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  • January 24 down the years

No sweat for Calzaghe on first title defence

The sporting events of January 24 down the years
Joe Calzaghe stopped Branko Sobot in three rounds © Getty Images
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1998
Joe Calzaghe's first defence of his WBO super middleweight title. He started as he went on - by beating an opponent who did little more than pad out his record. Croatia's Branko Sobot was a former soldier with only 15 professional fights behind him. He eventually lost 11 in a career of only 30. Calzaghe stopped him in three rounds.

1987
Joe Lydon was better known for his pace in rugby league, but today he also kicked eight goals in a World Cup match against France. Great Britain scored nine tries to nil, including two each by Mike Gregory and Shaun Edwards and one by Lydon himself, who finished with 20 points. GB led 24-4 at half-time on their way to winning 52-4. Despite the big win, they failed to reach the final. France finished bottom of the table, behind Papua New Guinea.

2000
A 20-year-old called Jenson Button, with a failed driving test behind him, signed a Formula One contract with Williams.

1980
Rebecca Romero was born in Surrey. A world champion in two separate sports, she nearly won Olympic gold in both. In 2004 she won silver in the quadruple sculls. At the World Championships the following year, she claimed gold in the same event. Switching from rowing to cycling, she finished second in the individual pursuit at the 2007 World Championship before reaching pinnacles in 2008: team and individual gold at the World Championships in Manchester followed by individual gold at the Olympics.

1999
The Bob Hope Classic is played over five rounds. In the fifth, David Duval shot 59, which equalled the lowest round in any PGA event.

2004
Michael Sprott tried three times to take the British heavyweight title from Danny Williams. Coming in at short notice in 2002, he ran out of puff and lost in seven rounds. Then he faced Williams in his home town Reading and lost in five. The third fight was staged in London, the champion's own manor. Both men had put on ten pounds or so, but the bulk did Sprott more good: he won narrowly on points. He lost the title to Matt Skelton three months later. Reading really wasn't a lucky town for him.

1855
The dead cool Frank Hadow was born. In 1878, he came over from Ceylon to play tennis at Wimbledon. In the semi-final, he received a walkover from Arthur Myers, who had beaten his brother Alexander in the second round - but none of his other four opponents had been able to live with him, even when he caught sunstroke just before the All-Comers final. In the Challenge Round, he met Spencer Gore, who had volleyed his way to the inaugural title the previous year. Changes had been made to the height of the net, but it was still a foot higher at the sides than the middle, so Gore still had a distinct advantage. But Hadow simply took the net out of the equation. Using the revolutionary technique of lobbing, he drove Gore back time and again. Despite a painful wrist, the champion would not give up easily, but he lost in straight sets: 7-5 6-1 9-7. This one taste of tennis was more than enough for Frank Hadow. He allegedly called it a cissy game, went back to his coffee plantation, and did not return to Wimbledon until he was honoured as the oldest surviving champion in 1926. He is the only male Wimbledon champion never to lose a set in singles there.

Mats Wilander defeated Pat Cash over five sets © Getty Images
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1988
Mats Wilander regained the Australian Open singles title by coming from two sets to one down to beat home favourite Pat Cash 8-6 in the fifth. If there's a Swedish translation of déjà vu, Cash was feeling it now. After his defeat by Stefan Edberg on January 25, 1987, he lost in five sets to a Swede in the final for the second year in a row - and never won the title. He was the last Australian to reach the final until Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

1976
After George Foreman lost his world heavyweight title to Muhammad Ali on October 30, 1974, it took him this long to fight again. And it was no gentle comeback. Ron Lyle was as big as him and almost as powerful a puncher. They produced a brief but awesome slugfest. Lyle was knocked out in the fifth, but Foreman was lucky to get through the fourth. He put Lyle down in that round - but before and after that, he was on the floor himself, and only the bell saved him. Then he nearly went over in the next. George's defence looked as poor as it had against Ali, his punching just as one-dimensional. When Lyle went down for the count, it was from exhaustion more than anything. This wasn't the Foreman they'd all feared. He fought on for another year before losing to Jimmy Young and retiring for ten years.

1997
Larry Holmes was a spent force against Mike Tyson on January 22, 1988 - so imagine what he looked like nine years later. At the age of 47, he lost a split decision to Brian Nielsen in Copenhagen for the IBO heavyweight title.

1987
It was unusual for anyone to win a Grand Slam singles title before and after Martina Navrátilová. Hana Mandlíková did it today. In the final of the Australian Open, she showed tenacity to match her talent, winning in two tough sets. In the second, she lost her serve after leading 5-3 and 30-0, but recovered to win the tie-break 7-1 and end Navrátilová's run of 58 matches without defeat. Mandlíková was Australian champion for the first time in 1980, Navrátilová three times between then and now.

1950
Fearless Freddie's final fight. At Earl's Court in London, Freddie Mills lost his world light heavyweight title to Joey Maxim. Mills took a lot of punches in his career, often against bigger men, too durable for his own good. He had barely recovered from a second battering by heavyweight Bruce Woodcock, and although he threw his usual quota of punches tonight, Maxim used his longer reach to catch him with counters. When Mills ran out of steam, it happened suddenly. In the tenth round, a shot to the solar plexus followed by a left to the jaw knocked him down and left him too winded to carry on. Mercifully he never fought again. He died of a shotgun wound on July 25, 1965.

1935
Eric Ashton was born. The only player to appear in six Challenge Cup finals as captain, he lifted the trophy three times, including two in a row. He returned for two more finals as coach, winning the Cup with St Helens in 1976. A superb attacking centre, he spent his whole playing career with Wigan. Capped 26 times for Great Britain, he played in the victorious World Cup final on October 8, 1960. As captain, of course.

1982
In the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers led 14-0 through Joe Montana's touchdown and touchdown pass, then 20-0 via two field goals. The Cincinnati Bengals came back with two touchdowns of their own, but Ray Wersching put over two more goals and, although the Bengals touched down again, Wersching's kicking made the difference in a 26-21 win. His four field goals equalled the Super Bowl record set on January 14, 1968. On January 22, 1989, the 49ers and the Bengals contested an even closer Super Bowl.

1971
Olympic champion Chris Finnegan won his first major professional titles, taking the British and Commonwealth light heavyweight belts from Cardiff's Eddie Avoth. An exciting fight nearly lasted all 15 rounds. Finnegan's eye was cut in the seventh, but according to him 'Avoth's face looked like a dug-up road...His gumshield was out five times.' Despite all the punishment he took, the champion did not go down, but the referee stepped in with less than a minute to go.

1968
Mary Lou Retton was born to be America's little darling. She was the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to be all-round Olympic champion - in the absence of every Eastern European country except Romania. This was 1984, the year of the Eastern Bloc boycott. In her only major international competition, she trailed Ecaterina Szabó (born January 22, 1967) with two events to go but was given maximum 10s for the floor and the vault, enough to win gold by 0.05 of a point. The American public loved her, but it remains a devalued achievement. She also won four minor medals at the Games before retiring when she was 18 without entering the next World Championships, where the Soviet girls were waiting.

1916
Gene Mako was born in Hungary but played tennis for the USA. Twice Wimbledon doubles champion with Don Budge (born June 13, 1915), he was runner-up to the great man at the US Championships on September 24, 1938, the last match in the original Grand Slam.

1990
Sunderland's Billy Hardy lost a world title fight in his home town. IBF bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales won a split decision here and stopped Hardy in the eighth round of a rematch in Texas after knocking him down in the third.

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