- November 7 down the years
David slays Goliath
There's no avoiding the David v Goliath reference: it's never been so appropriate. When this David punched the giant, he broke his own hand. Like hitting a brick wall, he said. So he had to stay out of range for the rest of the fight. That's how a man from Britain beat the behemoth and took his crown. Nikolai Valuev really was a giant. David Haye weighed his heaviest for any fight yet: 15 stone 8 - but that still left him seven stone lighter than Valuev, who was also the tallest heavyweight champion of all time: exactly seven feet. Like Roy Jones in 2003 ( March 1), he'd won the WBA title by beating the average John Ruiz, then kept it with a majority decision over Evander Holyfield, who was 46. So the giant was huge but not very scary. Still, when Haye broke his hand, there were another ten rounds to go - so he adopted a buzz-and-sting approach. A punch or two, then move back out of range. It made for a truly dismal fight but another British heavyweight champion. Haye won only a majority decision but nearly toppled the colossus in the last round, by which time Valuev looked a lot older than 36. When Haye made his first defence of the title a few months later, he must have felt he deserved an easy payday. It was against John Ruiz.
On the same day in 1988, Sugar Ray Leonard also boxed a bigger man. After taking Marvin Hagler's middleweight title ( April 6, 1987), he looked around for further ways to make history. A world champion at three different weights, he went for four and five in one go - and decided Donny Lalonde was the man to help him. The Canadian had won the vacant WBC light-heavyweight title a year earlier. He had a decent right hand (and an unforgivable blond mullet) but wasn't out of the top drawer - especially as he now dropped down half a weight. Tonight's fight in Las Vegas was also for the newly created WBC super-middleweight title - so Lalonde lost five pounds he couldn't afford - and he was carrying a shoulder injury. All this against one of the all-time greats. Lalonde started well enough. When he came out of his corner, Leonard was shocked at how big he was. And a sweeping right hand knocked Sugar Ray down in the fourth round. But Lalonde had a bad fifth, and his defence simply wasn't good enough. In the ninth, he was as brave as ever, rocking Leonard with a series of punches. But the effort drained the last of his stamina. When Leonard knocked him down in the same round, Lalonde was visibly exhausted, breathing like a landed fish. But the referee gave him a standing count, and only stopped the fight when Lalonde was knocked down again. Leonard was the second boxer to win world titles at five different weights, beaten to it by three days. Lalonde's next fight was at cruiserweight, a whole stone heavier.
Colin Montgomerie clinched the European Order of Merit for the seventh year in a row. He finished only joint 20th at the American Express Championship in Valderrama, but his three closest rivals had to win the tournament to overtake him, and Tiger Woods won it instead, beating Miguel Ángel Jiménez at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off. Afterwards Montgomerie was critical of the million-dollar prize for first place, saying it unbalanced the whole year: 'It takes me five tournaments to win the same prize money...and the order of merit should be over the 38 weeks of the season, not just one week.' Monty was the first golfer to win the European Tour seven times, let alone seven in a row. He won it one last time in 2005 ( October 30).
Great Britain were favourites to beat holders Australia in the final of the rugby league World Cup. They were at home, at Headingley, with a British referee. And they'd beaten Australia 11-4 on the same ground in the group stage, when GB won all three matches and Australia lost two, qualifying for the final only on points difference. And the Kangaroos didn't raise their game much when they got there. But they did run straight and hard, while Britain tried to skirt the Aussie defence and generally played poorly, their captain Frank Myler being substituted with twelve minutes to go. In a brutal match, a player from each side was sent off right at the end, and there was a mass punch-up after the whistle. GB were leading 2-0 when Australia's Ron Costello made a try-saving tackle on John Atkinson. So Australia led 5-4 at half-time through a try by Father John Cootes, the best catholic priest in the game. Lionel Williamson added a second, and Atkinson's try at the end couldn't stop Australia winning 12-7. They met Britain in another World Cup decider two years later.
After Netherlands' Raymond van Barneveld regained the BDO World Darts Championship, he was brave enough to meet Phil Taylor in a one-off match at the Wembley Conference Centre. Taylor had won the PDC world title for the fifth year in a row to go with his two undisputed titles, and no-one in the game doubted he was the best of all time - certainly not Van Barneveld after tonight's showdown. The match was scheduled for one hour. Taylor led by five legs at halfway, and although both players hit seven 180 maximums, he went on to win 21-10. No wonder the BDO hadn't wanted Van Barneveld to take part. 'He's the best in the world,' said Barney. 'And I think he can play even better.' Taylor did, winning the PDC title for the next three years after this, then another three times in a row after that. But Van Barneveld persevered, and in 2007 he beat The Power in a classic final (January 1). Taylor took full revenge in 2009 ( January 4) and added his 15th world title in 2010.
Henry Cooper became the only boxer to win a third Lonsdale Belt outright. To take one home, you had to win three title fights at one weight, and today Cooper won his 9th at heavyweight. At the Empire Pool, Wembley, he successfully defended the British and Commonwealth titles against Billy Walker, a fair-haired puncher who'd once been the golden boy of British heavyweight boxing but never won the national title. Tonight he cut both Cooper's eyes and loosened his gum shield with a body punch in the third round. But 'Enery lived with cuts all through his career, and these weren't as bad as the one Walker suffered in the fifth, when Cooper hammered him with left jabs. In the sixth, the blood was down to Walker's shorts and the referee stopped it. He retired after two more fights, while Cooper regained the European title and made his last British title defence when he was nearly 37.
America's golfers reacted to losing the Ryder Cup for the first time in 24 years ( October 5, 1957) by resuming business as usual in California. They led by only a point after the first day's foursomes, but regained the trophy 8½-3½ after blitzing today's eight singles matches. Britain & Ireland didn't win any of them. Norman Drew lived up to his name by sharing the points with Doug Ford, and Peter Alliss did the same with Jay Hebert. But the other six all lost, and the USA didn't surrender the Cup again until the whole European continent joined in ( September 15, 1985).
The night a classy boxing champion lost to one of the all-time greats. Nino Benvenuti won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 before gaining and regaining the world middleweight title from Emile Griffith. Tonight in Rome, he defended it against Carlos Monzon, who was expected to be just a typically durable Argentinian who would showcase the Italian golden boy's skills. Alright, Monzon hadn't lost in his last 60 fights, but he'd never fought outside South America, so what could you read from that? Well, quite a lot, as it turned out. It didn't take long for Benvenuti's corner to realise they'd picked the wrong man. Monzon took all of Benvenuti's best punches, but he wasn't just durable, he hit you back. Not with single knockout blows but a remorseless series of punches which hit you like concrete poles. By the 12th round, Benvenuti was looking desperate, and a killer right hand left him crumpled in a corner. When they met in a rematch, Nino didn't fancy that much punishment again. He lasted less than three rounds and retired. Monzon made 14 successful defences ( July 30, 1977), but his private life was just as violent and he died on his way back to prison in 1995 ( January 8).
The last NFL game to end without a score. The Detroit Lions and New York Giants were probably quite relieved to draw 0-0. Immediately before and after, they both lost heavily: the Lions 35-14 to the Chicago Bears and 42-20 to the Washington Redskins, the Giants 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers and 56-7 to those greedy Bears.