December 6, 2008), and Erik Morales, as well as Ricky Hatton (May 2, 2009). The Pac Man won world titles at seven different weights across two and a half stone, from flyweight to welterweight. He carried the Philippines' flag at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics.

1927
When Scotland played New South Wales at Murrayfield, they were faced with one of their former players. Arthur Cooper 'Johnny' Wallace was born in New South Wales and played for them against a New Zealand XV back in 1921, a match now regarded by Australia as an official international. Wallace then moved to Britain and won nine caps for Scotland, scoring 11 tries, including three in his last match, against France in Paris in 1926. Now he was back as captain of the Warratahs, who'd won the first two internationals on their tour, Wallace scoring a try against Ireland and two against Wales. At Murrayfield they took the lead with a converted try by Eric Ford. Scotland were level at half-time through Jimmy Graham, and went ahead with a try by new cap Willie Welsh, also converted by their famous captain and full-back Dan Drysdale and although Ford's brother Jack used his 15 stone (a lot in those days) to drive over in the corner, Lawton's 'magnificent' conversion attempt went just wide and the Warratahs lost 10-8. They lost to England too, before beating France in their farewell match, Wallace scoring a try in his last international.

On the same day in 1966, Scotland and Australia met again at Murrayfield, this time in a tale of two fly-halves. Well, three. When the talented Phil Hawthorne broke a cheekbone, the Wallabies brought in Paul Gibbs, who didn't play badly but simply wasn't a Hawthorne and won only this one cap. In contrast, David Chisholm ran the match and scored his only international try. Scotland No.8 Alasdair Boyle also went over, on his debut, and Australia lost 11-5.

1972
Iván Pedroso was born in Cuba. The retirement of Carl Lewis and Mike Powell left him free to dominate long jumping in the second half of the 1990s and beyond. World outdoor champion four times in a row, world indoor champion a record five times in a row, he climaxed his career by winning the 2000 Olympic gold medal with his last jump, to beat an Australian in Sydney. He once leapt 8.96 at altitude, beyond the world record, but someone was standing in front of the wind gauge.

1994
The rare sight of Bernard Hopkins on the floor. In an IBF middleweight title bout, he drew with Segundo Mercado despite being knocked down in the fifth and seventh rounds. The following April, he won the title by stopping Mercado in the seventh. Hopkins didn't lose a fight between 1993 and 2005, by which time he was 40.

1951
Tatyana Kazankina was born in the USSR. Inside that small skeletal frame was one of the great finishing kicks. She won the 800/1500 metre double at the 1976 Olympics, retained the 1500 in 1980, and set world records at both events as well as 3,000 metres. But she was later banned for not taking a drug test - so her feats are about as credible as any other champion from that steroid-infested era, her records as dodgy as the Chinese who broke them in 1993. Her 3:52.47 for 3,000 metres, set in 1980, is still the fastest by any European woman. Laugh out loud.

1952
The great Archie Moore was finally allowed to fight for the world light-heavyweight title. Already 36 at the time (39 according to his mum), his big punching had made champions wary of meeting him. When Joey Maxim deigned to share the same ring, he lost overwhelmingly on points. Moore had to fight Maxim twice more for the title, which he kept until his mid-forties.

1895
Gerald Patterson was born in Melbourne. He was Wimbledon singles champion in 1919 and 1922, but some cheap shots were involved. In 1919 he beat Norman Brookes, an all-time great who was 41 by then, and he won that second title only in the absence of the almighty Bill Tilden, who'd outclassed him in 1920, playing on Patterson's awkward backhand which he hit inside-out. Even in his national championship, he struggled, losing the final of the Australian three times from 1914 to 1925 before finally winning it in 1927 after surviving 71 games and a match point against the ordinary reigning champion Jack Hawkes. Patterson was a nephew of the famous Australian soprano Nellie Melba. As a tennis player, he was probably a decent crooner.

1960
South Africa beat all four British countries on their tour, employing a kicking fly-half behind a steamroller pack. Most of Ireland's forwards were big names - Syd Millar, Ronnie Dawson, Gordon Wood, Bill Mulcahy, Noel Murphy - but the Springboks were bigger and fitter. One of them, Hugo van Zyl, scored the winning try two minutes from the end as Ireland lost 8-3 after leading at half-time.

1927
Bill Ponsford broke his own world record score for a first-class innings, making 437 out of Victoria's 793 against Queensland in Melbourne. He was the first man to score two 400s in first-class cricket.

1974
Greg Chappell's took seven catches against England, a Test record that's been equalled but never broken.

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