Two British boxing icons fought their last fights today.
In 1996, Frank Bruno took one last pay packet and one last beating. Having won a world heavyweight title at last on September 2, 1995, he accepted another hammering from Mike Tyson, then retired. Their fight seven years earlier had lasted almost five rounds, this one barely got to the third. Again big Frank spent most of the time holding, but then Tyson got through with a series of punches, mostly lefts, and the referee stopped it immediately. Bruno's heart had simply not been in it. His whole boxing career, probably.
Two years earlier to the day, big Frank had stopped Jesse Ferguson in the first round of his first fight after losing to Lennox Lewis.
In 1971, Henry Cooper put three titles up against Joe Bugner. British, Commonwealth and European. Bugner was three inches taller and outweighed him by a stone and a half. And Cooper was almost 37 by then. But big Joe was barely 21, with a spotty career (he was knocked out on his pro debut) and a reluctance to punch his weight. Henry set out, in his own words, to 'mess the kid about. And that's what I think I did.' But when he walked over to have his arm raised by referee Harry Gibbs, he was astounded to see Gibbs go over to Bugner instead. The points difference was a quarter of a point, or a single round. On the screen, a draw looks about right. Our 'Enery retired to become a national treasure, while Bugner surprised no-one by losing the title to the limited Jack Bodell six months later.
At the World Short-Course Championships the previous year, Claire Huddart and Karen Pickering had been part of the quartet who won the 4x100 metres relay. Tonight they teamed up with Nicola Jackson and Karen Legg to win the 4x200 and set a new world record.
On the same day in 2009, another British girl broke a world record, this time in a full-length pool. Jo Jackson set a new mark in the 400 metres freestyle mark. In those days of helpful bodysuits, records were being rewritten every week. Jackson's lasted until June before Italy's Federica Pellegrini regained it.
Binocular returned to his scintillating best to land the Champion Hurdle for jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus. The horse had been under a cloud for much of the season and was ruled out of the race a month before responding to treatment. This prompted connections to let him take his chance and he proved in a different league to his rivals.
Tiger Woods confirmed that he would end his absence from golf at the Masters the following month. Woods had not played since the previous November, when news broke that he had been unfaithful to his wife with a string of women.
Ian Stewart became the last British runner to win the senior men's race at the International Cross-Country, which is now the World Championships. A few weeks earlier, he'd won the 3,000 metres at the European Indoors. Now he raced over four times that distance, recovering from an early attack of stitch and hanging on as American Bill Rodgers and Spain's Mariano Haro broke away. Stewart's sprint at the end wasn't altogether convincing, but it was too much for poor Haro, who finished second for the fourth year in a row and never won the title.
England's last Grand Slam in rugby until March 15, 1980. Their forwards dominated the match against Scotland at Twickenham, but there was only one score before half-time, when Phil Davies went over in the corner. The second half went much the same way. Both sides kicked a penalty goal, then Scotland held out against intense pressure until ten minutes from the end, when flanker Reg Higgins made one try and scored another himself. Bob Challis converted both from the touchline to make the final score 16-3.
On the same day in 1991, England's first Grand Slam since 1980! After the disaster of March 17, 1990, England had swapped their attacking approach for something that kept the ball closer to the forwards. More effective, not so good to watch. It was France who reminded people of what had been. Simon Hodgkinson kicked a penalty in the second minute. Now he missed with another. When the ball landed in the in-goal area, most teams would have settled for the 22-metre drop-out. Not this French team. Serge Blanco and Jean-Baptiste Lafond ran the ball from their own line, Philippe Sella sent Didier Camberabero up the right touchline, and Camberabero did all the important work, collecting his own chip ahead then hooking a cross-kick into the middle, where the unmarked Philippe Saint-André picked up and went in under the posts. One of the great Twickenham tries. France scored two more, to England's one, but their forwards couldn't cope with one of the great England packs, who pressurised France into conceding penalties at ruck and maul. Hodgkinson turned four of them into points, and England won more easily than 21-19 suggests: France were 21-13 down until the last minute. Hodgkinson's 60 points set a new record for a Five Nations season.
A grey horse by the name of Desert Orchid raised the roof at Cheltenham when winning the Gold Cup. One of the most popular horses ever to step on a course, conditions were all against the gelding with a pre-race deluge turning the ground near unraceable. Despite all the negatives, Desert Orchid was sent off favourite for the race. He looked beaten when headed by Yahoo at the second last, but Dessie had a heart of a lion and seemingly spurred on by the roar of the crowd, he responded to the urgings of jockey Simon Sherwood to get on top in the shadow of the post.
Alan Minter won the world middleweight title. In the fight before this, Vito Antuofermo escaped with a draw against Marvin Hagler. Battered and bleeding, he drew the Marvellous one into a brawl. Tonight he almost got away with it again. Against Minter's southpaw jab, he took three punches to land one. Minter cut him over the left eye and picked up points with clusters of punches. His own eye was cut in the 12th, and Antuofermo pushed him over in the 14th, but there was really only one fighter in it. Even so, Minter did well to win the last round, because the decision was split and he was nearly robbed. Amazingly, he was the first British boxer to win a world title in America since Ted 'Kid' Lewis 65 years earlier. He cut Antuofermo to pieces in a rematch before facing Hagler on September 27.
Out with the old, in with the new. Not so old but definitely new. Rory Underwood was an express winger who scored 50 international tries. But he was 32 by now and England's other winger scored the only try at Twickenham. They were 15-12 down to Ireland at half-time, but Paul Grayson converted Jon Sleightholme's try and kicked six penalties in a 28-15 win. Underwood's 85th match for England was also his last.
One of the shortest world title fights in boxing. When Naseem Hamed made the first defence of his WBO featherweight belt, he hadn't fought for nearly six months because of a damaged right hand. But it had obviously healed well enough: his encounter with Said Lawal lasted 35 seconds. The Nigerian went down from the very first punch of the fight, then another right hand toppled him again and the referee stopped it. Neither punch looked particularly devastating, and it was no surprise that Lawal had only 11 pro fights after this, winning five.
At the World Indoor Athletics Championships, Regina Jacobs of the USA regained the 1500 metres title. At 39, she was the second-oldest indoor champion of all time, younger than a runner in the same event on March 9, 1997. How did a 39-year-old win a race at this level? Soon afterwards, Jacobs tested positive for a 'designer' steroid.
One of the all-time great England tries. They trailed Scotland 8-0 at Twickenham, pulled five points back with a converted try, then heeled the ball at a scrum on the right. Fly-half Richard Sharp took a pass and dummied to give an inside ball, which took out the covering flanker. Cutting infield, he threw another dummy, this time outside to one of his centres, and broke through the gap. One of Sharp's weapons was his speed over the second ten yards, not just the first. He hared through the defence, aiming for the left-hand corner, drew Scotland's full-back Colin Blaikie, and leaned away from him to give his wing the scoring pass. 'My mind was made up for me,' said Sharp. 'Although Blaikie was physically in front of me, his mind was on Jim Roberts.' Sharp sold his third dummy of the move before crossing for the try. John Wilcox converted it to win the match 10-8.
There aren't many sports where you can win a title by beating someone 50 years younger. 70-year-old Tony James became the oldest English Amateur Billiards champion. In the Final against Matthew Sutton, he won by 899 points to 694.
Thelma Hopkins was born in Hull but moved to Belfast before she was a year old. The last British athlete to set a world record in the high jump (1.74 in 1956), she finished joint second at the Olympics later that year, beaten by another world record. In 1954, Hopkins had won gold at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. In the latter, she beat Dorothy Odam Tyler, who won her first Olympic silver medal the year Hopkins was born. At those same Commonwealth Games, Hopkins finished second in the long jump to Olympic champion Yvette Williams. She also competed in major championships at 80 metres hurdles.
Against Ireland in Swansea, rugby full-back Billy Bancroft won his 33rd cap for Wales, a world record at the time. But he had a bad game, so it was also his last. Still, his conversions of Billy Alexander's tries won the match 10-9. Bancroft's total of 60 points in internationals, another record, was broken by his brother Jack in 1912.
Sylvia Gerasch was born in East Germany. She set her first world record when she was 15, in the 100 metres breaststroke, and won that event at the European Championships in 1985 and 1993 and the World Championships in 1986, when she also won gold in the medley relay. She didn't compete at the Olympics until 2000, when she was 31 and finished eighth in the 100 breast. In 1994 she was hit with a two-year suspension for having the equivalent of six cups of coffee in her bloodstream. The ban was reduced and caffeine taken off the list of illegal substances. More sinister was the claim that an East German coach had given her drugs when she was only 13. Gerasch said she didn't take them. She set world records at 100 and 200 breaststroke in 1986.