- June 25 down the years
Not so sweet memories for Sugar Ray
The only time Sugar Ray Robinson didn't go the distance in 200 pro fights. After regaining his world middleweight title from Britain's best the previous year (September 12), he made two successful defences, including a demolition of Rocky Graziano on April 16, before challenging Joey Maxim for the light-heavyweight title. The fight took place in the open air at Yankee Stadium, even though New York is notoriously hot and humid in summer. Good thinking, someone. The temperature was so high that the referee didn't go the distance! Ruby Goldstein was replaced by Ray Miller in the 10th round - and Robinson lasted only one more. At the end of the 11th, he retired with heat exhaustion when all three judges had him miles ahead on points. It was his only fight for the light-heavy title.
It wasn't a date Sugar Ray remembered with any fondness. On the same day in 1947, Jimmy Doyle died after losing a world welterweight title fight to him the previous night. A single punch did the damage, a left hook that knocked Doyle down in the eighth round. His head hit the canvas very hard and he died a few hours after a brain operation.
One of the historic tennis matches. At the time, there were no 90-minute breaks between games, no 30-second dawdles between points. But it still lasted more than five hours. There were no tie-breaks either - so it featured more games than any other Wimbledon match. In the end, Pancho Gonzales won it on sheer cussedness, which was typical of him. He was 41 now, so the first set alone should have worn him out: he lost it 24-22! The light wasn't much good by now, and he had a typical rant about it while losing the second set 6-1. That should have been that, even with an overnight rest - but Charlie Pasarell couldn't finish it off even though he was 16 years younger. Gonzales won the third set 16-14. The fourth was easier (6-3) but the fifth was another lung-buster, and Pasarell really should have taken his chances rather than losing it 11-9: in all, he wasted seven match points before dropping the last two games to love. Old Pancho won his next two matches as well, and even took a set off Arthur Ashe in the fourth round. Twenty years after winning the Wimbledon doubles, he'd left a deeper mark.
On any other day, Rod Laver's travails would have earned top billing. The defending champion was 6-3 6-4 3-3 down to Premjit Lall of India before winning 15 games in a row. He survived the scare to retain the title on his way to his second Grand Slam (September 8).
On the same day in 1957, a Brazilian conducted her own mini epic at Wimbledon. Maria Helena de Amorim served 17 consecutive double faults. No misprint. Spectacularly nervous, she recovered to win the second set before losing to Holland's Berna Thung.
The spear tackle that broke the Lions' back - and nearly their captain's neck. In the first minute of the first Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch, Brian O'Driscoll was lucky he only dislocated a shoulder after being thrust head-down by his opposite number Tana Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu. A really nasty piece of work, and O'Driscoll was right to call it a cheap shot. With their captain out of the tour and Paul O'Connell yellow-carded, the Lions didn't recover. Against the New Zealand's two tries and 21 points, all they managed was a Jonny Wilkinson penalty goal. Flanker Neil Back was 36, the oldest to play for the Lions in a Test match and no match for New Zealand's exemplary Richie McCaw. Things didn't get any better for the biggest and most expensively assembled squad in Lions history. They lost the second Test 48-18 and couldn't avoid a whitewash on July 9.
Joe Louis made the last defence of his world heavyweight title. It was his 25th, still the record for any weight division in boxing. He won it by a knockout as usual, against a man who'd taken him all the way in his previous fight (December 5). Jersey Joe Walcott knocked him down twice in that fight. Tonight he did it only once, when Louis bounced up without a count in the third round. He knocked Walcott out in the 11th round, announced his retirement the following March, then made a comeback his finances demanded. His return fight was for the world title. He lost it on points. Walcott was 37 when he became champion at last in 1951.
In rugby league, the Bradford Bulls beat the Salford City Reds 96-16, Henry Paul kicking 14 goals, still a Super League record. His brother Robbie scored four of Bradford's 17 tries.
The golfer who lost the British Open by kicking his own ball. Jock Hutchison is in the books as the first American to win the Open even though he was born in Scotland. He shot a hole-in-one in the first round and missed another one by inches at the next hole. But he should still have finished second. British amateur Roger Wethered matched him throughout the fourth round - until he missed his par putt at the last by not playing 'quite boldly enough.' That forced a play-off, which Wethered lost by nine shots. He wouldn't have had to endure one if he hadn't incurred a penalty stroke during the third round. Checking the line to the 14th hole, he walked backwards and knocked his ball with his shoe. He never came this close to winning the Open again and had to settle for the British Amateur title in 1923. His sister Joyce, later Lady Heathcoat-Amory, won the Amateur title four times. It was the biggest event in the women's game at the time.
Australia retained the rugby league World Cup by beating Great Britain in the final. GB full-back George Fairbairn kicked three goals - but he was lightweight under pressure sometimes, and two bad errors led to Australian tries. Their manager David Watkins agreed: 'Two silly mistakes cost us the game.' Australia went 5-0 up with a try converted from wide out by Mick Cronin. Great Britain equalised through brick outhouse prop Steve Pitchford, but Fairbairn's first error led to an interception try, and Australia led 10-7 at half-time. They went further ahead when Fairbairn fumbled. GB substitute Ken Gill scored a try, and hooker Keith Elwell won the scrums 16-7 on his Test debut, so Fairbairn's cock-ups were all the more grrr: Britain lost only 13-12.