• December 3 down the years

The end of the line for Smokin' Joe

The sporting events of December 3 down the years
Katarina Witt was a dual Olympian. © Getty Images

Joe Frazier's last fight, a 10-round draw with Floyd 'Jumbo' Cummings, five years after his previous two bouts, against George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Smokin' Joe was Olympic champion in 1964 and undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1970 to 1973.

Katarina Witt was born. The darling of the ice, she won gold in figure skating at the Winter Olympics in 1984 and 1988. After her first Games, she received more than 30,000 love letters. Some of the senders might have liked to have had a job with the Stasi, the East German secret police, who bugged Fraulein Witt's bedroom. One entry in the log: 'Sexual intercourse from 20.00 to 20.07'. Staying power only on the ice, it seems. She was world champion four times.

At the inaugural world short-course swimming championships, Karen Pickering set a Commonwealth record in winning the 200 metres freestyle. She was Britain's first world champion since David Wilkie won the long-course 200 breaststroke in 1975. Pickering also won bronze in the 100 free, the first medal by a British female swimmer at a global event since the 1960 Olympics.

In snooker, the inaugural UK Championship was won by Ireland's Patsy Fagan, who'd been a professional for less than a year. He banked £2,000 for winning the title by beating world amateur champion Doug Mountjoy 12-9 in the final. Before long, Fagan was horribly afflicted by the yips when he had to play with a rest, and he never won another major tournament. On the other hand, Mountjoy won the UK the following year and again in 1988, when he shocked Stephen Hendry in the final.

In their 55-6 win over Italy in Rome, three of Australia's nine tries were scored by David Campese, whose father was Italian.

The longest fight in boxing history. At Fiery Creek, near Dalesford in Victoria, Australia, James Kelly and Jonathan Smith finally stopped hitting each other after 6 hours and 15 minutes. Kelly, an Irishman, beat Smith, an English soldier, after 17 rounds which lasted an average of 22 minutes each. The prize money amounted to not much more than a pound a minute.

Mike Gibson was born. One of the greatest backs of all time, he was already a star fly-half when he moved to centre to accommodate Barry John on the 1971 Lions tour. He played a colossal part in the series, the only one the Lions have ever won in New Zealand. Pace, good defence, great hands, a brilliant footballing brain: the equipment that wins you 69 caps for Ireland and 12 for the Lions from 1964 to 1979, the longest international career of any British rugby player.

British-born Aussie Derek Clayton won the Fukuoka Marathon in 2:09:36.4, shattering the previous world's best by well over two minutes and becoming the first to run the iconic distance in under 2 hours 10 minutes.

Alberto Juantorena was born. A giant 400 and 800 metre runner, he won both events at the 1976 Olympics, setting a world record at the longer distance. His second surname is appropriate enough: Danger.

Three Davis Cup finals in Moscow were decided on this day.

In 1994, after Stefan Edberg and Magnus Larsson had won their singles matches, Jan Apell and Jonas Björkman won the doubles. So Sweden had a winning lead over Russia, but every one of the three matches had gone to five sets.

The following year, 1995, even on indoor clay there was no stopping Pete Sampras. He won the doubles and both his singles matches, including today's in straight sets against Yevgeny Kafelnikov which gave the USA a winning 3-1 lead.

Russia did better at last in 2006. Although David Nalbandian won both his singles matches for Argentina, José Acasuso wasn't in the same class, though he made a fight of it against Marat Safin before losing the deciding fourth-set tie-break.

The first official world record for the men's 100 metres freestyle: 1 minute 05.8 seconds by Zoltán Halmaj of Hungary. In 2009, Brazil's César Cielo swam a world record 46.91.

William Henry Milton was born. 'Joey' Milton played in South Africa's first two cricket Tests, against England in March 1889. He was captain in the second, in which his side were dismissed for 47 and 43, and in his only other Test, three years later, when South Africa did twice as well: all out for 97 and 83. Milton averaged under 12 with the bat and took a couple of wickets - but he'd done better as a rugby centre. His two matches for England both ended in wins at the Oval: narrowly against Scotland in 1874 and more easily against Ireland the following year. He went on to become Administrator of Southern Rhodesia and Mashonaland. As they did.

Some major boxing bouts took place on this day.

In 1982, Don King staged the Carnival of Champions in New Orleans, featuring four top fighters. In the first contest, Wilfredo Gómez could hardly see out of either eye by the time he caught Lupe Pintor and knocked him out in the 14th to keep his WBC super-bantamweight belt. In the second, a heroic Wilfred Benítez used all his skill against the long reach and big punches of Tommy Hearns, but lost his WBC light-middleweight title on a majority decision.

In 1970, the ordinary Billy Backus (career wins 49, career defeats 20) became a shock world welterweight champion when the great José Napoles had to retire after only four rounds with cuts over both eyes. Napoles won the rematch easily, but Backus had 'world champion' on his CV for all time.

In 1960, Gene Fullmer, a strong and underrated middleweight, kept his NBA world title by fighting a draw with Sugar Ray Robinson, who'd been one of the greatest but was now 39. The following March, Fullmer beat him on points.

In the Fed Cup final, 16-year-old Tracy Austin lost her singles match in straight sets to the experienced Kerry Reid, but Chris Evert beat Wendy Turnbull and helped Billie Jean King win the doubles, so the USA won 2-1 in Melbourne.

Joop Zoetemelk was born in Holland. If at once you don't succeed...after finishing second in the Tour de France five times in the 1970s, he finally won the great race in 1980 - before finishing second again (for a record sixth time) two years after that. This being cycling, pharmaceuticals raise their helpful heads. Following the penultimate stage of the 1979 Tour, he was penalised ten minutes (wow) after testing positive for the steroid Nandrolone.

In the 1960s, the Wales rugby team twice lost at home to Southern Hemisphere opposition on this day. In 1960, the usual mountainous Springbok pack steamrollered the Cardiff pitch into a quagmire and were happy to win with a solitary penalty goal by fly-half Keith Oxlee. Towards the end, players were using towels to wipe the mud from their eyes.

In 1966, Australia were less formidable up front but superb at half-back, where Ken Catchpole was quite possibly the greatest scrum-half of all time. No new-fangled spin passes; the ball just went like a blur to his fly-half, the improving young Phil Hawthorne. Meanwhile Wales gave debuts to future icons Gerald Davies and Barry John. Both sides scored two tries, but Hawthorne converted one of them and dropped a goal, and Wales only cut the margin to 14-11 by scoring a converted try with a couple of minutes left.

Les Ames was born.

Mark Boucher, South African wicket keeper, was born.

Jack Russell took his 11th catch of the match against South Africa in Jo'burg, the only wicketkeeper to achieve that in a Test match. He stayed at the crease the next day to help Mike Atherton save the game with his monumental 185 not out.

Sri Lanka were all out for 55 in a one-day international against West Indies, Courtney Walsh taking five wickets for one run.