• January 22 down the years

The end of the road for Smokin' Joe

The sporting events of January 22 down the years
Joe Frazier was part of a golden age of boxing © Getty Images

When Joe Frazier defended his world heavyweight title against George Foreman, the only certainty was that the fight would not last long. Big George had won 34 of his 37 pro fights by knock-out, usually a very early knock-out. Eight of his last nine had ended in the second round, including the last five. That could not happen here, of course. Frazier could take a punch better than anyone. Since beating Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971, he'd been hitting nothing but punchbags, aka Terry Daniels and Ron Stander - but that famous left hook seemed to be in good shape. And Foreman had not been tested yet. But it was soon clear that Frazier could not get near enough to do any testing. Foreman used his longer reach to knock the champion down three times in the first and three times in the second. He really did like that round. Like Joe, he had two easy fights before meeting his nemesis on October 30, 1974. Smokin' Joe never fought for the title again.

Mike Hawthorn was killed on the Guildford bypass. Strange how often it happens. Men who survive the high-speed dangers of their sport, then die in car accidents or plane crashes. Mike Hailwood, Graham Hill, Nino Farina. Only a few months earlier, Hawthorn had retired from Formula One racing after becoming the first British driver to win the world drivers' championship. He won only one Grand Prix that season, to Stirling Moss' four, took the title by a single point, and was grateful for Moss's sportsmanship after being disqualified for pushing his car in Portugal. Hawthorn won only three Grands Prix in his career but he did also triumph in the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1955.

Snooker's first officially recognised 147 maximum. Joe Davis was 53 by now, and he had won the last of his 15 world titles in 1946. But without the pressures of a match, he could still pot the odd ball. He made his 147 in an exhibition at London's Leicester Square Hall. He beat Willie Smith at snooker and lost to him at billiards.

It was almost as if Larry Holmes felt he had to go out with his boots on. He had made his money and his reputation, and he knew he was not going to beat Mike Tyson. At his peak, quite possibly. But not now, at his age and after nearly two years out of the ring. Warriors need a war, it seems. After three rounds of dodging and holding, Holmes could not keep Tyson out in the fourth. He went down three times and suffered the only knock-out of his career. Holmes was still fighting for an ersatz version of the world title on January 24 nine years later. He had gone easy on Muhammad Ali on October 2, 1980, but he would not have expected the same consideration here. Merciful Mike instead of Iron Mike? Does not have the same ring, does it.

John Higgins won a memorable Masters final against Ronnie O'Sullivan, who had hammered him 10-3 in the final the previous year and 9-3 in the final ten years before that. It looked like the same old story when the Rocket led 3-0 this time, but Higgins then won five frames in a row. O'Sullivan levelled at 5-5, 7-7, and 8-8, then led 9-8 - but Higgins won the last two to take the title 10-9.

One of the great Super Bowls, with one of the most nerve-jangling endings. With quarterback Boomer Esiason in charge, the Cincinnati Bengals led 13-6 against the San Francisco 49ers. A Jerry Rice touchdown levelled the scores, but Jim Breech kicked his third field goal to put the Bengals 16-13 ahead with only three minutes left. They did not have the ball again until it was too late. Rice was voted MVP, but it was his quarterback who won it. Joe Montana threw for two touchdown passes, including the last. In those last three minutes, he moved the 49ers 90 yards upfield before finding John Taylor in the end zone with a ten-yard pass. As on January 24, 1982, San Francisco had beaten the Bengals by a single score. The 49ers' nose tackle Mike Carter had won a silver medal in the shot putt at the 1984 Olympics. Esiason's real names were Norman Julius. Stick with Boomer.

The cruelly unlucky Eugène Christophe was born. He finished second in the 1912 Tour de France and third in 1919 but never won it, his two best chances ruined by misfortune when he was leading the race. In 1913, he broke his front fork-stem coming down from the Col du Tourmalet. The rules at the time prohibited any outside help whatsoever, so he carried his bike twelve kilometres to a blacksmith's, then welded his broken frame together as best he could. The Tour's tyrannical founder Henri Desgranges penalised him three minutes on top of the time he had already lost - because a small boy had briefly helped by working the bellows! There is a plaque on the blacksmith's shop to this day. Another broken frame cost Christophe the 1919 race. Being the oldest wearer of the yellow jersey, three years later, was no compensation.

The rugby league World Club Challenge is almost always held in England, so the English club usually wins it. But not today. The match had not been staged since 1997, and St Helens must have wished it had not been staged now. Melbourne Storm scored eight tries in thumping them 44-6 in Wigan. Melbourne scored their first after five minutes and led 20-2 at half-time. Brett Kimmorley was involved in four of the tries, and Scott Hill scored two in his first game since June. Storm boss Chris Anderson was also Australia's national coach. The game in England, he said, was 'simply not up to scratch at the moment.' English clubs won the match in seven of the next eight years. The next time Melbourne played in it, in 2008, they lost to Leeds.

Paul Pender took the world middleweight title from Sugar Ray Robinson. Pender was an underrated champion, crisp and clever - but he won a split decision over 15 rounds and surely would not have beaten the great man at his peak: Robinson was 38 years old. Pender had three memorable fights with Britain's Terry Downes, the first on January 14, 1961.

Legendary lightweight Tony Canzoneri beat Midget Mexico. In his next fight, he beat Tootsie Bashara. He also fought Bummy Davis, Wally Hally, and Kid Rash.

Finland's Tommy Mäkinen won the Monte Carlo Rally for the second year in a row. It was his only win in the World Championship that season, and he lost the drivers' title he had held for the last four years. He won the Monte four times in a row too, the last in 2002.

Kobe Bryant scored 81 points for the LA Lakers against the Toronto Raptors, the second highest total in NBA history behind the magic 100 on March 2, 1962.

Kobe Bryant was something of a one-man force as he slammed home 81 points in one match © Getty Images

Bob Foster retained the world light-heavyweight title by beating Frank de Paula. The fight lasted just over two minutes, but they packed a lot into it. De Paula knocked Foster down before finding himself on the end of the champion's famous punching power. Those long slim limbs gave him some serious leverage, too serious for our Frank, who was floored three times before the end of the first. De Paula won both his next two fights (by knock-out, of course) before retiring at the end of the year.

Ecaterina Szabó was born in Romania. At various World Championships in gymnastics, she won six silver medals and two gold, on the floor in 1983 and in the team event in 1987, plus two golds in European Championships. At the 1984 Olympics, she took advantage of the USSR's absence to win four golds - in the team event and three pieces of apparatus - and silver in the individual all-round, only 0.05 behind America's new sweetheart Mary Lou Retton.

Led by quarterback Joe Theismann and MVP John Riggins, the Washington Redskins had come from behind to win the previous year's Super Bowl. Now they were back - but in for a shock. Whereas Riggins had ground out the yards in bursts of three or four, Marcus Allen accumulated them in great chunks for the LA Raiders, including one run of 74 yards. He rushed for 191 yards in all, scored two touchdowns, and was voted Most Valuable. Riggins scored a touchdown as in 1983, from his usual distance of a yard. But Theismann was intercepted twice and sacked six times. The Raiders won 38-9. Chris Bahr kicked eight points for them. His brother Matt kicked goals in the Super Bowls on January 20, 1980 and January 27, 1991. Their dad Walter played in the USA's famous win over England at the 1950 football World Cup.

Galina Zybina was born in Leningrad. With her white hair and short stature, she was a distinctive figure in the shot putt after the War. Distinctive and successful. At the 1952 Olympics, she had the three longest throws in the competition, culminating in a world record with her last. She also finished fourth in the javelin. She won gold in the shot at the European Championships two years later, when she also won bronze in the discus - and looked set to retain the Olympic title in 1956. Leading in the last round, she lost by just six centimetres, to a team-mate who looked twice her size. Zybina finished only seventh at the 1960 Games but came back to take bronze in 1964. She set eight world records in the shot. Including unratified marks, 14 in a row. Like other Soviet athletes of her time, there was something of the strong young man about her...