• December 18 down the years

Ding dong merrily on high

The sporting events of December 18 down the years
Ding Junhui is a real force in world snooker © Getty Images

Eighteen-year-old Ding Junhui of China became the first player from outside Britain and Ireland to win the UK Championship. In the final, he won 10-6 against Steve Davis, who was almost 30 years older.

Arantxa Sánchez Vicario was born in Barcelona. A tenacious baseliner, she reached six singles finals at the French Open, winning three of them, the first when she was 17, and won the US Open title in 1994. She lost consecutive Wimbledon finals to Steffi Graf but helped Spain win the Fed Cup five times. Her full first name is Aránzazu.

Ty Cobb was born. Even after Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron, even after Babe Ruth, this is still baseball's No.1. Tyrus Cobb set 90 Major League records or thereabouts, some of which still stand, especially his career batting average. In 1927 he became the first to make 4,000 hits, and even made a few home runs to show the Ruth brigade he could do it when he felt like it. Take that cussedness that often spilled over (he once attacked a disabled heckler), mix in a heroic appetite for booze and a complicated personal background (his mother killed his father), and you've got the blueprint for a star they loved to hate but one they recognised as the best.

In Britain, Welshman Jimmy Wilde had been regarded as the world flyweight champion since he stopped Joe Symonds earlier in the year. The Americans weren't so sure, so they sent over Giuseppe Di Melfi, known for some bizarre reason as Young Zulu Kid - and Wilde beat him too, in the 11th round at Holborn Stadium in London. He was the first universally recognised flyweight champion of the world. Small and skinny even for a flyweight, Wilde had a tremendous dig on him ('The Ghost with a Hammer in his Hands') and he could fight all day. All year, for that matter: the win over Zulu Kid was his eleventh bout since beating Symonds in February. He kept the world title until 1923, then retired after 152 pro fights, plus hundreds of others in fairground booths and the like.

At 100 metres breaststroke, the second and last world record by a swimmer who gets in here because his name is just too appropriate to leave out: Germany's Walter Bathe. Jeff Float of America also set a world record in swimming.

Ernie Els completed a successful year (US Open and World Matchplay champion) by winning the World Championship in Jamaica, finishing six strokes ahead of Nick Faldo. But the big story was Paul Azinger's fourth place, confirming his recovery from cancer.

Tom Cribb was the champion bareknuckle boxer of Britain - and a legend even while he lived. Almost too durable for his own good, he could also punch the bark off trees. Tom Molineaux was a black American, a former slave whose trainer Bill Richmond had once been beaten by Cribb. Molineaux didn't have the skills of a top boxer, but he was as tough as old Cribb and could bang with both hands. He caught the champion at the right time (he was about to retire), giving him a terrible hammering for nearly thirty rounds while taking his share of punishment. It's said that when Cribb was unable to come out for the 29th, his supporters accused Molineaux of carrying iron pistol balls in his hands. In the fracas, Molineaux's finger was broken and Cribb's head cleared. He stopped the American in the 40th round, an epic with a dirty ending, then beat him more easily the following year. The first fight definitely took place on the 18th (a letter from Molineaux to Cribb proves it). not the 10th as in some sources.

Kenneth LeBel set a world record by jumping over 17 barrels while wearing ice skates. As you do.

Eric Tindill was born. He holds a unique little place in history by playing for his country in two different sports as well as becoming an international referee or umpire in both of them. As a tidy wicketkeeper who was no great shakes with the bat, he played cricket for New Zealand before and after the Second World War. As a rugby fly-half, he won his only cap for the All Blacks in Obolensky's Match on January 4, 1936. At the time of writing, Tindill is still alive at the age of 98, the longest-lived Test cricketer from any country.

The first official fight for the British heavyweight boxing title was won by Jack Palmer, who knocked out Geoffrey Thorne in the fourth round. Not an especially hard thing to do: this was only Thorne's ninth pro fight and he fought only ten in all, losing six of them. A more accurate examination of Palmer's ability came three years later, when he took on Tommy Burns for the world title and was stopped in the same round.

Italy and Chile met in a devalued Davis Cup final. After Raúl Ramírez had beaten Jimmy Connors to eliminate the USA, Mexico withdrew against South Africa again, and the USSR withdrew against Chile as they'd done in the previous football World Cup. So the Chileans, under a brutal military government, beat South Africa, under their Apartheid regime, then staged the final at home. Meanwhile Italy had beaten Britain on grass at Wimbledon and Australia on clay in Rome. They had too much strength in depth for the Chile, who needed Jaime Fillol to win the opening singles. Instead he lost to Corrado Barazzutti, and Adriano Panatta was never going to have any trouble with Patricio Cornejo. Italy then won the doubles to lift the Cup for the only time in their history.

Sachin Tendulkar has become a star of the sport since a disappointing start © Getty Images

The irrepressible Matt McGrath was born in County Tipperary but represented the USA at the Olympics. In London in 1908, he finished second to another Irish-American, John Flanagan, who won the hammer throw for the third Games in a row. Four years later, McGrath dominated the event in Stockholm. The shortest of his six throws was more than four metres longer than any of his competitors' best, and he set an Olympic record that wasn't broken until 1936. The First World War stopped him retaining the title, and he finished only fifth in 1920, but he came back to take the silver medal in 1924 at the age of 45.

Duke McKenzie stopped John Davison in the fourth round to win the vacant British featherweight belt and become the first to win British titles at this weight as well as flyweight. The 35-year-old Davison, who'd just lost to another British boxer, Steve Robinson, for the vacant WBO title, retired after this fight.

Joe Walcott of Barbados won the world welterweight title by stopping Rube Ferns in the fifth round. World heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott was named after him.

A 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar made a duck in his first one-day international as India lost to Pakistan by just seven runs.

BB Nimbalkar was left stranded on 443 not out, nine short of then record first-class score, when Kathiawar conceded their Ranji Trophy match to Maharashtra.