On This Day

  • February 23 down the years

Eubank gets lucky

Chris Eubank in a familiar pose © Getty Images
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1991
Deliberately headbutt your opponent and you get to keep your title. Be a bit impolite and you lose yours. Welcome to the wonderful world of world title boxing. In his home town of Brighton, Chris Eubank made his first defence of the WBO middleweight title he won from Nigel Benn on November 18. Now, Canada's Dan Sherry wasn't the hardest opponent he could have picked. Unbeaten, yes, but not dangerous. Still, this is Eubank we're talking about - and he spent so much of the fight posturing that Sherry was never far behind on points. Plus the underdog had come to get under Eubank's skin, which was never particularly thick. He mimicked the champion's preening and even performed an Ali shuffle at one point. Eubank was warned for elbowing him in the ribs when the bell had gone. In the 10th round, Sherry backed onto the ropes. When Eubank went after him, Sherry turned him round so that Eubank was facing the ropes with Sherry right behind him. It was something the Canadian had done before, but this time he seemed to whisper some unsweet nothings in Eubank's ear, and the Eubank ego snapped. His back-header caught Sherry in the face, Sherry reacted as if he'd been shot, and the fight was over. According to British and European rules and any kind of natural justice, Eubank should have been disqualified. But the WBO worked in different ways. Two points were deducted and Eubank kept his title on a split decision. 'Stupid and unprofessional' is how he described his head toss. No arguments here.

On the same day in Las Vegas, the talented and flamboyant Hector 'Macho' Camacho suffered his first defeat as a pro, losing his WBC light-welterweight title to Greg Haugen. The decision would have gone his way if he hadn't been deducted a point for not touching gloves at the start of the last round. Just as well he remembered this piece of etiquette when he beat Haugen in the return fight: it was another split decision decided by a single point.

1980
American speedskating superman Eric Heiden won his record fifth gold at these Winter Olympics. He was already the first to win four. Here in the 10,000 metres, he broke the world record by more than six seconds to finish ahead of defending champion Piet Kleine of Holland. Heiden was the first competitor to win five individual golds in a single Olympic Games, winter or summer.

2008
One of England's best rugby performances in the last few years. We know, we know, it's not saying much. But still, beating France 24-13 in Paris is always a result. Paul Sackey and Richard Wigglesworth (good name for a scrum-half) scored the tries. Three different players kicked goals for France, only one for England. Fella by the name of Wilkinson. Conversion, drop goal, three penalties. His usual crop.

1931
The last day of the inaugural World Championships in Alpine skiing. Esmé MacKinnon won both the women's events, and two other British skiers came home with medals: Nell Carroll silver in the downhill, Jeannette Kessler bronze in the slalom.

1958
Banner headline: Formula One champion kidnapped by rebels. The day before the Cuban Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio was taken from his hotel at gunpoint and held until after the day after the race. To publicise Fidel Castro's struggle against the ruling dictatorship. Fangio was kept in a comfortable apartment and by his own admission treated very well. Castro took power the following year.

1906
Tommy Burns won the world heavyweight title from Marvin Hart despite being outweighed by 20 pounds, a lot when you're only 12½ stone. Hart had beaten Jack Johnson, possibly fairly. But he was a limited fighter, and it's said that Burns wound him up before the fight by turning up with his hands wrapped in great rolls of tape. Hart spent most of the fight trying to bulldoze the smaller man, the smaller man spent most if it hitting him in the face with counterpunches. It was the first time the world heavyweight title had changed hands via a points decision and not a knockout. Little Tommy made off with most of the money, too: Hart had insisted on the winner getting 70% of the purse! On a whistlestop world tour, Burns made 13 successful defences, including a landmark fight in Britain on December 2, 1907, before facing his biggest foe on Boxing Day, 1908.

2002
When Johann Mühlegg had a tiff with German ski officials, he switched allegiance to Spain in time for the Winter Olympics. Today he won the 50k race - but then tested positive for a substance that boosted the number of red cells in his blood. Bizarrely, he was allowed to keep his gold medals from the 30k and the combined pursuit - until the Court of Arbitration for Sport made him give them back.

1898
Lucy Morton was born in Blackpool. In 1924 she became the first British woman to win an individual swimming event at the Olympics. She set the inaugural world record for 200 yards breaststroke in 1914, when she was 16 - but there were no breaststroke events at the 1920 Games, so she had to wait until she was 26 to win the inaugural 200 metres race. Her finishing burst in the last 50 metres, white bathing cap bobbing, took her past America's Agnes Geraghty. Another British swimmer, Gladys Carson, won the bronze. The winning time was nearly 13 seconds slower than the world record held by a third Briton, Irene Gilbert, who was ill and finished only fifth.

1986
In athletics, the European Indoors came to a close. Linford Christie won his first gold medal in the Championships, finishing the 200 metres ahead of world indoor champion Aleksandr Evgenyev of the USSR.

Matti Nykanen was pretty special when his focus was on ski jumping © Getty Images
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1988
Flying Finnish fireball Matti Nykänen won his second successive gold medal on the large hill. He'd already won the normal hill that year, making him the first ski jumper to win two gold medals at the same Winter Olympics. He won a third in the team event. After retirement, his drinking binges left him so short of money he had to sell all his medals. He spent a year in jail for stabbing someone while he was drunk, then another four months for attacking his wife while he was out on probation. He returned to ski jumping after ten years out and won a world championships for veterans.

1965
Czechoslovakia used to have a conveyor belt with top tennis players rolling off it. Ivan Lendl, Miloslav Mecir, Martina Navratilova, Hana Mandikova, Jana Novotna. Today Helena Sukova was born in Prague. Unlucky to find herself competing in a golden age, she reached four Grand Slam singles finals from 1984 to 1993 but lost in the Australian Open to Chris Evert and Steffi Graf and the US Open to Graf and Navrátilová. Her height and good volleys made her a natural doubles player, and she won four Wimbledon titles with three different partners, including a 15-year-old Martina Hingis on July 7, 1996 - plus three in the mixed, two of them with her brother Cyril Suk. Her mother Vera Suková reached the singles final in 1962. Helena helped Czechoslovakia win the Fed Cup four times, including three in a row.

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