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Muhammad Ali's career battles

Steven Lynch January 21, 2013
Muhammad Ali beat Leon Spinks in September 1978 © Getty Images

Did Muhammad Ali ever lose to anyone he didn't also beat? asked Glenn Morrison
Muhammad Ali lost five fights during his long professional career, and managed to avenge three of them. His first defeat, to Joe Frazier in the memorable "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden in March 1971, was balanced by later victories in the Garden and also in the Philippines (the "Thrilla in Manila"). Ali also lost to Ken Norton in a non-title fight in March 1973 - Norton broke his jaw - but won a rematch later in the year. Leon Spinks deprived Ali of the world title in a major upset in February 1978, but Ali reclaimed the WBA belt from Spinks that September. Ali seemed to have retired after that - he didn't fight for two years - but was persuaded into an ill-judged fight in October 1980 (when he was 38) against Larry Holmes, and another against Trevor Berbick the following year. losing both heavily. Ali never fought again, and ended with a career record of 56 wins, 37 by knockout, from his 61 fights.

With fingers firmly crossed for Andy Murray this year, I was wondering who the last Briton was to win the singles at the Australian Open? asked Susie Kerr
The last British success in the singles Down Under came in 1972, when Virginia Wade beat Evonne Goolagong in the women's final. The only other British women to win it were Angela Mortimer (1958) and Dorothy Round (1935). Turning to the men, the last British success was, almost inevitably, by Fred Perry: he ended the local favourite Jack Crawford's search for a fourth successive title by beating him in the final in 1934 (Crawford got his revenge by beating Perry the following year). The previous British winners were Colin Gregory (1929), Algernon Kingscote (1919), Gordon Lowe (1915) and James Parke (1912), although Parke was actually Irish. Since Perry's time the only British man to reach the final, apart from Andy Murray in 2010 and 2011, has been John Lloyd, who lost to Vitas Gerulaitis in December 1977.

Has anyone ever won all four golf majors in the same year? asked Paul McIntyre
No-one has ever won all four majors in the same year: the nearest anyone has managed was in 2000-01, when Tiger Woods won the last three majors of 2000 (the US Open, British Open and PGA Championship), then won the Masters early in 2001 - so he uniquely held all four major titles at the same time, although he didn't win them in the same year. The only other man to win three of the four majors in the same year was Ben Hogan, in 1953, when he won the Masters, the US Open, and the Open - but he was prevented from trying for a Grand Slam as the PGA Championship was played at the same time as that year's Open at Carnoustie. In any case Hogan routinely missed the PGA during the 1950s: it was a matchplay event at the time, routinely requiring participants to play 36 holes in a day, and Hogan found this difficult after the serious injuries he had received in a car crash in 1949. After that Hogan didn't play in the PGA until 1960, by which time it was a strokeplay event - but he was semi-retired by then.

Someone told me that Samantha Womack from EastEnders once played a rugby league coach in a film. Is this unlikely statement true? asked Tom Standish
Well, actually it is true: Samantha Janus (as she was then), played the part of Hazel, a gym instructor who coached a down-and-out pub rugby league side, in the 1998 film Up'n'Under. The film also featured Neil Morrissey, of Men Behaving Badly fame - and, behaving predictably badly, at one point he wanders in and finds Hazel in the showers.

Florence Griffith-Joyner still holds sprint world records © PA Photos

Which current athletics world record has lasted longest? asked Mary Hooper
The longest-standing world record in an event competed for at the Olympics is for the women's 800 metres: the record of one minute 53.28 seconds was set by Czechoslovakia's Jarmila Kratochvilova at a meeting in Munich in July 1983. Nine other records also remain intact from the 1980s. Marita Koch of East Germany set the current 400m world record (47.60) in 1985, while Florence Griffith-Joyner's 10.49 (100m) and 21.34 (200m) both date from 1988, as does the 100m hurdles best (12.21) of Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova. Russia's time of 3:15.17 in the women's 4x400m relay, set at the 1988 Olympics, remains a record too. In the field events another Bulgarian, Stefka Kostadinova set the current women's high-jump mark (2.09) in 1987; Galina Chistyakova (USSR) jumped 7.52m in the long jump in 1988; Natalya Lisovskaya (USSR) put the shot 22.63m in 1987; and Gabriele Reinsch of East Germany threw the discus 76.80m in 1988. Also, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's heptathlon record of 7291 points, set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has not yet been beaten. For the men, the oldest record still on the books is the discus throw of 74.08m by Jurgen Schult of East Germany in June 1986; Russia's Yuriy Sedykh set the current hammer world record (86.74m) a couple of months later.

What big race is also known as the "Race for the Carnations"? Is it at Goodwood? asked Colin Norton
I suppose if it was held in England it ought to be at Glorious Goodwood - but actually the "Run for the Carnations" is a name sometimes given to the Belmont Stakes, one of the races that makes up the American Triple Crown. The Belmont, usually the final leg of the treble last achieved by Affirmed in 1978, is run at Belmont Park in New York in June, and the winner is festooned with a huge blanket of carnations. For similar reasons, the Kentucky Derby is often known as the "Run for the Roses", while - not to be left out - the Preakness Stakes (the other Triple Crown race) has become the "Run for the Black-Eyed Susans". They are a sort of big yellow daisy which is the state emblem of Maryland, where the Preakness is run (at Pimlico, near Baltimore).

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