• January 12 down the years

'Enry 'ammers 'em

The sporting events of January 12 down the years
Henry Cooper: A British boxing great © Getty Images

In three consecutive fights, Henry Cooper had failed to win the Commonwealth, European and British heavyweight titles. But he outpointed Brian London over 15 rounds to become British and Commonwealth champion. Our 'Enry 'eld the British belt, on and off, until 1971.

Brendan Foster was born. With his limited finishing speed, he did well to win bronze at the 1970 Commonwealth Games and 1971 Europeans, and he couldn't match Ben Jipcho in the finishing straight of the 5000 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth. He set world records, but only at non-Olympic events, the two miles and 3000 metres. He finished a distant and exhausted third behind Lasse Virén (born July 22, 1949) in the 10,000 metres at the 1976 Olympics. And when he won Commonwealth gold at last, in the 10,000 in 1978, it was in the absence of Henry Rono, who was having his great year (August 13). But that 1976 bronze was Britain's only track and field medal of the Games - and Big Bren had won a memorable gold medal at the 1974 Europeans, where his famous technique of throwing in painfully fast laps ran Virén into the ground. He made his most important long-term contribution by launching the Great North Run.

Joe Namath's Super Bowl. And how. He played quarterback for New York Jets. The Jets were from the AFL. Baltimore Colts were from the NFL. The NFL was stronger. AFL teams had been massacred in the first two Super Bowls. The only thing the Jets had was Namath. Above all, Namath's confidence. 'We'll win the Super Bowl,' declared Broadway Joe. 'I guarantee it.' When it came to walking the walk, Namath didn't throw a single touchdown pass. In the fourth quarter, he didn't throw any passes at all. But he kept moving the Jets into field goal range. After a scoreless first quarter had nibbled at the Colts' confidence, Matt Snell scored a touchdown - then Jim Turner kicked three goals to make it 16-0. Baltimore's late touchdown only made the score look better than it was. Namath was a shoo-in for MVP and a place in the pantheon. Now bring on the bubbly and the broads.

Eric Bristow's last World final was his third in a row, but he'd lost the previous two and he lost this one. Once upon a time, he used to win three in a row, and five in all. But 'dartitis' had set in and a pack of newcomers was feeding on the remains of the top dog. Bristow lost the 1990 final 6-1 to his protégé Phil Taylor. This time Taylor was knocked out by Dennis Priestley, who now devoured Eric 6-0.

Smokin' Joe Frazier was born. There's a danger of remembering him for two defeats. The onslaught by George Foreman that cost him the world title on January 22, 1973, and the Thrilla in Manila against Muhammad Ali on October 1, 1975. But this was once the most destructive heavyweights around. Olympic gold medallist in 1964, his famous left hook blasted out all opposition in Ali's absence, then knocked the great man himself down on March 8, 1971, when he proved himself a worthy champion. In later years, he took too many punches to get one in, but at his peak he was the nearest thing to Rocky Marciano, and there's no scarier praise.

Chinese swimmer Yuan Yuan and her coach Zhou Zhewen were sent home from the World Championships in Perth, Australia. The stash of human growth hormone in her luggage was enough for a whole team. YY was banned for four years, her coach for a record fifteen. Four other members of the Chinese squad tested positive for a banned diuretic during the Championships: Wang Luna, Cai Huijue, Zhang Yi and male swimmer Wang Wei.

John Walker was born in New Zealand. The lack of a really burning sprint keeps him off the top - which seems a harsh judgment on someone who was Olympic 1500 metre champion. But although he won that final with his usual long, strong run for home, the African boycott kept Filbert Bayi out of the Games - and Bayi had set a world record in beating him to the Commonwealth Games title two years earlier. Then there was the sight of Walker stepping off the track when Steve Ovett began his sprint in the 1977 World Cup. And being the first to run 100 sub-four-minute miles is more about quantity than quality. But if he's not on the top step, he's as close as dammit. He was the first man to run the mile in under 3 minutes 50 - and he broke Bayi's record to do it.

After the repeat of 1992 and the three-peat of 1993, the dreaded four-peat. Buffalo Bills set a famous unwanted record by losing in the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. For the second time in a row, Dallas Cowboys did the damage, scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half after being 13-6 down. Their 30-13 win was their fourth in the event, equalling the record, a symmetry not lost on the rueful Bills. The MVP award went to Dallas's little package of concrete and turbo, running back Emmitt Smith, who scored two touchdowns. Buffalo's Steve Christie kicked the longest field goal in any Super Bowl: 54 yards. And poor Thurman Thomas scored a touchdown in all four games. No consolations.

Mick Sullivan was born. When the Great Britain rugby league team ceased trading in 2007, he held two of the main records. 46 caps, a total equalled by Garry Schofield. And 41 tries, more than anyone from any country. He helped Britain win the inaugural World Cup final on November 13, 1954 and scored a try against Australia on October 8, 1960, when he became the only British player to win the Cup twice. He helped Wigan win the Challenge Cup in 1958 and 1959, scoring a try in the final each time, then won the trophy again with St Helens in 1961.

The amazing Georges Carpentier was born in France. He's best remembered nowadays for two knockout defeats, by Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight title and battling Siki for Carpentier's light-heavyweight crown - which might lead to the suspicion that he was more glamour ('The Orchid Man') than substance. But this was a natural middleweight fighting bigger boxers for most of his long career, and he was famous for winning fights after taking a beating. Respect to the courageous man with the fast hands. As well as his world title, which he won in 1919, he was French lightweight champion at 15 and European welterweight champion at 17. He won European titles at four weights, and his first-round knockout of respected British heavyweight Bombardier Billy Wells was something of a sensation. Throw in the film star looks, the sharp 1920s suits, and the World War medals, and we're talking genuine stardom, don't doubt it.

Bob Hewitt was born in Sydney and played tennis for Australia and South Africa. Bald and irascible, he was one of the all-time great doubles players, a master of the angled volley. He was Wimbledon champion five times with three different partners from 1962 to 1978, a record span. His last title, with the wily double-handed Frew McMillan, was won in three easy sets against a young McEnroe and Fleming, who learned some valuable lessons from old foxes with an average age of 37. Hewitt also won the mixed in 1977 and 1979, beating McMillan in the Final each time. The two of them helped South Africa win the Davis Cup Final in 1974, when India pulled out of the final in protest at Apartheid.

Harold Hilton was born in Lancashire. An amateur golfer, he was British Open champion in 1892 and 1897, British Amateur champion four times, and US Amateur champion in 1911, by which time he was 42.

Chester (Chet) Jastremski was born in Toledo. An innovative breaststroker who invented a new leg kick, he set eight individual world records in 1961 alone, bringing the 100 metre time down by more than three seconds. Three years later, he set another record in the 200 but won only bronze at the Tokyo Olympics behind a swimmer who beat his best time. He was unlucky a) to peak in a non-Olympic year, and b) that there was no 100 breaststroke in 1964.