• December 25 down the years

Whirlwind flexes his muscles

The sporting events of December 25 down the years
Harry Greb: A hard man in the ring © Getty Images

Whirlwind Harry Greb (born June 6, 1894) was down to defend his world middleweight title against future light-heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran, but both came in over the limit (ah, that Christmas pud). Loughran must have thought non-title fight meant just that: no title, no fight. He spent most of the time on the ropes and lost on points.

Basil Heatley was born in Warwickshire. In 1964 he set a world record at the Marathon, running 2 hours 13 minutes 55 at Chiswick, then won the Olympic silver medal behind the supremely gifted Abebe Bikila.

Nigel Starmer-Smith was born. A good all-round scrum-half with a tidy pass, he made his England debut in the highly charged 'demo' match against the Springboks on December 20, 1969. He finished on the winning side in his second match too, against Ireland - but he didn't have a settled partner at fly-half, and anyway England were badly selected and prepared throughout the 1970s. His last five internationals all ended in defeat, most of them heavy.

After a second period of overtime in a divisional play-off, Miami Dolphins beat Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the longest game in NFL history: a whole 82 minutes 40 seconds. Almost having to work for their money.

Fran├žoise Durr was born. Her feeble serve and ugly backhand handicapped her against the Billie Jean Kings and Margaret Courts of her day, but she did win her home title, the French, in 1967, recovering from a set down to beat Australia's Leslie Turner. At Wimbledon, she lost six women's doubles finals with five different partners but won the mixed with Tony Roche in 1976.

Percy Jones died the day before his 30th birthday. A gutsy flyweight, he became the first Welsh boxer to win a version of a world title when he beat England's Bill Ladbury on points over 20 rounds in 1914. Badly wounded in the First World War, he had a leg amputated before dying of trench fever, by which time his weight had dropped to just over four stone.

Larry Csonka was born weighing ten pounds. He was 16 stone at 16. By the early 1970s, he was the most frightening running back in American football, capable of dragging a tackler ten yards. He helped the Miami Dolphins go through the 1972 season unbeaten, then in 1974 became the first running back to be voted MVP in the Superbowl, scoring two touchdowns to help the Dolphins retain the trophy. He broke his nose ten times, but you should see the other guys.

Mianne Bagger was born Michael Bagger in Denmark. She had a sex change in 1995 and nine years later became the first transsexual golfer to play on the women's European Tour.

If ever there was a time to take on the brilliant Kid Chocolate, this was it. Only a month earlier, he'd lost to Tony Canzoneri in two rounds, the first knockout defeat of his career. Now he defended his world junior lightweight title against Frankie Klick, battering him round the ring in the sixth. But a long, hard career caught up with the great Cuban (he'd fitted in another fight three weeks earlier) and Klick stopped him in the next round.

Chioma Ajunwa was born. A former international footballer, she returned from a drug suspension to become the first Nigerian to win an Olympic gold medal, in the long jump at the 1996 Games, ahead of Fiona May.

Qu Yunxia was born. One of the scary Chinese runners who came from nowhere in 1993, she won the 3000 metres at the World Championships and set a 1500 metre world record that still stands, to everyone's undisguised suspicion.