• March 8 down the years

The Match of the Century

Joe Frazier got the better of Muhammad Ali in a fight tagged 'the Match of the Century' © Getty Images

The fight they'd waited three years to see. When Muhammad Ali was stripped of the world heavyweight title for refusing to fight in Vietnam, a tournament was held to find his successor, while other American states had their own ideas. When the smoke cleared, Joe Frazier stood alone as a worthy champion. Then Ali got back in the ring. In his first fights since 1967, he stopped two title contenders who were picked for their durability. Jerry Quarry would have lasted longer than three rounds but for a cut eye, the tough Argentinian Oscar Bonavena went down three times in the 15th and last. Very similar to Frazier's meetings with the pair: he beat Bonavena on points and stopped Quarry in the seventh. Shortish and stocky, Smokin' Joe came forward with hands high and body bobbing, not as easy a target as he looked. Ali found him easy enough to hit, but what he was hitting was usually gloves and forearms and the top of a hard head. And Frazier got through with shots of his own. His left hook was one of the great weapons. He used to work in a slaughterhouse, which gave him strength in his shoulders and reporters their headlines. Although Ali had gone the distance with Bonavena, he hadn't been put under pressure this relentless before. Plus there was probably an element of ring rust. Those left hooks kept winging in, and only Ali's ability to take a punch prolonged the fight. One of them finally got through in the last round, knocking him down and confirming Frazier's win on points. It was the first pro defeat for either of them, and an era was emphatically over. They didn't meet again until January 28 three years later.

Ann Packer was born in Berkshire and took a while to work out her best event in track and field. In 1959 she was the WAAA long jump champion. In 1962 she reached the finals of the 200 metres at the European Championships and the 80 metres hurdles at the Commonwealth Games. By 1964 she was concentrating on the 400 metres and went into the Olympic Games as the favourite. In the final, she broke the European record in finishing second to the remarkable Betty Cuthbert (born April 20, 1938). Packer's disappointment after the race was plain to see. She had no such expectations in the 800, which she'd entered almost for the sake of taking part. At the start of the last bend, she was last. Coming into the straight, she accelerated out of the pack, then sprinted past the long-time leader and ran into the arms of her fiancé, team captain Robbie Brightwell, who'd been disappointed to finish fourth in the 400 metres final. 'Oh what a consolation!' cried commentator David Coleman. Packer retired after the Games at the age of 22. What she might have achieved is anyone's guess: the final was only the eighth time she ever ran the 800, and she set an official world record without taking a deep breath. Her sons David and Ian Brightwell played professional football for Manchester City.

Joe Calzaghe wasn't the only Italian boxer operating out of Wales. Enzo Maccarinelli, trained by Calzaghe's dad, was the WBO cruiserweight champion. David Haye held the WBC belt and a thing called the WBA cruiserweight super world title - but he was struggling to make the weight. If the fight went any distance, Maccarinelli's new improved stamina might come into play. Haye knew early on it wouldn't be needed. In the early clinches where you test an opponent's strength, he felt nothing coming back, so he started unloading in the second round. Every punch that got through staggered Maccarinelli, and the referee stopped the fight after the first knockdown. Maccarinelli's confidence was so damaged that he lost two of his next three fights, while Haye went on to face the giant of giants on November 7, 2009.

On the same day, Saoul Mamby returned to the ring at the age 60. Yes, sixty. In his first fight since 2000, he lost a ten-round decision to Anthony Osbourne, who was 28 years younger but had a record of 25 defeats in 32 pro fights. The fight was originally scheduled for Idaho, but the state commission refused to issue Mamby a licence, so it took place in the Cayman Islands. Mamby weighed only ten pounds more than when he won the WBC light-welterweight title in 1980.

Jonny Wilkinson had a dead eye and deadly boot © Getty Images

Jonny Wilkinson reached 1,099 points in international rugby, breaking Neil Jenkins's world record. He kicked three penalty goals at Murrayfield, but Scotland kicked five to beat an experimental (alright, shambolic) England team 15-9. Wilkinson's total included 67 points for the Lions. He didn't break Jenkins's record for a single country until November 2009 but would have shattered it much sooner if injury hadn't cost him four years and three entire Six Nations seasons. He missed the 2009 campaign too.

Kieren Fallon had a day to forget at Lingfield. He picked up a 21-day ban for his misjudged ride on Ballinger Ridge, who was caught in the shadow of the post by Rye having been a long way clear with a furlong to run.

David Wilkie was born in Sri Lanka but of course swam for Scotland and Britain. One of the greatest breaststrokers of all time, especially over 200 meters, he had enough all-round talent to set a world record in the 200 metres individual medley while winning the European title in 1974, a year after his bronze medal in the event at the World Championships. In those 1973 Worlds, he also won the 200 breaststroke, setting another world record in beating his great American rival John Hencken into second place. Hencken had beaten him to win Olympic gold in 1972, when Wilkie made his breakthrough with the silver medal. Hencken beat him into second place again in the 100 metres at the 1976 Olympics. But at the longer distance, Wilkie was supreme. He retained the world title in 1975, when he also won the 100, and won the 200 at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 1974. His crowning moment came at those 1976 Olympics (July 24), where he was the only non-American to win any of the men's events. Leaving Hencken in his wake, he smashed the world record by more than three seconds. He was the first British male swimmer to win Olympic gold since 1908.

Lydia Skoblikova was born in the USSR. The only speedskater to win six Olympic gold medals, she won all four events in 1964, the last on February 2. Considering her all-round ability, it took her a surprisingly long time to win the world all-round title. She was third three years in a row, then second, before finishing first in 1963 and 1964. And she was never all-round champion of her own country. She set world records at three distances.

Tommy Moore hit a hole-in-one on a golf course in Maryland. Not bad for a six-year-old.