• December 23 down the years

Saints smash transfer record

The sporting events of December 23 down the years
Paul Sculthorpe: Worth every penny to St Helens fans © Getty Images

St Helens broke the world record transfer fee for a rugby league forward when they bought Paul Sculthorpe from Warrington for £370,000. Saints already had the most expensive back in their squad: Paul Newlove, who'd cost £500,000 from Bradford two years earlier.

Lisa Dobriskey was born in Kent. Behind the little-girl voice, there's one of the top competitors in 1500 metre running, with one of the fastest finishes. She was Commonwealth Games champion in 2006 and will be kicking herself for not adding the world title in 2009, when she finished inches behind the winner.

The British Athletic Federation upheld sprinter Jason Livingston's four-year ban for drug-taking. A fast starter, European indoor 60 metre champion earlier that year, he was nicknamed 'Baby Ben' for his resemblance to Ben Johnson. Yes, in more ways than one.

Ray French was born. For many years the voice of rugby league on TV (he commentated on the Challenge Cup final from 1982 to 2008), he was a useful player in his day, winning four caps in each version of the game. A second-row forward, he appeared in all of England's Five Nations matches in 1961, finishing on the winning side in just the last, against Scotland at Twickenham. In league, he played twice in the 1968 World Cup, including a heavy defeat by Australia, who went on to win the trophy. Brought back for the irrelevant match against New Zealand, he helped Britain win 38-14 in Sydney.

Felix Bwalya died after winning a boxing bout. Fighting at home in Zambia, he won the Commonwealth light-welterweight title by outpointing Britain's Paul Burke, but was on the canvas at the final bell, having been knocked down three times in the last three rounds. He fell into a coma after the fight. Burke regained the vacant title the following year.

Barney Ross was born Beryl Rosofsky in New York. One of the great boxers of the 1930s, he had some memorable fights with other giants Henry Armstrong (born December 12, 1912) and Tony Canzoneri (November 6, 1908). Like Armstrong, Ross was world champion at three different weights at the same time: lightweight, a barely recognised junior welterweight, and welterweight. He was heavily decorated in the Second World War.

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had a Christmas to forget, as he was sacked by Inter Milan. The Spaniard failed to emerge from the shadow of Jose Mourinho, who secured Serie A and Champions League glory the previous season.

Ernie Payne was born in Worcester. An Olympic gold medallist in cycling (1908 team pursuit), he also played two league matches for Manchester United, scoring one goal.

Gregory Gaulthier was born. In 2007 he lost the World Open squash final for the second year in a row but beat fellow Frenchman Thierry Lincou to win the British Open.

Geoff Boycott became the leading run-scorer in Test cricket, breaking Garry Sobers' record of 8032 runs. No-one was unduly surprised that he went on to make a century, his 22nd and last at this level. The Delhi Test was drawn, and before the tour was over Boycott had returned to England with his reputation intact: as a genuinely great accumulator of runs and a complicated human being.

In Lincoln, New Zealand, the home side won the women's cricket World Cup by shocking favourites Australia in the final by just four runs.