• December 20 down the years

A bridge too far for Holyfield

The sporting events of December 20 down the years
Evander Holyfield was over the hill against Nikolai Valuev © Getty Images

The 46-year-old Evander Holyfield is beaten on a split decision to Russia's megalithic Nikolai Valuev. Holyfield had fought his first world championship fight 22 years earlier.

In a tour more famous for its anti-Apartheid demos than the quality of rugby played, South Africa lost to England for the first time. The Springboks led 8-0 thanks to a try by their great flanker Pier Greyling and a couple of good kicks by Piet Visagie - but the England forwards came into it just before half-time, interpassing to send big Peter Larter in at the corner, and they dominated the second half. Hooker John Pullin scored the winning try, captain Bob Hiller kicked two good goals, and Visagie missed two drop goals to let England win 11-8. It was South Africa's last match at Twickenham until 1992 and the end of Apartheid.

Bob Fitzsimmons's last day as a world champion. Philadelphia Jack O'Brien knocked him down with a left hook in the third, and although Ruby Robert hammered away at O'Brien's ribs, he lost his light-heavyweight title when he fainted after the 13th round. But Fitz had nothing to prove by then. A former world champion at middleweight and heavyweight, he was 42 years old. In 1907 he lost to the great Jack Johnson, who outweighed him by two stone, and fought his last fight when he was 50.

When Phil Bennett and the brilliant Gerald Davies dropped out with injury, it didn't do Australia much good. This wasn't one of their better rugby teams, and Wales still had the likes of Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Mervyn Davies, the Pontypool front row - and JJ Williams, who switched wings to take Gerald's place. He crossed for three tries in the second half, Edwards one in the first, as Wales scored 28 points to Australia's solitary penalty goal.

British and Commonwealth champion Andy Holligan had an unbeaten record as a pro boxer - but he was never likely to keep it against the legendary Julio César Chávez, who retained his WBC light-welterweight title when Holligan was too badly cut to come out for the sixth round. Chávez had fought more world title fights (27) than Holligan had had pro bouts.

Freddie Spencer was born in Louisiana. In 1985 he made motorcycling history by becoming the only rider to win world titles at 250 and 500cc in the same year. But the wrist injuries he suffered stopped him winning any more Grand Prix after that season. He'd also been 500cc champion in 1983.

One of Italy's best results at rugby union. In the 37-22 win over Ireland in Bologna, their Argentinian fly-half Diego Domínguez scored 27 points, including his usual crop of penalty goals (six) and a rare try. Ireland managed only one try themselves, to Italy's three. Earlier in the year, Domínguez had scored 22 points, including another try, in Italy's 37-29 win in Dublin.

Howard Marshall was born. A rugby union half-back, he played for the Lions before playing for England, appearing in two of the three Tests on the British Isles' first ever tour, the all-conquering visit to South Africa in 1891. He won his only England cap against Wales in 1893, scoring three tries in a 12-11 defeat. Wales kicked the winning conversion in the last few minutes after England had led by three tries to nil. Marshall was the last player to score three for the losing side in an international match until 1964.

Sugar Ray Robinson won his first world title, the vacant one at welterweight, by outpointing Tommy Bell over 15 rounds, after other champions had avoided him for years. The wait didn't seem worth it when Bell knocked him down in the second round and bossed the first five - but Robinson won the next four and knocked Bell down in the 12th. He defended the title for the last time in 1950 before going after the middleweight crown.

Hazel Wightman was born Hazel Hotchkiss. She dominated American tennis before and after the First World War, winning 16 national titles, including four in the singles. In the three years 1909 to 1911, she won the treble triple of singles, doubles, and mixed. She won the doubles at Wimbledon in 1924, the same year that she won the same title and the mixed at the Olympic Games at the age of 37.

Only five seconds after the start of an ice hockey match game against the St Louis Blues, Doug Smail scored for the Winnipeg Jets. No-one has managed a faster goal in an NHL match.

Rik Van Looy was born in Belgium. He was world professional road race champion in 1960 and 1961, one of the very few to retain that particular title.

American Dick Hough's 100 metres breaststroke world record was broken after ten years when Leonid Meshkov swam one tenth of a second faster in Moscow.